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THE POWER OF WOMEN IN THE 21ST CENTURY Interview with H.E. Mrs. Nataša BERGELJ


H.E. Nataša Bergelj completed legal studies, first at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana and later at the Harvard Law University. She entered the Slovenian Diplomatic Service in 2001, as an Attaché at the Embassy of the Republic Slovenia in Turkey. In the period from 2008 and 2019 she had two foreign postings in Austria and Hungary. Before being posted to Austria Her Excellency headed the Visa Working Party in Brussels during the first Presidency of Slovenia to the European Council. In Hungary she acted already as a Deputy Chief of Mission. When returning to the MFA in Ljubljana she was entrusted in 2020 with the Human Rights Department. She was appointed as Ambassador for the first time in 2022. The host state, where she has been serving in the highest diplomatic title since then, is the Republic of Bulgaria.


Women empowerment in Slovenia – state of affairs and personal experience

Slovenia, I would say, provides equal opportunities for men and women alike. However, when I say this, I have to add that on many occasions for women these "equal opportunities" have to be earned before we can make the full use of them. Nevertheless, the performance of Slovenian women in some key areas of social life has been significant, their role is becoming more and more inclusive and the number of women occupying decision-making positions has been steadily growing.

The Power of Women in Diplomacy

Your Excellences as a Female UN Representative could you describe your profession – the duties, challenges, and perspectives… And the power of cultural dialog in the Diplomacy in 21st century...

Within the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs (MFEA) nearly half (45%) of the Middle and Senior Managerial positions are held by women diplomats. At present, about 40% of all Ambassadors are women. This is a very solid basis for ensuring a long-term and engaged fulfilment of our foreign policy commitments in this domain, especially, since gender equality has been made one of our cross-cutting priorities in the Development cooperation and humanitarian aid strategy.

Our ministry has been committed to make sure that a strategic approach on gender equality and women's and girls' empowerment will be embedded in the new Slovene foreign policy strategy. One of the concrete measures in achieving this was the introduction of the concept of feminist foreign policy. Minister Fajon has announced this concept to be adopted soon after taking a position in June 2022. The concept of feminist foreign policy has thus become part of our new foreign policy strategy and its main goal is further strengthening the already existing activities in the field of empowering women and girls, domestically and abroad.

The Minister has actively been striving to make Slovenia an example in the field of ensuring gender equality - at home, in the region and around the world. The final goal being the full inclusion of women and girls in all spheres of social life.


The Power of Women in Politics

According the “Women in politics: 2021” map, created by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women, despite increases in the number of women at the highest levels of political power, widespread gender inequalities persist: progression in women holding ministerial portfolios has slowed, with just a small increase to from 21.3 per cent in 2020 to 21.9 per cent in 2021; the number of countries with no women in government has increased; and only 25.5 per cent of national parliamentarians are women, compared to 24.9 per cent the year before. Could Your Excellences share some positive trends of women empowerment in politics in your countries?

In Slovenia, currently, in the area of politics we have for the first time a female (1) President of the republic Mrs Nataša Pirc Musar, (2) President of the National Parliament Mrs Urška Klakočar Zupančič and (3) Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Mrs Tanja Fajon. Apart from the Minister Fajon there are however currently only four other female ministers in the current Slovenian government, which has 20 ministers all together. However, the composition of the parliament is more gender-based than ever, where out of 90 MPs 36 are women, including the speaker as already indicated. So far, in our 30-year history of being an independent state, there has been one female Prime Minister Mrs Alenka Bratušek, who was leading the government in the period of 2013 – 2014.


The Power of Women in business

Women in business: advantages, challenges, and opportunities! Your Excellencies would you summarize this topic regarding the situation in your country?

Female entrepreneurship is increasingly important in Slovenia and early entrepreneurial activity has been increasing among women for the fourth consecutive year. Only ten years ago Slovenia was among the worst in this respect, while now it is above EU average. The key role in achieving this goes to the Economy Ministry, which with other relevant stakeholders had been supporting Slovenian women in business for years, both financially and through training programmes. One of the awards that efficiently promotes female entrepreneurship is called “A Female Entrepreneur of the Year”.

However, while female entrepreneurship is still not adequately developed in Slovenia, women nevertheless play a very important role in family firms. This is an extremely important segment of the entrepreneurship movement emerging from the economic transition period. The demographic trends over the last decades with a low number of children should enable them to establish themselves as leaders of family firms.

The gender proportion in these areas is still predominantly in favour of men. Especially, the leading positions with the highest level of responsibilities and power are being disproportionately occupied by men. In order to address this effectively further measures will be needed in order to create the circumstances where women will even consider competing for these positions. Namely, women in Slovenia still carry out disproportional part of household activities, making them at the same time less competitive or less inclined to take on additional "burden". Women in Slovenia are still often challenged by a decision whether to pursue their family life or career. And they should not have to be forced to choose between the two.


The Power of Women in Science

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics data, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay observed that “even today, in the 21st century, women and girls are being sidelined in science-related fields due to their gender”. How can we indeed reduce the gender gap in science?

The level of awareness among girls in Slovenia to study in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is growing. Nowadays, already one in three girls in Slovenia choose engineering careers and we have the highest proportion of female STEM graduates among all European countries (22,9 per 1.000). This is also a result of a national strategy supporting girls to consider engineering as one of that area of study. One of my favourite measures Slovenia has taken in this regard is the “Female Engineer of the Year” award that has been running for 5 years. This national project runs under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, and it effectively addresses the problem of the invisibility of female engineers in society. Its goal is to provide role models for young girls and highlight work achievements that significantly contribute to the prosperity in our society.

The importance of women in traditionally male professions has been emphasized in Slovenia already in 2002, when the Informal Network of Female Physicists has been created. The network incorporates women working in research, academia, government, and industry. This platform has also been used to promote physics among young girls and lead public discussion of the situation of women in science in general.


The Power of Women in Sport

Regarding the Sustainability Strategy of IOC “fostering gender equality and strengthening women`s empowerment in and through sport is also at the core of the mission of IOC.” Could you share with us the engagement of the women in your countries in the sports movement?

Slovenia is a sporting country, globally known for the exceptional achievements of its athletes. There have been many female athletes who have dominated the world, among them I would like to mention the alpine skiers Tina Maze and Ilka Štuhec, rock climber Janja Garnbret, judoists Urška Žolnir and Tina Trstenjak. For a nation of 2 million, the number of world class athletes ranks Slovenia to the second place worldwide.

One of our most renowned athletes is the retired alpine skier Tina Maze, who set records in the number of points won in one season – winning 2,414 in the 2012/13 season, during which she won the gold medal eleven times. Tina Maze is one of six skiers who has won in all five disciplines, and one of only three who succeeded in doing this in the same season. She won 26 races in her career and was Olympic Champion in the downhill and giant slalom.


Please do not yourself be limited!

Go for the things that you love, go with the whole of your passion! If you want to lead, lead, if you want to stay ay home with kids – stay, if you want to study pursue your career in academics!

So, dream big and achieve all your goals!









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