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What the future of work will mean for women

The central roundtable of the fourth AFA Women’s Leadership Summit „“What the future of work will mean for women” gathered the best local and international experts from various institutions and companies to discuss the future of the labor market and the skills women will need to stay competitive. The panelists that discussed these issues were: Tanja Miščević, Deputy Secretary General of Regional Cooperation Council (RCC); John Jovanović, Deputy Vice President and Managing Director leading the regional office for the Western Balkans & Aegean at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC); Yngve Engstroem, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Serbia; and Dejan Cvetković, CTO Microsoft Development Center. The panel was moderated by Maja Piščević, Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council of the United States.

The main conclusions of the panel are that the future is coming faster than anybody could have ever suggested and that we humans have to accept the rapid changes, be open to them and constantly adapt. We will need to learn how to collaborate with machines and for being able to do that, we will constantly need to be learning new skills. As Mr. Dejan Cvetkovic stated, „the key skill that we will need to implement is lifelong learning – everything changes and we will constantly need to requalify “. He also underlined that the „machines of the future will be able to know us better than we know ourselves “and that we humans will need creative skills to collaborate with machines. On the other hand, we will need „great analytical skills to interperet tha data correctly as we will need to know which data really matter in the sea of data that will be available to us “. Mr. Cvetkovic also talked precision medication and gave examples on how everything will be talior-made thanks to data that we will be able to collect and use. In particular, there will be no same Aspirin for everybody, but personalized pain medications for each person. Mr Cvetković also shared with the audience that Microsoft Development center in Serbia was the first such center of Microsoft in Europe, established back in 2005. In these 15 years, everything changed excpet for the essence of that center and its name, suggesting that everything changes and that „nothing is written in stone “. The change is a must for growth and development.

Mr. John Jovanović talked about intitiatives that DFC is working on and how they help greater women inclusion in economies and societes. He pointed out to the importance of greater risk-taking attitude in women ad women are currently much more risk-averse and thus they find it harder to become entrepreneurs or climb career ladders. Mr Jovanovic also stressed that certain hard skills will be a given, such as minimal technology litteracy, but that we should not forget on importance of soft skills, especially as machines will become clever and clever. He said that „people will need to think for themselves” that is why people have to be working on their emotional intelligence and other soft skills.

Regarding other forms institutional support that women are getting, Mr. Yngve Engstroem mentioned the joint efforts of EU Delegation and UN Women on gender equality policy planning in certain sectors such as agriculture and transportation. Mr. Engstroem warned us that if we fail to do something on a policy level or on terrain, i.e. „with current rates of progression, we will reach full gender equality in 60 years “.

We also learned that women represent only 27,5% of business owners in Western Balkans, as cited by Ms Tanja Miščević. She also remined us that women are more prone to set up businesses in informal economy and that they have much poorer access to finance. However, what is important is that „if equality in this regard was somehow reached, Western Balkan countries could have a 20% higher GDP altogether “.

The moderator of the panel, Ms. Maja Piščević, conlcuded the panel with an important conclusion that we should always remind ourselves and it is that „Women empowerment is not a zero-sum game, i.e. it is not that if women are better-off, that men are worse-off. Actually, empowering women economically strengthens our whole societes, making them richer and happier “.


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