Anna Prodromou: Human Resources are the driving force of a business

Public Relations, Communications, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant Anna Prodromou believes that effective communication and creating an inclusive work environment are of key importance to running a successful business.

Prodromou also explains how the way we speak - even the tone of our voice - play an important role in the impression we give to those around us. She also talks about DEI issues and what stage they currently are at in Cyprus.

You are a Consultant and approved Trainer in Public Relations and Communication as well as in DEI issues. Is effective communication a natural-born gift after all?

Communication can be a gift, but I believe it is primarily an acquired ability, which should be developed as a skill with training. But let's start with how we communicate. The way we speak, our tone of voice, our posture, our hand movements, our gaze orientation, our vocabulary and our talking points are the main components of communication skills. It is equally important to understand that communication does not simply mean the expression of speech, oral, written or otherwise. Communication is complete when the message overcomes potential 'noises' and reaches the recipient. Therefore, no matter how communicative a person is, he is primarily required to have listening skills, to know the audience he is addressing, and to anticipate the 'noises', i.e. the obstacles, that he will face. These are all skills that are cultivated and developed. This is what we do in Public Image Management and Public Speaking training.

Let's talk a little about politics. Can the bad management of Public Image and Public Discourse harm a public figure? If so, to what extent?

We are going through a period where the 'cancel culture' is taking on massive proportions and affecting every aspect of the public sphere. It's so easy to make a post, tweet, upload a photo or video without a second thought which then goes viral in seconds. The wrong or simply careless management of our image and speech can, indeed, be destructive. Even if one disagrees with cannibalism, as the cancellation culture is characterised, "let's not pull out our guns," as Laure Murat says whenever this phrase is heard, "but let's face it positively and critically." The important thing is how you manage such an event. What is certain is that this requires, among other things, authenticity, consistency and respect primarily towards ourselves and by extension to those around us.

Tell us a little about the seminars and workshops you hold, on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion issues. How familiar do you find Cypriot businesses to be with these issues?

DEI issues are at an embryonic stage in Cyprus, however, I notice a growing interest in the topic. Rightly so, since research on the benefits of implementing DEI policies has shown that diverse and inclusive work environments are twice as likely to reach their financial goals. Inclusive and diverse teams are also more innovative, participatory, and creative, and organisations that invest in such policies have more loyal and satisfied customers. Of course, the increased interest observed by businesses also lies in the fact that DEI issues belong to the second pillar of ESG criteria, which are increasingly being talked about. The implementation of a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) policy is undoubtedly a challenge for any organisation, perhaps the biggest, but it is highly necessary, which is no longer an option. It requires commitment and a clear strategic approach.

In 2018, you were awarded as a Female Entrepreneur. Do you think there need to be such awards based on gender and should women really accept such awards? It almost suggests a subclass, something perhaps absurd in a modern society.

Excellent question and I confess that I was also concerned when I was nominated. But the truth is that I am in favor of positive actions. The reason I am in favour of affirmative action is because the playing field is not equal, and the business sector is not meritorious in terms of gender. So in this context, the idea that there is no gender discrimination and that all women have to do is work really hard and it will be recognized is beyond reality. Many women of course, and I understand why, express the concern that they do not want to be hired just because they are women. Something that, especially in high-ranking positions, usually happens in relation to men. My opinion is to take the opportunity that is presented to you and then prove from this position what a great job you are doing and how much you deserve this position.

Your first book "Women in Conflict Zones" was published by Erker Media & Publishing House in 2019 and was a great success. What inspired you to write it?

The environment in which I grew up in Cyprus played a decisive role in my involvement in feminism and activism. But the trigger was given when I moved, in 2013 permanently as I thought at the time, to America. So my stay there as an immigrant and my nostalgia for the island worked as a catalyst. This is how the book was completed in 2019, consisting of interviews with women from all the communities of Cyprus. I should mention that the term 'conflict' in the title of the book has a special meaning. It does not refer to the war zone so much as it refers to the situation in which women's human rights are challenged or violated. The book attempts to show that such conflicts often have women's bodies as their field - a reality that is systematically avoided in Cyprus. My book, I hope, also creates a space where the effects and consequences of the "frozen conflict" on the island – known as the Cyprus problem – become part of the wider debate.

You are a member of BPW Cyprus. How does the Federation contribute to highlighting the role of women in the business community and how has it helped you personally?

I became a member of the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women due to the identification of my personal aspirations with those of the Organisation such as the equal participation of women and men in power and decision-making centers and equal opportunities in employment and remuneration. The fact that it is an international organization with a global reach also implies access to wider networks of exchange of views and expertise. Personally, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity given to me through BWP to interact and create support networks with other women, not only on a professional but also on a personal level.

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