EMPOWERING WOMEN: Interview with Ivana Koprivica and Danijela Lalić


Happy International Women's Day! 


Today we celebrate the achievements and contributions of women around the world. 


Women have been breaking barriers and moving boundaries daily, and their impact on society and the world at large cannot be overstated. In honor of this special day, we are excited to bring you an interview with two successful women who have dedicated their lives to empowering women and creating change in their communities. 


Their work and advocacy have paved the way for future generations of women to thrive and succeed. Join us as we learn more about their inspiring journeys and the lessons they have learned along the way.






With a master's degree in business psychology, Ivana has worked as a director of the Center for Foster Care and adoption Novi Sad for over nine years. Her work experience is in the field of social welfare through work as a counselor at the Provincial Institute for Social Protection, as well as through work in the civil sector. She has implemented numerous domestic and international projects, is a co-author of several accredited programs for employees' professional development in the social welfare system, and author of many professional publications and manuals. Also, she is a certified coach for organizational cognitive/behavioral coaching. Aaaand - that is not all! In addition, she is a mother of two beautiful children.


Most of our team got to know her better through beneficial and impressive workshops she organized during our onboarding processes, such as assertive and business communication.








Well-known face at the University of Novi Sad. Danijela is a professor of primary, master, specialist, MBA, and doctoral studies at the Faculty of Technical Science.

 For many years, she has been in research and practical work in corporate communications, digital technology, and internet communication in business. She is actively involved in several international projects. She is engaged with Ministry of Education, Science, and Technological Development projects. Danijela co-authors several books, including Examples of good public relations (2011, 2013, and 2015). She has published over 80 scientific and professional publications. She is a member of several powerful associations: the Serbian Society for Public Relations, the Working Group for Education and Development of the United Nations Global Agreement in Serbia, the International Organization of EUPRERA, and an associate researcher in the most significant European communication research of the European Communication Monitor. On top of all that, she is also a mother. From all of her work, she takes the most pride in motivating students to achieve their full potential.




Below is an interview we conducted with Ivana and Danijela, which aims to share their paths, experience, and advice with everyone. Enjoy!



1. Have you ever imagined you would have a successful career like you do have today?



Ivana: “It is not easy to talk about yourself, and it is a serious challenge for most people. I always wanted more, and I never stopped learning. I come from a small environment, a small village in Bačka, and many things seemed unattainable at the beginning of my career. After more than 20 years of work experience, I can say that there were indeed many falls on the way to success, and success did not come "overnight." I saw failures as temporary obstacles that led me to a more extensive and significant next step in life. 


In the area where I gave the most of myself, in social welfare, you learn that pain and suffering cannot be avoided and are an inevitable part of life. 


"Desire is the strongest force in the world." When you work with people, you see changes. I was also lucky enough to study a one-year Training for Trainers at the beginning of my career, which opened my eyes and broadened my horizons. I learned a lot about myself, other people, and life. I saw opportunities and obstacles, and I recognized my strengths and weaknesses. At that training, I first heard about gender equality and learned to believe in myself as a woman. I decided it was okay to give myself a chance, and that's why I got involved in various projects that were very demanding and innovative, but always with enthusiasm and new energy.”

Danijela: “My career path was spontaneous and natural. You know when people surprisingly ask, how come you achieved such success? The answer is always the same, hard work. I achieved success only by hard work. But, a mark on the side, I started my career in the Faculty of Technical Sciences marketing team. That led me to get involved in teaching at the faculty. I liked the corporate world and practical applications. 


I consistently adhered to the old wisdom: "Theory as much as necessary, and practice as much as possible!" That's how I found the perfect combination - to work for different companies and to impart a variety of theoretical and practical knowledge to young people at the university through countless examples from practice. It has proven the best way to motivate and inspire students to find their path and become what they want. Of course, the transfer of experience did not go smoothly right at the beginning of my career because I needed to have it myself. However, I gradually acquired it, and with understanding came confidence.


Over time, what I consider success has come! I became an essential part of the puzzle that influences the choices of young people to find themselves and discover what they want to do and don't want to do, which is equally important! 



The job of university professors is not to teach students what they know and have them reproduce it on the exam but to stimulate them with new ways of thinking and inspire them to create change. Only in this way can we develop individuals who improve the world. Each individual should "be the change they want to see." That's why in my courses, I allow students to use books and notes and all available materials in the exam, as they can later in a business environment. Still, I try to teach them the way of thinking to find a way to solve problems and challenges.”



