Forum Danube net

Report on the results and conclusions of the 10th Forum BPW Danube net, which took place in Pula on 4-5 November 2016, on the topic "Women in STEM, Innovation, Leadership"

10th Forum BPW Danube net was designed as a platform for the exchange of ideas, opinions and information in the labor, business and culture field. The aim of the Forum was to exchange the experiences of women oriented on entrepreneurial activities and well-paid occupations, and to encourage women entrepreneurs to pursue innovations and accept management positions. The forum offered the exhibition, three plenary sessions, nine round tables, sale of products made by women entrepreneurs, and business meetings. It was held under the patronage of Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, the President of the Republic of Croatia, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and Ivan Jakovcic, EUSDR Danube Region Strategy, particularly in the field of supporting female entrepreneurs as strong doers in strengthening the economic competitiveness of the EU macro region.

Forum was supported by various institutions: Istria County, City of Pula, Chamber of Trades and Crafts of Istria County, IDA, Polytechnics Pula, Faculty of Economics and Tourism dr. Mijo Mirkovic Pula, Rovinj town, Kanfanar, Medulin and Liznjan municipalities. It was also supported by the sponsors Zagrebacka Bank, HBOR, Zlatne ruke, Hotel Park Plaza Histria and Tourist Board Pula. We thank the artists donors: Vesna Nezic Ruzic, Anica Franjul and Natasa Dragun, Dance School Rosso Latino, KUD Medulin.

Regional Express, TV Nova, Glas Istre, Naturala.hr, Women in Adria, and TV Istra were media sponsors.

Forum donors were Vesna Nezic Ruzic, 05vizija.net, RR Medij, Vesna Loborika, MPS, Loredana Buzet, Haller Weddings, Glam style studio, Stari puc d.o.o, Boutique Lily, Istrian prosciutto Kod Milana, Dia handmade, Villa Sosi, Birikina Travel, Fitoaroma Scents of Istria, S-hand Art, and volunteers among the active BPW members.

Before the Forum, Mayor of Pula Boris Miletic, the Deputy Prefect of Istria County Giuseppina Rajko, Viviana Benussi, and the Deputy Mayor of Pula Elena Puh Belci received the president of BPW International Yasmin Darwich, and prominent women entrepreneurs and businesswomen of Istria. You can view the statement of Yasmin Darwich here.

Structurally, the Forum encompassed the multidimensional aspects of women's entrepreneurship, divided into several sections.


The topic of this Forum was "Women in STEM, innovation and leadership". The forum was held under the patronage of the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. On behalf of the President, the audience was addressed by Gordana Deranja, the Envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia, and the President of the Croatian Employers' Association. "Croatia is one of the countries where women have the same level of rights and equal opportunities for professional development, but it is a fact that women in Croatia face a range of problems," said Gordana Deranja, and added that we should all together strive to achieve greater equality.

Ivan Jakovcic, Member of European Parliament, addressed the audience via video message, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). In his message he made a commitment to advocate for equal rights of women in Brussels, especially in the enterprise and economy sector.

You can watch the speech of Ivan Jakovcic here.

Yasmin Darwich (Mexico), the President of BPW International, stated that the networking of countries surrounding the Danube region is extremely important. "This allows you to collaborate, and talk about the issues and objectives typical of the region to which you belong," said Darwich, and added that the forum provides an opportunity to exchange experiences and meet the members from all over the world. She pointed out that one-third of global businesses are owned by women, but these are mostly micro businesses. Worldwide there are laws that discriminate against women in terms of assets, inheritance and business practices, women have limited access to financial institutions, and face a variety of family constraints. It is therefore necessary to establish women's business networks.

On behalf of the European entrepreneurs, BPW forum was greeted by Secretary General Pinella Bombacci. The participants were also addressed by the representatives of BPW to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, Arzu Ozyol and Katherine Bosshart, BPW representative in the European Council Eufemia Ippolito, the first vice president of BPW Amany Asfour and many others.

