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Join us for a one-day bilateral Conference, “Women in Business", in Zagreb, on 30 November 2023

Picture of speakers for "Women in Business Conference"
Innovation Norway has initiated a Norwegian - Croatian event, as part of the "Business Development and Innovation Croatia" Programme, financed by the Norway Grants. The event will discuss an important and intriguing topic - "Women in Businesses". Register by 28 November, 16.00.

Women have come a long way in business, and as the environment is changing in a dramatic pace, the role of women in business is constantly growing. Unfortunately, significant challenges continue to persist, particularly when women seek to become company owners, managers or leaders, as invisible barriers seem to make their progress in the business arena more difficult.

These challenges must be addressed, and solutions actively pursued, for things to change – not only for the benefit of women, but also for the good of businesses and society in general.

This is why Innovation Norway has initiated this bilateral Norwegian – Croatian event, as part of the “Business Development and Innovation Croatia” Programme, financed by Norway Grants 2014-2021. The Conference will take place on 30 November in Westin Hotel, Zagreb.

During the Conference, we will not only discuss most pressing challenges that women in business face, like the glass ceiling, preventing women to advance, barriers that women face when accessing specific sectors, gender pay gaps, but also strategies and opportunities that can help women overcome these challenges.

We will also discuss qualities that women bring into business, that can drive innovation, foster diversity and lead to more successful businesses, diving into these topics from both a Croatian and a Norwegian perspective.

Join us for the event and contribute actively to this important and intriguing topic.


Register by 28November, 16.00 local Norwegian/Croatian time.

Travel Grants for Norwegian Participants

Norwegian participants can receive a travel grant of €1200. Relevant Norwegian participants are companies, clusters and associations.

Deadline: 24 November, 2023


9.30 – 10.00 Registration

10.00 – 10.15 Welcome and opening word

- Ms. Anne Lise Rognlidalen, Programme Director, “Business Development and Innovation Croatia” Programme, Innovation Norway Zagreb Branch

10.15 – 10.45 “Breaking through the Glass Ceiling - the invisible barrier that prevents women from assuming top management positions and being paid equally as their male colleagues”

- Ms. Nataša Novaković, Croatian Employers' Association, Human Resources and Labor Market Director, Croatia

10.45 – 11.00 Coffee Break

11.00 – 11.30 “Enhancing women entrepreneurship and its crucial contribution to sustainable growth – strategies, networking, innovation”

– Ms. Mary Ann Rukavina Cipetić, President of Initiative for Sustainable Growth, Croatia

11.30 – 12.00 “The Wingate Project (financed by the EEA Grants Regional Fund), aimed at increasing number of successful women enterprises in Central Europe, especially in innovation sector, and supporting their competitiveness”

– Ms. Marit Silseth, , Project Officer/Expert for the Wingate project and Partner in “Kvinner i Business”, Norway

12.00 – 13.00 Lunch break

13.00 – 13.30“Own Your Worth: breaking barriers to make impact.”

- Ms. Hana Colakovic, partner in 4 companies & CEO of the technology company Link Utvikling, Norway

13.30 – 14.00 – “From media to the world of AI”- An inspiring personal story about breaking the “glass barriers” in STEM industries

- Ms. Hajdi Cenan, Co-founder & CEO of airt

14.00 – 14.30 “Feminine Leadership for modern businesses”

- Ms. Iselin Larsen, CEO at POISE, Norway

14.30 – 15.00 “Croatian perspective of the EU Women on Board Directive”

– Ms. Tarja Krehić, (LL.M., Duke), President of the Croatian Association of Women in Legal Profession (HUZUPP), Attorney-at-Law & Partner at Law Office Krehic, Croatia

15.00 – 15.30 Coffee Break

16.30 Panel discussion – “Empowering Women in Business”

Ms. Ana Gruden, CEO at Zaposlena d.o.o., Croatia,

Mr. Ante Bakić, Board Member (R&D) at DOK ING d.o.o., Croatia

Ms. Iselin Larsen, CEO at Poise, Norway

Mr. Anders Stølan, CEO at International Development Norway (IDN), Norway

About Speakers and Topics

Ms. Nataša Novaković, Croatian Employers' Association, Human Resources and Labor Market Director, Croatia

Natasa worked 12 years in CEA as a Human resources and Labor Market Director and she was very active covering women rights, women in business and similar policies from the view of business. She represented CEA in panel discussions in Business Europe in Brussel but also in EIGE (European institute for gender equality).

