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7 Mar, 2008 23:12

She's the boss - Russian businesswomen lead the world

New data shows that when it comes to female-owned small businesses, Russia leads the way. The country has more of them than anywhere else on the planet.

Nadezhda Kopytina has been her own boss for the past 20 years. Through a combination of hard work and skill, she's grown her frozen seafood company, Lyodovo,  into one of the leaders in its field.

Being a female business-owner is an advantage, not a challenge, she says.

“As a woman, I consider partnership and loyalty to be some of the main characteristics of a successful company. But, frankly, I don’t ever justify my mistakes by saying I am a woman. I believe that in business, people should not be defined as men or women. They should be judged by their professional merits,” Kopytina says.

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the number of female company bosses in Russia more than doubled in the past year.

“As many as 89% of small businesses in Russia are owned by women. That makes us number one in the world,” said business consultant Elena Shulgina.

‘Eva’ is one of Russia’s leading retail chains of plus size clothing. Elena Safonina started the company 15 years ago out of her own frustration with the lack of high-quality fashion for bigger women. 

She says the country’s unique geographical location and some quintessentially Russian character traits define the country’s female entrepreneurs.

“Russian women are not quite European and at the same time not exactly Asian. Since our country is somewhere in between these parts of the world, our women manage to combine rationality with being highly expressive and creative,” Safonina says.

Some say female-owned businesses in Russia are less likely to become the leaders in their sectors as women focus on creating a family-like atmosphere rather than stifling their male competitors. 

Kopytina disagrees with this opinion.

“Whatever I make has to be the best. Being a leader in the market is not only challenging, it also makes others pay close attention to what you do. As a result, you have to be very careful to avoid serious mistakes,” she says.

She also shrugs off suggestions that owning a business means sacrificing family interests.

“I am happily married. I have three beautiful children. The oldest is graduating from a high school later this year. I can’t imagine being a successful businesswoman, but a complete failure in my private life,” said Kopytina.

With Russia’s economy increasingly focusing on small to medium-sized businesses, it looks as if successful businesswomen are here to stay.