March 15, 2019
Meet the leading women behind the success of Balfin Group

Today, at the global level, according to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap is 68%. This means that there is still 32% of this gap to be completed, according to a recent report conducted in 149 countries around the world. This proves that the inequality between women and men is still high. What is to be said is that no country in the world has achieved full equality yet and that only seven countries in the world have closed nearly 80% of the gap. Progress towards full equality continues to be very slow.

Gender inequality continues to be a major challenge in the European Union for all member states, according to the latest study by the European Institute for Gender Equality. Women are too unrepresented at high decision-making levels in most member states. Despite the fact that women resemble almost the half of the EU’s workforce and represent over half of the profile graduates in the service sector, the proportion of women involved in high decision-making levels remains low. This anomaly proves the detriment of highly qualified human resources with high knowledge.

Even in Albania, the situation is no more prosperous. According to INSTAT, although the gender gap in participation in the labor market has narrowed, during the year that we left behind, about 18 % fewer women aged 15-64 were in the labor market compared to men’s.

In decision-making, in local governance positions, only 15% of mayors are women, at central level, 46% of ministers are women, while women represent only 29% of parliamentarians, according to the 2018 reports.

According to estimates, for the year 2017, the Gender Inequality Index had risen to 0.14 from 0.09 a year earlier. In Albania the participation rate in the labor market is 50.0% for women; while for men it is 67.0%.

According to the United Nations Development Program, gross domestic product per capita for women in Albania is 9,702 dollars a year, while for men it is 14,028 dollars a year.

According to The Global Gender Gap Index 2018, Albania ranked 34th in the world from a 149 countries list, with only 29.3% of women being employed in low or medium management levels.

But fortunately, there are always exceptions and stories of such success, which is good to be made public, to inspire hundreds and thousands of institutions, subjects, women and girls, that willingly and over all work results finally reward.

A hopeful story about the role of women in Albania is that of the Balfin group, a group of “discrimination” in a positive sense, where the scales considerably appeal to women and girls, as most of the employees are women and over half of the Group companies are led by them thanks to the experience they have in different sectors of entrepreneurship, such as finance, retail trade, transportation and logistics, real estate and their management, tourism and so on.

Only in the Real Estate/Tourism sector, 3 out of 4 Executives Directors of Balfin are women.

In this group 42% of Board members and 48% of senior executives as a whole are women.

Meanwhile at Group level, out of the total employed, the Balfin Group has 55% women, where only the newest Group company, Tirana Bank, the women factor covers 75% of the employee total.

In some companies of this group, such as Green Coast, or Fashion Group Albania, the percentage of leading women is 80% compared to men, while in companies like Jumbo or Dyqan Taxi, the ratio is 54% and 63% in favor of leading women.

Business is a dynamic field, and as Eleonor Roosevelt said “A woman is like a tea bag, you cannot know how strong it is, until you put it in the hot water.”

Balfin looks like an isolated island of happiness in a global environment, which, as we have seen above, seems far more fierce and less sympathetic to women.

Of course, it is the far-sighted leadership and the vision of the Group’s President, Mr. Samir Mane, who managed to create in Albania a business climate led by women, this above all even for rational reasons, because the results show that success is guaranteed!

We have asked 10 women of the top management level of Balfin Group, they are the image and the work standing behind the Group’s success.

Balfin’s Chief Executive Officer, Edlira Muka, with a 10-year history in leading positions within the largest Business Group in Albania, explains how this was possible achieving.

“I am aware of the unfavorable reality that many women and girls in the labor market face today in Albania and elsewhere, but to be honest that is a phenomenon that we do not face in Balfin Group. We have overcome gender barriers for years and today we feel proud that in many cases not only the full equality has been reached, but even the number of leading professionals, and not only, tends significantly in favor of the female gender. Almost all marketing and human resource managers of group companies are women. As you rightly mentioned, the Group’s management board has a fairly good representation of women, as they are 3 out of 8 board members, while at Group level, total employed speaking, we are over 55% female. What makes Balfin Group in the forefront of equality and overcoming gender gaps is the vision and the activity expansion in international markets and collaborators, whom together with us have rooted a western culture in this direction. What we look at an employee is neither his gender, his origins nor his beliefs, but only the potential and attributes that he has, in order to be a member of our great family, acting as a single team for achieving common goals. Today our challenges are towards two fundamental directions: in human resource management and in ensuring a satisfactory growth of results year by year. In the medium and long term plans we intend to realize investments in larger and developed markets and the consolidation in existing industries and markets. Managing a portfolio of investments in different sectors and markets requires professionals and partners who share the same vision and value with us. Collaboration with colleagues, professionals and field experts at every step, as well as gaining a team experience through years, eases work for everyone. Every day Balfin Group employees come up with the motto ‘how can I do it better’, thus feeling part of the value chain that they bring and the ratings they receive for their contributions, “says the Group’s CEO.