In 2018 she became head of anti-corruption body in Croatia, but she was still active in women empowerment so she is also one of the founders of EE GOOD Governance and Anti-Corruption Women Leaders Forum.

She is also one of the founders and member of the board in Croatian association of women in legal profession, which is preparing proposal for implementation of “Women on Boards” Directive in Croatian legislation.

Nataša will give an overview of challenges that women face in business, but will also present possible solutions.

Ms. Hajdi Ćenan, Co-founder & CEO of airt, Croatia

Hajdi is co-founder & CEO of a deep tech startup airt, which enables companies to easily make predictions on their data in motion by using generative AI. A regular speaker and panelist at business conferences on AI and startup topics, she was named among the top 100 most influential businesswomen in Croatia, nominated for the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, and listed among the top 100 most important STEM entrepreneurs in Croatia.

Hajdi is also one of the co-founders of PWMN Croatia, the association that promotes equality and gender-balanced leadership, served as the VP of the Croatian AI Association and now serves as the President of the Croatian Startup Ecosystem Association (Cro Startup). She is also the representative of the Croatian startup ecosystem with the EU and sits on the Board of European Startup Networks.

Ms. Marit Helene Silseth, Project Officer/Expert for the Wingate project and Partner in “Kvinner i Business”, Norway

Marit is an engineer, economist and has a Master´s Degree in Organizational and leadership development. She has extensive experience in sales, marketing, and leadership form the pharmaceutical industry, both at national and international levels.

Marit believes that women and men should have equal opportunities in business and as leaders. She started her own company in 2008, and to boost her business she joined the professional business network Women in Business. She's engaged in pan-European projects to boost female leadership, notably with the WINGATE platform. This initiative supports women-led businesses, fostering international competitiveness through stages like needs assessment, platform development, training, and events, ultimately increasing women's presence in the innovation sector globally.

Ms. Hana Colakovic, partner in 4 companies & CEO of the technology company Link Utvikling, Norway

Hana Colakovic, a serial entrepreneur with a compelling background, shares insights on gender biases, stereotypes, and the challenges faced by women in business. Drawing from personal experiences, she highlights the stereotypes that impact women in male-dominated industries. Addressing issues such as the gender pay gap and internalized beliefs leading to imposter syndrome, Hana encourages self-reflection and offers practical tips for building confidence and navigating success.

Ms. Iselin Larsen, CEO at POISE, Norway

After a decade of navigating a high-paced, performance-driven, and male-dominated landscape within IT and sales Iselin Larsen founded a company named Poise, embodying both feminine and masculine values, recognizing these as essential human qualities in the workplace. Committed to fostering a work environment where individuals, irrespective of gender, can authentically express themselves, Iselin focuses on promoting a balance of soft and hard qualities. Drawing from her experiences in sales and technology, she integrates traditionally labeled "soft skills" into her approach.

This presentation provides an introduction to feminine leadership. We explore how integrating softer qualities such as empathy, vulnerability, and collaboration can transform the corporate culture and lead to value creation and growth.

In today's workplace, where the traditional focus has been on hard leadership qualities like efficiency and decisiveness, Iselin demonstrates how a more balanced approach is essential to create an inclusive culture that values diversity and fosters innovation.

By embracing both masculine and feminine qualities, we achieve increased well-being, reduce turnover, and create an environment that promotes psychological safety. This is the key to creating a workplace where all employees can thrive, contribute to the company's value, and drive innovation.

This sets the foundation for a more robust and sustainable future for the company.

Feminine leadership is profitable - can you afford not to embrace it?

Ms. Mary Ann Rukavina Cipetić, President of the Initiative for Sustainable Growth, Croatia

Ms. Tarja Krehić, (LL.M., Duke), President of the Croatian Association of Women in Legal Profession (HUZUPP), Attorney-at-Law & Partner at Law Office Krehic, Croatia

Tarja Krehić is Managing Partner at Law Office Krehić, and a Croatian attorney-at-law with 20 years of successful legal practice. Tarja has significant experience in providing comprehensive legal advice to numerous international and domestic clients. She is an expert in corporate law, M&A, competition and Banking & Finance, with a special focus on data privacy/GDPR and compliance. She also has long-standing industry knowledge in telecommunications, IT/ICT, tourism and energy.

