Caroline Spivak Network of Croatian Women (Screenshot: HRT) Caroline Spivak Network of Croatian Women (Screenshot: HRT)

The conference was an opportunity for the CWN to hand out its "Influencing Croatian Women" and "Future Leaders" awards to successful women from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, the United States and Australia. The slogan of this year's CWN conference was "The Power and Influence of Women", and the central theme was the position and influence of women in Croatia and the world. The various panels and lectures focused on encouraging women's entrepreneurship, networking potentials, innovations, women's wisdom and intuition, and women without borders.

Caroline Spivak, who founded the Croatian Women's Network, a platform that connects prominent Croatian women from Croatia and abroad, in Toronto five years ago, believes that women must encourage each other, as this will strengthen their position in all areas of work.

"This year's team is truly successful and influential, we have women from Croatia and from Croatian communities all over the world, and we have 19 winners from among the 62 nominations, who join the 75 winners we have from the previous four years. For example, Ankica Kovač, a scientist and an entrepreneur involved in the production of hydrogen technology and water electrolysis. There is also Nataša Drvenkar, whose professional interests include economic policy, regional economic science and industrial policy, who works in Osijek, and we all know how much this is necessary in that region. From the United States we have Ana Vidović, the pride of Karlovac, her hometown, who is known the world over for her guitar playing. We also have Biljana Lovrinović who lives in the US and runs her company in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States. These are some examples of successful women who connect Croatia with the world and really create new things, deal with new areas and create new markets."

Spivak is also emphasizes that the primary criteria for success for Croatian entrepreneurs is leadership. She notes that it is not enough just to be good at what one does, but to truly contribute to something new, something innovative. The same is true for women abroad who are working outside of Croatia, their influence in the Croatian community is sought after, as is their contribution to the promotion of Croatia abroad through their work. It was on these foundations that the idea for holding such a conference in Croatia was born.

"There was nothing like this in the world. I saw similar situations and similar examples in the world, and we did not really have anything for successful Croatian women to encourage each other, where these stars could find and illuminate their achievements and their work. The nomination process for our fifth year of handing out these awards was opened up right after this year's conference. We are promoting the event here in Croatia and around the world, especially in our Croatian communities. People who answer our call can nominate candidates. For example, we receive 50, 70 or 100 nominations, then we have a jury to choose the best among them. We congratulate all the nominees and we know that every woman has a great influence in her community and life, but the winners are the true pearls, examples of what I would describe as a higher level of achievement. Through this process we get to know them and their stories and we provide inspiration to others. And it is precisely that that is the crux of this project, to connect women who were successful in Croatia with those of us abroad, and not just for networking purposes, but to connect for future projects. Why wouldn't someone from Croatia travel abroad for training, to gain professional and life experience? Why not create projects together for Croatia's benefit? If nothing else, we can share inspiration, we can learn from each other and support one another, and because that's the only way we can make forward progress."

Spivak also says that there are some differences in the position of women in Croatian and Canadian society, claiming that in the latter professional women do not have any limitations if they are committed to a goal and a truly focused on achieving that goal. She adds that in Canada women can achieve a lot in any field. However, she is not as confident that this is the case in Croatia, where according to her there are still some limitations on women that no longer exist in Canada.

"Croatian society is still in men's hands, with a large number of men occupying leading positions in Croatia, which is not the case in the rest of the world. I think younger generations have begun to break that mold, but there is still a difference between male and female when it comes to career prospects. I would not say that there is a big difference in ability because I think we are all capable, especially if we are trying and learning in order to make it, but the system must allow us to break through even further. That's why we have this project because we need to sell those good points and promote successful women, even amongst ourselves, because they are not always well-known, not in Croatia, and certainly not in the world. But what we see among our winners, is that they truly are famous in Croatia, and they are gaining attention internationally, something all of us are proud of."

Spivak is the daughter of immigrants. Born in Germany she was raised in Germany, Croatia and to a large extent in Canada, where her parents established their family and where she received her formal education. 11 years ago she founded an agency for crisis communication. Despite still living in Canada, she says that Croatia is in her heart.