Ardiana Sokoli, Vice President of Balfin Group regarding Real Estate, after several years of experience as CEO in the Banking Sector, with very good knowledge of Financial Management and Corporate Governance, has joined the Group about two years ago. “I belong to that category of people that does not consider gender difference as relevant to the labor market. During my experience, I have worked with very professional and dedicated women and men. Everything starts from the individual, so each one of us must remove any kind of ‘gender load’ that has relevance to our social position. In this way, everybody can be imposed on the society where we live. This starts with education and taking responsibilities before seeking the rights, “ – she says.

Blerina Daka, Head of Finance Department at Balfin Group, which has held many key positions in the Group since 2008, says that there are obstacles and difficulties everywhere, whether it is a woman or a man facing them, and does not think that gender is the determining factor in this regard. “Of course, the Albanian market carries some mentalities and artificial obstacles, which are due to a certain mentality and a weight of a past time, however if you insist and invest time in a primary objective, there are only two alternatives; either you will win, or you will win “– says Daka. According to her, one of Balfin Group’s strong points is “The fact that you do not see women as such, as just women, but as colleagues, as professionals and as highly capable and talented human resources to advance the spirit of a large joint team,” – she concludes.

Anjeza Kelmendi, Director of Human Resources, since 2015 in the Balfin Group, explains more closely the Group’s focus on female employees and how it has become possible for the balance even to be often in their favor. .”Balfin Group is an employer who takes seriously gender equality and considers the effort to achieve it as a value. We ask all employees and encourage them to show their commitment, to highlight their potential and to orient themselves toward achievements. We constantly point out in our communications policies that career opportunities depend only on skills, achievements and dedication, while gender differences are not a factor,” – says Kelmendi.

Itena Ndroqi, Head of the Legal Department at Balfin Group for two years, thinks that being a woman in Albania means “Making the difference. It means you can. You can do it differently. You can do the same. You can do better.” According to her, the example of such a thing in the Group starts from the fact of “having a woman as Group’s CEO. So gender non-differentiation appears to be at the highest leadership levels. In the daily there are no challenges, no heroic acts, there are problems that require solutions and direction. The real challenge is with yourself, ” says Ndroqi. She bases the experience and the desire to make it into her family history. “Women in my family have been deeply respected and are considered an added value. They have played a strong role in the family economy and its social affirmation, “she concludes.

14 years of work at Balfin Group have been a valuable experience for Elona Hametaj. Today she is the CEO of Spar Albania. Elona shows in detail the daily life of a leading woman. “One of the strengths and also the weakness of a leading woman is sensitivity, we often have to make drastic decisions for the good of the business, and that’s not easy. Another challenge is to find and maintain a balance between family life and work. But working hard for something you want and seeing the results achieved thanks to it, is no longer sacrifice or stress, it is passion. And one of the most beautiful expressions that inspires me to keep doing the job I want is ‘Children do not want a perfect mom, but a happy mom.'”- she says.

Ledia Telhai is the CEO of Balfin Real Estate. She has 14 years of experience at Balfin Group and previously has been Executive Director of Fashion Group Albania, also part of the Group. Ledia shows an interesting episode where she, with her presence as Balfin’s representative, was also considered as novelty in an international environment. “Since the first moments I joined the Balfin Group, I have noticed a high presence of women in all levels of the hierarchy, even in leading positions. Often we are surrounded by prejudices and underestimations because of gender, but positive is the fact that this mentality is changing. There are no a few the times when I have collaborated with partner companies that have had male leaders in most of them, not only in Albania but also abroad. Recalling an annual meeting with one of our key partners. I was the only woman in about 30 people who attended the meeting, an interesting but lasting challenge with great success,” – Telhai says.

Mariola Kuçi, with 9 years of experience at Balfin Group, is the Executive Director of Acrem, a company that manages QTU, TEG and several other real estate properties. “In the beginnings of my career it seemed difficult to execute the role of the leader but I can say that this is no longer a problem and everything seems to be left behind. Balfin Group has always strongly supported the role of the lead woman by giving us the attention, the support and the right position, making it the simplest of the work. One of the Group’s most important visions since its inception has been the increase of the position of women in general, and consequently the establishment of gender equality in all possible sectors where the activity is exercised,” – said Kuçi.

Eva Kallavaresi has 5 years of experience at Balfin Group, she is CEO of Fashion Group Albania. “I manage a company where women occupy 90% of the workforce. Achievements are not individual but are in mutual with any of the managers or employees of the company. Personally, gender inequalities at work have not felt in any of my work experiences. I was lucky and I felt equal, but from the experience of other women I believe there are gender inequalities and of course it should be difficult. I think Balfin is treating the genders equally and attaches great importance to the individual’s abilities/knowledge, “– says Kallavaresi.

Marjeta Goce is the Executive Director since 2015 of companies with logistic and transportation profiles such as TLP, Milsped Albania and Stella Mare. She joined Balfin Group in 2009. “The transport and logistics industry is always described as a ‘non-traditional way’ for a woman not only in Albania but also in the global market, and this is supported by a perception that this industry is dominated by males. Although statistics show that the proportion of women leaders in this kind of industry is small, the fact is that this segment of economy has women that inspire, women whose careers are full of extraordinary achievements, ” – says Goce.