Tarja has advised clients on specific solutions to the most challenging legal issues of corporate and commercial law, and across a spectrum of industries, from clients exploring investment opportunities to those establishing, acquiring, developing and/or restructuring businesses in Croatia. She led and managed the team of lawyers at Wolf Theiss, covering regional M&A transactions across Croatia and throughout CEE, in highly regulated industries such as banking, insurance, energy and telecom. Tarja began her law career at Croatian Telecom (member of Deutsche Telekom Group) where she gained valuable experience in telecommunications & its regulatory legal framework, as well as in corporate, M&A and competition.

Tarja holds a Master of Laws Degree, LL.M., from Duke Law School, USA, as a US State Department Ron Brown Fellowship alumna, and a LL.B. degree from the University of Zagreb, Croatia. Tarja is president of the Croatian Women Bar Association and a distinguished author for leading legal professional platforms, such as the IBA and Legal 500 Comparative Guides.

Tarja will delve into the context of the Women on Board Directive, exploring the business rationale for its adoption, its primary commercial and social objectives, and the challenges it poses. Additionally, she will share noteworthy practices from Western EU nations that have successfully implemented the directive. She will also assess Croatia's progress in adopting the Women on Board Directive, shedding light on the initiatives and activities spearheaded by the Croatian Women Bar Association in this regard.

The Panel discussion: “Empowering Women in Business”


Ms. Ana Gruden, CEO at Zaposlena d.o.o., Croatia

Ana is the owner and CEO of the company, as well as the editor-in-chief of all editions published by Zaposlena d.o.o. She graduated in 1998, from the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science, with major in journalism. She has been editor-in-chief since 2001 and has over 20 years of experience with topics dealing with gender equality and the promotion and exploration of all topics related to the position of women in society. She has worked as a journalist since 1998 and still does that part of the job. She conceived the program “Mentorship as a form of networking among women”, and she is the main organizer of the “Woman of the Year Award”.

She participates at all relevant conferences and roundtables that deal with the topics of gender equality in Croatia, and she has also been a guest at roundtables dealing with these topics in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. In addition, she is the co-author of a report for the European Parliament on gender equality policies in Croatia for 2011 and 2013 (update), as well as the author of the analysis of the impact of the social and economic crisis on women and men in Croatia (from 2009 to 2012) for EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality). She was a member of the Croatian Parliamentary Committee for EU Affairs for four years and a member of the Ethical Committee for the elections to the European Parliament in Croatia in 2016

Mr. Ante Bakić, Member of the Board in DOK-ING d.o.o., Croatia

Ante Bakić graduated from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Zagreb, where he was honored with the Medal of the Faculty. Following graduation, he pursued postgraduate studies in the Laboratory of Experimental Mechanics, completing his doctoral thesis on the topic: "Caustic Method in the Analysis of Contact Problems of Composite Materials."

Subsequently, Ante joined the academic field as an assistant professor at the Department of Technical Mechanics. In 2012, he transitioned to the corporate sector, taking on the role of Head of the Research and Development Department at INETEC - Institute for Nuclear Technology.

In 2019, he became cofounder of Probotica company, dedicated to the development of customized robotic systems. Starting from 2023, he became a member of Doking's management bord.

Mr. Anders Stølan, CEO at International Development Norway (IDN), Norway

Anders combines academic insights from his M.Sc. in Regional and Urban Planning with practical experience gained as the founder and CEO of International Development Norway. His professional journey includes a significant tenure as a Research Director at SINTEF and a period researching technology commercialization in the UK. As an associate professor at NTNU, he has shared his knowledge with students and peers. With a focus on local economic development and SME innovation, Mr. Stølan has a rich project management and research background, contributing to advancements in technology transfer and business and regional development.

As CEO of IDN, collaborating closely with the team of five women, Anders has an opportunity to gain valuable insights into the unique qualities and perspectives that women bring to the business world, fostering inclusiveness and diverse working environment, allowing him to appreciate the multifaceted approaches to problem-solving and decision-making that women often bring to the table.

Ms. Iselin Larsen, CEO at Poise, Norway

After a decade of navigating a high-paced, performance-driven, and male-dominated landscape within sales and IT, Iselin Larsen chose a new direction in 2018. Since then, she has built the company Poise with both feminine and masculine values – which are about the qualities we as human beings, regardless of gender, bring into the workplace.

With a passionate belief that everyone should be able to show up at work as their whole selves, regardless of gender, she has dedicated herself to promoting soft and hard qualities in the workplace and business.

She has combined experiences from the challenging sales environment and technology with the softer and often femininely labelled "soft skills."

Today, Iselin gives lectures to companies, mentors high-achieving women in business, is an investor, and is the author of the book "Feminine Flow."

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