“Every organisation’s competitive advantage is its people, and we are committed to creating diversified, inclusive, high-performing and profitable work environments,” Anna Prodromou, Consultant, trainer, author & speaker, Anna Prodromou Inc.

Anna Prodromou leads the Cyprus chapter of the Culture First Community, which has almost 100 chapters globally. She is also the creator of the Wikimedia Community User Group Cyprus, and the founder of the WICZ+ Foundation – the successor to the Women In Conflict Zones Initiative.

The original initiative had focused on women’s rights and civic participation, but the mission of WICZ+ will go beyond the binary towards empowering other traditionally disenfranchised groups too, such as the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled, migrants, asylum seekers etc.

Her company, Anna Prodromou Inc., offers consulting and training services on PR, Communications & DEI (Diversity, Equity/Equality & Inclusion). They support businesses in communicating effectively — whether internally or externally — while guiding their integration of DEI.

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?
“I really do not think of myself as a pioneer. In my opinion, what I am doing now—that is, developing an ecosystem of common value—is what should have been done a long time ago. That seems to be the future of company models. Shared beliefs and actions lead to gains—both monetary and societal gains. Brands and businesses used to see themselves hardly ever as agents of societal change. But when businesses partner with customers based on sincere, shared principles, rather than merely making token attempts at CSR or marketing, things happen and change.”

How does an increase in the number of women in the workforce benefit businesses and organisations?
“First, there is a talent pool. With more women joining the workforce, businesses have a much wider talent pool to choose from when hiring, which can result in better hires and more qualified candidates.

“Second, diversity of thought. Women’s views and experiences are more diverse, which results in more creative solutions and better decision-making.

“Thirdly, reduced turnover. When women are valued and supported in the workplace, they are more likely to stay with an organisation long-term, reducing turnover and associated costs.

“Lastly, companies that prioritise gender equality and workforce diversity are often viewed more favourably by consumers and investors, which, in turn, can boost their reputation and brand image.”

What does it mean to be a female pioneer in your industry, in this day and age?
It simply means being a trailblazer. Despite recent advancements, there is still a lack of female leadership in many industries, especially in positions traditionally held by males. It will take perseverance, hard effort, and resilience for that to change. Because, let’s face it, women have to question gender norms and stereotypes, you must be prepared to deal with criticism and resistance from those opposed to change. In the words of advertising consultant and entrepreneur Cindy Gallop, “Women challenge the status quo, because we’re never it.”

Do you believe men still dominate most influential companies in the world today? If so, how does one break down the barriers of this gender imbalance?
“The male, stale and pale brigade is still running the show, leaving women – especially non-white women, as well as LGBTQ+ people – under-represented in leadership roles. Men in power do not want anything changed. For them, the method is very effective. By acknowledging that, we demonstrate our understanding of the fact that both businesses and people must work together to remove barriers related to gender imbalance.

“We are building a more equitable and diverse workforce by promoting diversity and inclusion, giving mentoring and sponsorship, offering work flexibility, addressing unconscious bias, establishing goals, and monitoring progress. However, something has to yield in the end.”

How would you describe the gender dimension in Cypriot society based on your own experience?
“Cypriot society, in my opinion, is complicated because it blends both conventional and contemporary views on gender roles and gender equality. Still, women are underrepresented in leadership roles in both the public and private sectors, frequently experience workplace discrimination, and receive lower salaries than males.

“They are frequently expected to take on more domestic and childcare duties than men, which makes it difficult for them to maintain a healthy work-life balance and restricts their ability to progress professionally. We still have a long way to go even though there has been progress in encouraging women’s political participation and leadership positions.”

How are your pioneering efforts preparing your company for a future that is more sustainable?
“Creating an ecosystem of shared values by interacting with stakeholders is the business model of the future that I stated previously. According to conventional wisdom, governments and NGOs are the best drivers of societal progress, but I believe businesses can play a significant role. It is crucial to create shared value, or to pursue financial success in a manner that also benefits society. Today is the future.”