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FEATURE STORY March 8, 2019

A Croatian Female Entrepreneur Who Just Doesn’t Like Bosses


Women are far less likely than men to be entrepreneurs in Croatia, a country with one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in the European Union. Only 7% of employed women aged 35-39 years are entrepreneurs, only 12% of firms have women in top-management positions, and only one-third of Croatian firms are owned by women.

Danijela Kadoić Kućibradić is one of those women entrepreneurs. She owns and runs a small enterprise for construction design in the city of Osijek, located in a rural region of Croatia.

Thirty-nine-year-old Danijela belongs to a new generation of women entrepreneurs who have defied traditional gender roles in Croatia. Choosing to be an entrepreneur is not common for Croatian women but joining the civil engineering profession is even less common.  

Danijela started her own firm three years ago, after working for twelve years with a private firm.

"I constantly have to be better than the men, to prove myself. Sport taught me discipline and instilled in me this fighting spirit."

“I just don't like bosses!” says Danijela. Her energetic appearance reflects her sporting past: while in high-school she was a semi-professional volleyball player. She supported herself during her studies with money earned from playing volleyball.

Coming from a working-class background, Danijela didn't have many career options, but she was determined to succeed at whatever she did. She originally dreamed of becoming an architect, but later decided to pursue a career in civil engineering. After completing her Bachelor of Arts degree, she quickly found a job.

Today, Danijela is married with two children. She shares domestic chores and childcare duties with her husband, without which it would be almost impossible for her to compete with predominantly male colleagues in her field of work.

“I constantly have to be better than the men, to prove myself,” says Danijela. “This often means working 16 hours per day, and on weekends as well. And there are still times when I am told I don’t know anything because I am a woman.”

"I simply won’t give up!"

Danijela’s firm has more than enough clients, fortunately, and doesn't even have to advertise its services. Although she admits that she feels overstretched sometimes. “Sport taught me discipline and instilled in me this fighting spirit,” she says with a grin. “I simply won’t give up!”

Danijela succeeded though sheer determination and hard work. She managed to overcome many of the bottlenecks that prevent women from starting their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs in Croatia.

Social norms were certainly part of the challenge for Danijela, but like other Croatian women, she faced additional constraints including an absence of affordable business development services, lack of financial and social capital, and an absence of institutions and networks that give women a collective voice in the marketplace and in the community. Women are also reluctant to enter, or reenter, the labor market because of unaffordable or inaccessible childcare services.

A forthcoming World Bank report, Investing in Opportunities for All: Croatia Country Gender Assessment, recommends a whole-of-government approach to addressing these gender barriers, which would entail national and municipal governments providing a supportive environment for women’s entrepreneurship. With greater opportunities and gender equality, more women in Croatia will be able to follow in Danijela’s footsteps.