As a leading pioneer of Cyprus’ entrepreneurial scene, Antigoni Komodiki is the CEO of Junior Achievement Cyprus, and her role includes the leadership and sustainability of the organisation, leading her staff, and communicating with stakeholders, sponsors, the government, mentors, volunteers, and teachers.

JA Cyprus is a member of JA Worldwide, the world’s largest non-profit organisation dedicated to addressing fundamental social and economic challenges of young people by educating and empowering them to transform their future and own their economic success. In 2013, JA Cyprus introduced the flagship Company Programme in high schools across the island, which was endorsed as a best practice by the European Commission. Today, JA offers 11 educational programmes that target approximately 15,000 students per year.

“JA Cyprus is a partnership between the business community, educators, mentors, volunteers and alumni — working together to inspire young people to dream big and reach their potential. Through the delivery of cutting-edge, experiential learning in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship, JA Cyprus effectively broadens the canvas of possibility for young people and enriches their ability to both engage in their own economic development and contribute to the strength of their families, communities, and economies.

“Our programmes and activities welcome students of all ages, from primary school to higher education. The synergy of entrepreneurial teachers, motivated business mentors and high-quality content are key success factors to the JA student experience. The knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired along the JA learning path impact three main areas: entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy.”

As a woman with a pioneering role, how have you played a key part in bringing about change, and how are these changes enhancing your organisation’s potential for future growth?
“One universal truth is that everything changes. An effective leader should always work for making changes smooth for both staff and stakeholders. The last few years have not been easy. We worked hard to continue our programmes that are based on the principles of experiential learning and learning by doing.

“The opportunities we provide for our young people have improved thanks to digital schooling. Now we succeed in getting to the rural areas. We provide the opportunity for mentors who live in the capital to work with pupils in Paphos or Ammochostos. This is incredibly valuable.”

How does an increase in the number of women in the workforce benefit businesses and organisations?
“According to various scientific studies, women think differently than males. That method of thinking is very valuable and essential for making the best decisions, both for the social good and the profitability of a business. Professionalism and leadership exhibited by women are more open and sympathetic. Equal participation of men and women in places of decision-making is essential. All will profit from having more women in positions of power. It will result in a community that is more inclusive and sustainable.”

What does it mean to be a female pioneer in your industry, in this day and age?
“Women leaders motivate others while also fostering change and success by keeping in mind the “human” aspect of people. Women are more patient, they lead with empathy, and they are well conscious of the difficulties faced by women in the workforce, particularly when those women are also mothers.

“When it comes to work-life balance, women are more sensitive. Women’s leadership is important in our modern world, where this equilibrium has largely been lost. When it comes to leading others, women’s emotional universe rules. As a result, they serve as inspiration for younger generations and young women who aspire to hold similar roles.”

Do you believe men still dominate the most influential companies in the world today? If so, how does one break down the barriers of this gender imbalance?
“Things are changing but we are not there yet. According to the World Economic Forum, women’s share of senior and leadership roles has seen a steady global increase over the past five years (2017-2022). In 2022, global gender parity for this category reached 42.7 per cent, the highest gender parity score yet. Among the industries that hired the highest share of women into leadership positions in 2021 are non-governmental and membership organisations (54 per cent), education (49 per cent) and the government and public sector (46 per cent).

“These are industries in which women’s representation is generally higher than men’s overall. The aim is to reach the same percentage in areas where women are underrepresented like technology, energy, infrastructure, and transportation.

“We can change this by leveraging different approaches. As mentioned above we need more women in decision-making centres, more influencer women showing the path, and more role models. And if we dig deeper, we will see that changes are needed in the way we speak about women, the way we use language for gender equality and of course the way we educate girls in schools and universities.

“JA Cyprus offers specific programmes to young girls, such as the Girls Go Circular with the support of the European Commission, in order to inspire towards that direction.”

How are your pioneering efforts preparing your company for a future that is more sustainable?
“Companies and organisations are nothing more than their human resources. At JA, we regularly invest in our people by offering training opportunities, shuffling between positions, travelling experiences abroad and networking. Moreover, we invest in the quality of the educational opportunities that we offer. If you want to stay competitive you need to be one step ahead. And since our work is to offer educational opportunities, those need to be well designed.”