What challenges do women in business face on the road to success? Joanna MAKOWIECKA-GATZA, CEO Karmar SA and Linkcity Poland SA (Bouygues Group), President of the Council od Employers of Poland

What challenges do women in business face on the road to success? Joanna MAKOWIECKA-GATZA, CEO Karmar SA and Linkcity Poland SA (Bouygues Group), President of the Council od Employers of Poland

What causes women to fail to advance due to injury?

In my opinion, the greatest barrier, are stereotypes  and the conviction that men are more qualified for taking positions. In 2022, Bigram conducted a study where 49% of men surveyed believed women were less likely to be promoted because they lacked a trait rating.

In the companies I manage, gender equality or quotas are not discussed topics, they are obvious, although they are not obvious to the industry. In our organization, this is evidenced by the numbers – 49% of the staff are women, and 51% are men. We are talking about the construction industry, which is stereotypically considered “male”.

Why are women twice as likely as men to set up startups?

In answering this question, I will also quote statistics from 2022. The provider of data and analysis, Dun & Bradstreet, analyzed the data of the National Court Register and it turned out that at the end of 2021, 32.5% of all companies in Poland belonged to women. When it comes to startups and data for 2022, there were 20% of women in decision-making positions.

I like to surround myself with active, creative people who believe in their abilities and are not afraid to take the initiative or take risks. It would seem that the greatest barrier to women’s business activity may be the lack of faith in their abilities, but not competence.

However, I observe that many ambitious women try to combine family life with running a business. Startups are often the fulfillment of a business idea that allows you to fulfill yourself as a mother. At some point, scaling the business becomes a challenge and requires reorganizing the model, which perhaps many women are not ready for.

Are women’s businesses much more difficult than men’s to obtain financing from investors?

There is no question of a greater or lesser scale of difficulties in obtaining financing from investors because the criteria are the same. But the fact is that last year only 1% of Venture Capital funds went to startups run exclusively by women, but also only 5% of startups run by mixed teams. What factors influence – this is a topic for another interview or a separate statistical study.

Is there still a stereotypical, conservative division of gender roles?

Yes. The term that I used earlier about the construction industry – “male” – proves that we subconsciously attribute certain gender characteristics to industries, positions, and professions. It’s partly a cultural legacy that some people agree with, and some don’t. Therefore, introduced in Polish language feminatives  such as “polityczka”, “gościni” arouse emotions, and “przedszkolanka” or “sprzątaczka” do not.

What is your approach to parity? Do they help women or are they just not needed?

Yes, quotas are needed for many reasons, in many countries – just like equal labor market opportunities and rights. The European Parliament is working on a directive on strengthening the application of the principle of equal pay for women and men for equal work or work of equal value through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms. A long name, adequate to the importance of the topic.

Will a man, if it’s up to him to decide on a promotion, bet more on a man because he thinks it will be easier for him to get along with him than with a woman?

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what the man who influences the decision to promote an employee is thinking. I know what a good leader, boss, and employer should think and follow. Competences, experience, and managerial skills are important, not the gender of the decision-maker. Besides, I have a lot of good experiences with people, regardless of their gender, for whom the issue of competence is important. If someone is in a situation where they feel discriminated against because of their gender, they should look for another job or articulate this problem.

Are women too shy to compete for top positions? Maybe they don’t realize their professionalism?

Considering the professional and non-professional environment in which I live, I firmly say no. Educated women with extensive experience in managerial positions successfully compete for the highest positions – or create them themselves. Of course, among professionally active people some are not yet professionals but have aspirations.

The business world is demanding. It requires resistance, which can be innate or acquired with experience. I think sometimes talented people can be afraid of that and then you have to support them to reach for more. It seems to be more common in women, but not exclusively.

How do women create social capital in their careers, and how do they use contact networks? Do they care less about them, than men?

A network of contacts, and business relationships based on trust and good cooperation, ethics, and transparency in action, allow you to develop your business. It’s not a gender issue. Trust in business is of great value. I have a feeling that women have a greater tendency to form long-term relationships. They are more likely to prioritize long-term value over a quick deal.

We have a problem with the deficit of social capital in Poland. This also has a huge impact on the quality of our behavior, care for good relations, and business ethics. Everyone has a role to play here. Women and men.

What features did he show during his school years, was he active in local governments, were you the class president, etc.?

I was the class president in elementary and high school. I had a lot of my initiative, I practiced various sports. Sport teaches perseverance, hard work, and endurance.

Have you met a business mentor in your life, someone who helped you stand out?

I have worked with many managers. About various personal profiles. Mostly with men. Each of these relationships had a greater or lesser impact on me. My professional career is a variety of experiences. I always say that we are the sum of what we have experienced, imagination, empathy, and intellect, as well as the people we work with.

Are women open to new technologies and how do they deal with them?

Of course. It is a matter of interests, needs, or the ability to use the potential – not only openness. The development of innovations, modern technologies, automation, artificial intelligence, and the ability or even the need to use them in business is a necessity today. There are many smart and effective women in the field of new technologies.

Is it to the advantage of women that the most important features of a good leader, i.e. empathy, understanding, and a pro-social view of the organization, are features attributed to women?

I don’t think that attributing such characteristics to women can be considered more or less favorable. These are the characteristics of a leader, which not everyone can be – due to the whole set of features, predispositions, skills, and experiences. The leader must also be efficient. Let’s not forget that. Positioning women only in a socially sensitive way can create a misleading image.

AI is good at analytics or finance, but it lacks emotional intelligence. Does the future of leadership then belong to women?

Emotional intelligence can be learned at least at the level of imitation and reaction. The fundamental issue is learning to recognize emotions and even measuring vital functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and pupil width. It is a mathematical matrix, i.e. a specialty of artificial intelligence. Does this mean that the future of leadership belongs to AI? I believe we live in a VUCA world, and that defines what kind of leaders we need to be. Geopolitical risks, social tensions, technological progress, and climate challenges are a huge number of problems on the “plate” of managers. Empathy and situational awareness are extremely important skills because they help you review decisions, and these often need to be adapted to changing situations.


Has many years of managerial experience in listed industrial companies. Currently functions as the president of Karmar Ltd and LinkCity Poland Ltd in Polish branches noted in the framework of CAC 40 in Paris, Bouygues industrial group based in France.

Possesses rich experience in terms of improving effectiveness of companies operations, creating and implementing strategies, transforming enterprises.

Is a graduate from Warsaw School of Managing and Marketing. in 1999 attained her MBA at the University of Warsaw in cooperation with Staffordshire University, University of Antwerp and the Free University of Brussels. In 2013 completed the Advanced Management Program at IESE University of Navarra.

Is also a Member of Council of Social Dialogue to the President of Poland, representing private employers. Between 2017-2021 she was Vice-President of Polish Employers, currently Chairwoman of Council of Employers Poland.

Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by Anastazja Lach