“We don’t want special treatment; just equal and the same opportunities for all”

As a development manager, Maria Georgiou is all too familiar with how it is to work in a male-dominated industry. As such, joining the women at the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW Cyprus) in their fight for equal and equivalent opportunities for all is something close to her heart. “It is a source of inspiration for me, as I work in a male-dominated sector (constructions) and I have always fought for this cause,” she explains in an interview.

Having studied Civil Engineering at University College London before going on to achieve an MBA at European University, Georgiou is currently the Development Manager at a start-up company that builds and runs boutique hotels across Europe. The company aims to create a portfolio of around 20 hotels by 2025.

“Civil engineering, just like the broader engineering sector, equips you with a specific way of thinking that helps you solve problems in the most efficient way possible,” she explains. “It increases your foresight to predict the next steps to come in a process or project and identify any issues before they even arise. This way of thinking that you start to develop in university and apply later as a professional is one of the most important pillars to be able to successfully coordinate projects involving teams of different disciplines.”

Her advice for women taking their first steps in their professional careers? “Young women, even if they still don’t know where they want to end up or what professional route to take, mustn’t be afraid to try; or be afraid of failure. What’s important is to be persistent, consistent and never give up. Professional advancement can only come from hard work and the continuous development of the professional’s skills and characteristics.”

She says they need to be bold, voice their opinions and not be afraid to express their thoughts and concerns. “They will be tested relentlessly through various behaviours (because nowadays, many confuse audacity with courage and self-confidence), but they must always believe in themselves and their capabilities, and remember that entrepreneurship is for everyone, regardless of gender,” Georgiou explains.

And this is where BPW Cyprus comes in. “BPW is an organisation that strives to change the stereotypes that sadly still exist to this day,” Georgiou explains. It has a very specific purpose: to empower and promote women who can stand out and have a positive impact on society. “They are not advocating for special treatment but instead methodically fighting for the same and equal opportunities for all.”

For Maria Georgiou, BPW Cyprus is a means for keeping up to date and creating relationships that would otherwise take much longer to achieve. “I know businesswomen with various experiences and capabilities as well as different schools of thought. Women who have gone through similar challenges and succeeded. This can only give you strength, different perspectives, new alliances and new friendships.”

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