EUSDR representative Dragica Karajic and Gabrielle Stowasser from the Austrian Senate for the economy opened the plenary session on the theme of social and economic assessment of the Danube countries. They both stressed out the need to participate in transnational projects of Danube region.

Priority area 8 of the EUSDR provides significant support in order to strengthen economic competitiveness through networking, business networking and cluster development of women entrepreneurs from 14 EUSDR countries.


Round table 1: Women in STEM fields and project opportunities

The research results show that less than 20% of people working in STEM professions are women, which means that the potential of women is not sufficiently exploited in this area. What's important is the fact that technical occupations are area where knowledge is equally valued, and where there is no gender pay gap. Women should be encouraged to work in STEM field, by directing them to the appropriate education and training, which will give them a better position in the labor market and increase the possibility of their (self) employment in profitable occupations. One of the proposed solutions is that all children, without gender limitations, are brought closer to STEM field while they are in kindergarten, in order to create a positive environment and their possible commitment to STEM professions. Women should be encouraged in STEM education and employment, and business initiatives in STEM professions, including those at institutional level. The participants of the round table identified business entities open to cooperation with civil society (e.g. BPW) for partnership in EU projects that encourage STEM areas. Difficult access to financing is main economic obstacle to entrepreneurship in general. It is even more pronounced with women, as women are traditionally more conservative in terms of undertaking financially demanding and risky ventures, which ultimately leads to the perception that women are financially less credible and enterprising than men. This is particularly pronounced in the financially demanding entrepreneurial ventures in STEM field, for example in high-tech projects that imply the use of expensive equipment and high cost of working hours, because of which the number of women entrepreneurs in STEM area is lower than the average number of women among the entrepreneurs. It has been statistically proven that women are more likely to opt for entrepreneurship career in the field of e.g., consulting or education, social activities, as well as in a number of other services that require a lower initial investment.

The participants of the round table agreed on the need for involvement in EU projects focusing on STEM activities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Round table 2: Networking and partnership

The advantages of expanding international business contacts and new markets were presented on the example of best practices of international networking BPW Budapest / Stuttgart BPW, BPW Turkey / BPW Danube net, BPW Bagheria / BPW Bars / BPW Pula.

At the Gala dinner that same evening, a letter of intent was signed establishing a business partnership between BPW Pula and Bari, and BPW Pula and Bagheria (Sicily).

Round table 3: More women in management and Equal Pay Day

Italy is an example of good practice for women in the administration - thanks to the Law No. 120/2011 the percentage of women on business boards increased from 6% to 27%, which resulted in improved economic performance of these businesses. In addition, Italy is in the second place in Europe for gender representation of women in the management. BPW Germany launched the Equal Pay Day project, in order to increase the awareness of earnings inequality for women. It was pointed out that possible way to resolve this problem is to educate about proper harmonization of family life and career.

Round table 4: Young BPW entrepreneurs

Reproductive-age women are focused on their personal life and creation a family. Political and scientific institutions and civil organizations should work together on the compression of information, employers should have a flexible approach to harmonization of family and work commitments of young mothers, and financial support should be provided to young families.

Round table 5: Women in Innovations

For the purpose of greater representation of women in the field of innovation, women should be motivated from early childhood in two directions: to orient them towards creativity and self-confidence, and to stimulate their interest in science and scientific approach. Education for innovation and entrepreneurship is very important and should be introduced at all levels of educational system, starting with an early age. The students are open and sensitive to the topic of social innovation, but they lack the courage to express their creativity. Learning through work, through the "Innovation Management" and "Young Social Innovators' would help the innovators to obtain more confidence in themselves and their own creative potentials. According to a recent study, some Croatian inventors / innovators lack competence / knowledge on the management of their inventions, as well as financial support to enter the market. Innovation management should be introduced as part of the support and entrepreneurial infrastructure.

Round table 6: The promotion of female entrepreneurship

Students should be encouraged in technical innovations, and we should use their knowledge and influence in the implementation of projects such as " Women with no Excuses". Projects should involve young people, and should use the knowledge of the young generation.