2. What were the biggest challenges in your career so far, and how did you overcome them?



Ivana: “There have been many career challenges, turning points, dilemmas, and doubts. I still have them, which is great because they are thought-provoking and help point you in a certain direction. I overcame them by learning and working on myself while at the same time being aware that challenges are there for us to develop. For example, my challenge was to develop the institution I still run today, a state institution for children without adequate parental care (www.cpsuns.rs), with my colleagues from the first foundation paper. Today it is an institution that has existed for nine years and has worked successfully. We see beautiful results from daily work with children and young people growing up in foster families. I often fought for the Institution, explaining, each time slowly and gradually, because people do not know and do not need to know anything about foster care as a topic. My task was to break the stereotypes and prejudices that exist in society regarding this topic. I am still on this assignment.”

Danijela: “In every company I've worked for in the past twenty years, I've encountered different challenges. Every task or project that seemed like a challenge was an experiential learning path. The challenges were how to make a perfect team out of different people in different organizational cultures. Because "a hundred people have a hundred tempers, " only people can do good things! I rarely had the situation of choosing a team myself. Therefore, my biggest challenge is to make the team out of available people who move mountains and create results through a nice atmosphere and incredible energy! If you believe it's possible and believes in yourself and others, these challenges become like game-passing levels. Each gives you several lives and the opportunity to try again to be much more prepared.”


3. Have you personally encountered prejudices about gender equality in the work environment, and how did you position yourself in such situations?



Ivana: “I encountered gender (in)equality already in my first year of study, in the subject of General Psychology, when the professor told us in his speech at the beginning of the year (and the amphitheater was full of girls because only a few guys in our generation studied psychology) to think carefully about why we are there, because we will get married and have children, so maybe psychology is not for us after all. It made me angry even then, I knew that sentence was unfair, but I didn't know what it was called professionally. Today I know, and I am sure that that sentence motivated me even then to fight, to show that I can. I told myself you would finish, even if I married and had children. And so it was :)


In the working environment, in the system I work, women dominate. In social welfare, we are primarily from professionals helping others: psychologists, pedagogues, and social workers. Of course, we also have male colleagues, but they rarely decide to work in the social welfare system. There is a lot of inequality in the environment. Men are often in positions where decisions are made, and power and money reside. When I was in situations where I felt discriminated against or excluded as a woman, I fought for my place and strived for equality and equal opportunities. With my professional attitude, knowledge, and skills, I tried to show that women can do it too!”

Danijela: “Fortunately, I have not had any negative personal experiences with gender inequality. I became an assistant professor before the age of 30. At the beginning of my career, I encountered "age" prejudices and questions like: “Shouldn't the professor have come with you?” or “Is there anyone older here, or did they send a student to meet/visit?”. 


In the book Dr. Shawn Andrews The Power of Perception: Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, and the Gender Divide, I found some answers. But here it is in short…


All our lives, we are bombarded with direct and indirect messages about how we should behave. We receive these messages from parents, family members, friends, teachers, coaches, magazines, books, movies, television, and even the toys we play with. So, for example, you know that toy cars are for boys and dolls for girls.


Therefore, boys are socialized early to be competitive, confident, determined, and sometimes aggressive. Boys are taught before that winning is the most important thing. For example, boys are told, "Don't cry like some little girl!"


Girls get entirely different messages in childhood. GIRLS ARE SOCIALIZED TO BE CAREFUL TOWARDS OTHERS, TO SHOW EMOTION, AND BE EMPATHETIC. Girls are taught that the process is more important than winning and that relationships are key.


In these early lessons, boys begin to develop the skills of self-confidence and determination. Girls start to develop empathy and interpersonal skills. So even in adulthood, we continue to receive these messages and carry these patterns of behavior and beliefs into the workplace. Not surprisingly, men outperform women in EQ skills such as confidence and decisiveness, and women beat men in EQ skills of empathy and interpersonal relationships. Of course, our natural neurobiology also plays a role, but the pressure of socialization about how we should behave in society is almost inevitable for most of us.


Today, as a critical indicator of scientific research, we have that WOMEN ARE STRONGER IN EMPATHY, INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, and men in the areas of self-confidence, stress tolerance, self-esteem, and self-reliance...


The good thing is that men and women are needed equally for a successful business. Only diversity is the basis for success!”



4. What would you advise other women when they are in such a situation?



Ivana: “I taught my children that there are no men's and women's jobs, no men's and women's housework, and I would tell others the same. My son is a software developer, and my daughter also studies in the same sector. Although the IT world is more male, this campaign, and many other initiatives I see in our environment, influence women to become more involved in the IT sphere.


