How Women Can Benefit from Digital Skills: A Story from Valjevo
Situated four kilometers outside the city of Valjevo, the “Degurić” Equestrian Club sits idyllically by the river Gradac, completely immersed in the nature.
The club has been welcoming guests for 25 years, the last two under the guiding hand of Nataša Mojsilović. The vivacious and easygoing housewife took over the management from her husband when their children grew up and moved on with their lives, she explained. In addition to the riding school for beginners and recreational riding at the city’s green periphery, Nataša has upgraded the club by adding new facilities – a restaurant and a holiday apartment.
“I took over the business to professionalize it and introduce some innovations. My husband was highly supportive and said – I leave everything up to you! Now we host weddings, birthday celebrations, team building events, exhibitions”, says Nataša.
Nataša soon realized that the hospitality business was making more profit than the riding school, and even covered the costs of horse care for the entire season. Since her ambition was to keep developing this business, she also took a data analysis course.
“I had heard about statistical data analysis before, but it never crossed my mind how I could benefit from it”, she said.
When she started looking at her business from a new perspective, Nataša became curious about whether the club restaurant should have ready-made meals every day.
“It has turned out to be far more cost-effective and reasonable to prepare food on a needs basis, when our guests call to make reservations, at least until our business grows in size. The weather has a major impact on the number of visitors – when the weather is bad there are fewer of them.”
After completing the training, Nataša started to use a computer more often, mainly to find useful information on the Internet about the business she was running, e.g. how to make the guests feel welcome, or how best to serve food. So she decided to also create presentations about her club on social networks and to advertise her holiday apartment online.
“Previously, we didn’t advertise at all. We relied solely on the word of mouth. However, the younger generations rely on the Internet and social networks. Now that our base of followers on the social networks has grown stronger, we have more guests from Belgrade and Novi Sad, as well.”
In light of this, her plans for the near future include the adaptation of another house so that she can offer accommodation to even more guests.
Nataša Mojsilović was one of the participants of the ten-week training course on “Data Based Decision Making”, held by Tatjana Kecojević, PhD, a data scientist and a woman whose mission is to empower other women by helping them become digitally literate.
“Data are all around us and we use and analyze them on a daily basis. When we are reading product recommendations and comments, we are actually conducting data analysis”, explains Tatjana.
“Using interactive lectures and practical exercises, my goal was to show the trainees how to employ data analysis to better understand their businesses and make decisions that will help them survive in the market. For instance, which products to offer, how to advertise their product or service, or what is missing on the market and would be wise to provide. You don’t need to be an Internet expert for this – curiosity and willingness to learn is all it takes for a successful data analysis.”
The trainees learned what data are, how to collect, organize and present them to others using charts or in a website format, by employing Excel as the primary tool. These exact topics perfectly matched the area of interest of Bojana Simić. She joined the training with some prior knowledge in this field, as a person who believes in life-long learning and personal development.
“The knowledge we received in this course covered some serious analytics, at the level of a university exam. However, Tatjana made sure that we comprehended each step before moving on to the next one. We used practical examples to exercise the knowledge we acquired.”
According to Bojana, the most obvious effect of the course was the change in her way of thinking.
“It was very useful being able to understand how to distinguish significant things from insignificant ones and how to go about solving a problem. I have learned how to determine which data I need and how to collect them in order to reach the desired outcome.”
This specific new skill made Bojana feel more self-confident when she applied for her current job as a regional sales manager for Western Serbia, in a multinational company operating in more than 40 countries.
“Saying you are good at Excel is one thing, but a completed course in business data analysis is on a whole different level. I don’t know many people who have managed to change their careers fundamentally at this age. Now I am able to do my daily work more quickly, more easily and more efficiently. I have realized that now I can complete tasks that used to take a lot of my time in just a few clicks", says Bojana Simić.
Studies on the status of women in the Serbian labour market indicate that women’s chances of getting a job decrease after the age of 45, as opposed to men, whose “mature” age is characterized by higher employment rates. Moreover, research shows that women aged 45 or older are the least active and least employed group, compared to younger women and men.
Nataša and Bojana’s experiences show that women in Serbia can have a different fate. Their examples are proof that newly acquired digital skills can help women become more confident at their work and develop their businesses or careers with greater success.
The “Data Based Decision Making” training course was held between November 2021 and February 2022, as part of the “Staze Srbije” (Serbia Trails) project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme. The project’s aim was to enhance Serbia’s tourist offer and special focus was placed on women entrepreneurs, who were given the opportunity to learn various skills, including data analysis.