Round table 7: The synergy of economy and culture as opportunity to start a business

The economy is the pillar of every country, sustainable growth and development is not possible without the synergy with culture (education, art, traditions, cultural heritage, etc). The economy and culture constitute a chain that should jointly strive for a better life. Young people should be educated and they should create a better life while respecting themselves and the others. Culture itself is the capital, especially in the tourism sector. The oldest form of synergy is patronage, which is marketing sponsorship nowadays. Italian museum companies (e.g. Museo dell'olio Lungarotti) and Croatian traditional museums (eg. Ecomuseum ISTRIAN de Dignan) are examples of the possibilities to develop new synergies.

Round table 8: Women and entrepreneurship in tourism

Women make up majority of employees in tourism (60-70%) and usually have worse working conditions. They are present only in the administration and the service industry, and are under-represented in management positions, which are male-dominated (typical gender pyramid, where women make up only 5-8 % of the administration). Self-employment is a major operating mode in the tourism sector. Gender perspective needs to be included in planning and implementation procedures, and legal protection of women in employment in the tourism industry must be strengthened. Measures should be taken in terms of wage equalization, the improvement of maternity leave conditions, provision of flexible working hours, arrangements for child care, and more stimulative measures should be provided.

Round table 9: Women in PR and Media

PR management is a practice of dissemination of information between the individual or organization (such as a business, government agency or non-profit organizations) and the public. BPW International should establish an international forum of women's networks in order to act together and in harmony for the common goals of women's issues, and expand the activities beyond the BPW Association. BPW International network should disseminate the information and improve the existing tools starting from local level. Local members of BPW clubs should share best practices through BPW International network. To improve PR activities, it is necessary to define the objectives, and to promote the achievements and results beyond the local level. We need to improve the computer literacy of women, in order to make the information more accessible to them. BPW, as the largest network of businesswomen, should identify financial institutions (funds, banks), which will provide the women with easy access to credits and loans, given that the common goal of all businesswomen is to have easier access to finances.

Closing remarks

In closing remarks, messages from all round tables were conveyed to Forum participants. Amany Asfour, the Vice-President of BPW International and organizer of BPW World Forum in Cairo, urged the members to actively participate in BPW World Congress in Cairo in 2017. Ph.D. Alida Perkov, the president of BPW Danube net from 2009 to 2012 and from 2013 to 2016, expressed her appreciation for the confidence shown to her in previous mandates, and handed over the duty to new President, Marion Volk.


On the 4th November 2016, Town Library in Pula opened the exhibition at Hotel Park Plaza Histria, on the topic of Economy in Pula from the mid-19th century until the First World War, with the aim of informing the participants of the Forum about the possibility of valorization of historical heritage. The primary objective of the exhibition was to present to the public a visual identity of Pula in the second half of the 19th century until the beginning of World War II, by highlighting the most important facts and moments in the urban, economic and social history of Pula, the largest and oldest town in Istria, with history more than three millennia old.

In the organization of the Union of Inventor Associations of the Istria County, and given the theme of the 10th Forum, Forum participants could see the remarkable innovations and protected intellectual properties of 12 Istrian women innovators.

At its booth, Polytechnics School Pula presented the financial and other incentives offered to businesswomen and women entrepreneurs who enroll the STEM course at Polytechnics School.

Lobbying for shopping, the traditional BPW campaign for buying products and services owned by craftswomen and women entrepreneurs, this time hosted twenty entrepreneurs from Istria and Rijeka, so Forum participants could purchase original Croatian products.

During the afternoon tour of Pula, foreign guests visited shops owned by the entrepreneurs who are members of BPW Club Pula, which were for that occasion specially marked as BPW-friendly shops.

Gala dinner was an opportunity to present Istrian artists, who contributed to the event by showing their knowledge of the cultural milieu – members of KUD Medulin presented a palette of song and dance of the Southern Istria, Dance Studio Rosso Latino reminded the women entrepreneurs that there is a common past of Danube countries in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when Pula was the main naval port and when composer Franz Lehar lived and worked in town. You can watch the video here.