I would advise others, when they find themselves in a situation of gender inequality, to not remain silent when they encounter a problem, to see it as a challenge, and to do everything in their power. Also, I advise them to continue learning about themselves, other people, and life. Step out of your comfort zone, and change your thinking and perspective - because sometimes that is enough. And, of course, today, we have mechanisms to protect equality. We have a defender of citizens' rights. We have various incentive mechanisms to strengthen gender equality... As a society, we are moving forward, compared to 20 years ago, but like all changes, they are slow, complex, and require a process... Gender equality is an all-pervasive topic today.”

Danijela: “Ignore it. Put a smile on your face. You certainly don't belong in an environment where you don't feel good! However, you have the right to choose so make sure you use that right if you need to.”



5. How do you think that each of us can influence the reduction of prejudices about gender equality in the working environment - is it even possible?



Ivana: “If everyone started from their home, from their children, from the fact that it doesn't have to be blue for boys and pink for girls... the world would be much more gender-sensitive. As I have already said, the topic of labor equality is close to me through numerous education and training that I have held. So many people were participants in my education. I used to count, and then I stopped... If each of them took a small step towards reducing prejudices, the world would be a better place for all of us. Of course, we cannot abolish stereotypes, they will always exist, but we can change our attitude and emotional attitude towards stereotypes.”



Danijela: “You asked me if this is even possible? Well, Bee IT has just proved that it is Usually, only women discussing self-empowerment are invited to events with this topic. Awareness and support must start from men, and this is not a topic discussed once a year! At the first Bee IT  event dedicated to this campaign, there were equal numbers of men and women, and this was precisely the way to spread awareness and talk about this topic.


Neither men are better than women nor are women better than men. On the contrary, they are the perfect match for successful business and creating a sustainable society!”




6. How did you set your goals at the beginning of your career?



Ivana: “At the beginning of my career, I worked in a school as a professional assistant, and then for years in the civil sector, which teaches you what life is all about. Activism is something I live in. I am still active in numerous associations because I think the micro level is significant. I believe that changes can come "from below" and that we can do much for ourselves. My goal was to work with people, to work in the profession, and to support those who need it. I set myself the goal of passing on my knowledge and skills to others. I founded the Center for the Production of Knowledge and Skills www.cpzv.org, an organization that deals with what its name suggests. We transfer knowledge and skills to people who need them.


Whenever I think about work, I remember the saying that "A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step", a saying by Lao Tzu, and then I go.


That is my motto, go for it... and you will succeed! Small steps to significant changes!”



Danijela: “If I had to single out one of my virtues, it would be a good organization. I set goals daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Many people need to correct their goals. When I ask students, here you are at the university. What is your goal? Many answers with: so that I can finish university. And that's wrong! A plan answers the question WHY and it's always good to start with why! Do you know why you entered university? To fulfill your parents' wishes, have a good job, salary, and a secure future? The reasons may be different. But when you know why, what will you do about it, and HOW? Simon Sinek explained this very well in his book Start with Why, which I recommend.”




7. Finally, what is your advice for women?



Ivana: “Successful woman is not only one who has built a big business. My opinion is that a successful woman knows how to work, works with passion, and how to "lead the game," but also to change it when necessary. A successful woman thinks outside the box; most importantly, she greatly believes in herself. Forget the fear of failure. Keep going because failure is an integral part of the road to success!


Connecting women is also something that has meant a lot to me personally. I have a great network of women, each a lioness in her own right, and I consider that my great strength. Be supportive of other women and accept support! Make time for socializing because balance in life is essential! Celebrate life every day!”




Danijela: “I don't have specific one-sentence advice, but I'll borrow your slogan: Be All You Want To Be! And girls and women, don't delay anything because of your career. Your career will come! Make sure you are in a supportive environment. And you have no place either in society or in a company where you are not appreciated and respected because you are a woman! It will happen that life won't always give you what you want, but it's not because you don't deserve it. You're just in the wrong place. You deserve so much more, move, turn, and try new things and ways. And be sure to believe you will succeed in everything you want!






Ultimately, we are speechless and grateful as a team that we got to learn from you. 


Don’t forget to believe in your abilities and work on yourself daily because once it is clear - Be All You Want to Be!

Spread the importance of this vital theme, and if you have any recommendations or suggestions for further campaign development, feel free to contact us at [email protected]. We will be happy to hear directly from you!


blog author

Teodora Grubor

Marketing Manager