Prominent music artist Vesna Nezic Ruzic, accompanied by Anica Franjul and Natasa Dragun, sang the unofficial anthem of Pula Lovor i ruze - Rose di Pola - Bay leaves and Roses, and songs of Maestro Nello Milotti and Pula songwriter Sergio Endrigo. Songs in Croatian, Italian and English language made it closer to the audience that Istria County is a multilingual County.

Dragica Lukin, the President of the Union of chefs and pastry chefs of Croatia, presented a cake named Istrijana, which was served to the guests together with wine OPG Teraboto. Prosciutto manufacturer Vesna Bursic and Istrian cheese manufacturer Vesna sir Loborika treated all artists with the assortment of smoked meats and dairy products.

Report prepared by:
Alida Perkov, PhD
President of BPW Prvi hrvatski klub Pula/ BPW First Croatian Club Pula

View the photo gallery of th Forum >>

To the kind attention of the BPW members, friends and partners

Business and Professional Women (BPW) Danube Net is the network for businesswomen in the Danube Region and was set up in 2006 to promote intensive networking among the Danube countries. It is designed to be a platform for the exchange of ideas, opinions and information in the fields of work, business and culture - with a yearly Danube Net Businesswomen Forum.

Our BPW Danube net is recognized by the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, endorsed in June 2011 by the European Council, as the second EU macro-regional strategy after the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The Danube Region Strategy addresses a wide range of issues; these are divided among 4 pillars and 11 priority areas. The Priority Area 08 "To support the competitiveness of enterprises" is coordinated by the Land Baden-Württemberg (Germany) and Croatia, more on www.danube-region.eu

Under the patronage of H.E. President of the Republic of Croatia, the 10th Forum BPW Danube net “WOMEN IN STEM, INNOVATION, LEADERSHIP” will take place on November 4th and 5th, 2016 in Pula/Croatia. More about the Forum on www.bpw-danubenet.org.

The host will be BPW Pula Croatia in the Park Plaza Histria. Please find more about the hotel on their official website >>

We are looking forward to see you!

Alida Perkov, President BPW Pula Croatia, Chair BPW Danube Net 2013-2016

Marion Volk, Vice Chair and founder of BPW Danube Net This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Invitation to sponsors

We invite all companies and business enterprises interested in sponsoring the Forum, to contact us. Your sponsorship will allow you to:

  • Donation of 1000,00 HRK - Publishing sponsor's logo at www.bpw-danubenet.org and www.bpw.hr websites + logo in official communication
  • Donation of 3000,00 HRK - Services referred to in point 1 + placement of 1 roll-up in hotel lobby + promotional materials in Forum maps for the participants + participation of one (1) representative at the opening ceremeny of Forum
  • Donation of 5000,00 HRK - Services referred to in point 2 + participation of two (2) representatives at the opening ceremony of Forum and Gala dinner
  • Donation of 7000,00 HRK - Services referred to in point 3 + special mark on all Forum materials with a particular emphasis in public performances as "Gold Sponsor''

Please contact us if you are interested in becoming the sponsor of the 10th Forum Danube Net at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Registration to the 10th Forum BPW Danube Net - Park Plaza Histria Pula

Participation fee for the attendance of Forum is paid directly to Park Plaza Histria Pula, when booking hotel accommodation. We have arranged for special discount of hotel accommodation, and all participants will be staying in this hotel. When booking your accommodation, you will be offered the option to pay two types of participation fees: 34,00 € (includes forum participation + lunch + 3 coffeebreaks) or 54,00 € (includes forum participation + lunch + 3 coffeebreaks + Gala dinner).

You can book your hotel accommodation either by clicking on the link provided bellow, or by going to the website of Hotel Park Plaza Histria and booking your discounted accommodation by entering the promo code BPW2016.

Link for booking: www.arenaturist.com

10th Forum BPW Danube net
4th and 5th November 2016

10th Forum BPW Danube net
November 4th and 5th, 2016