Marija Škrbić Dražić is the Coordinator for Community Development & Social Responsibility – Manpower LLC Belgrade, ManpowerGroup Serbia,
(Corporate Social Responsibility Lead; Managing partnerships with global NGOs and other partners; Community relations and partnerships; Sustainability impacts monitoring;
Corporate philanthropy; Creating and implementing CSR strategy; Developing corporate volunteering programs; Developing programs for the community, Project Management –
“Business Inclusion” project*)
She is also the Project Coordinator of the “Business inclusion” a project – singlehandedly designed and implemented, a pro-bono project on the Serbian market, whose purpose is
empowering less employable groups, which resulted in the empowerment of 93% of people who went through the project (based on evaluation and recontact), and contributed to the general goal of the society, since over a third of people were employed after or during the project.
Please tell us about your early life experiences, the imprint they left in your character
I come from a small country in the Balkans, where poverty has always been an issue, with the history of wars and inequality on various levels. Those are definitely life experiences that leave imprints on people and their character. Nevertheless, every tough thing can make a person stronger, and we, as individuals always have a choice of the direction we let something shape us. The first thing that came to my mind when thinking about imprints of early life experience is a situation many years ago when I was just a little girl. My father brought home this calendar with different pictures for each month and there I saw a quote that etched in my memory – “Some people dream of great accomplishments, while others stay awake and do them”. I will always remember the feeling it produced – and that was believing. Believing that if you work hard enough on the things that matter (to you), you will be able to achieve them. I have always dreamt of making an impact by helping others and I work hard to make that happen, as one of my main characteristics is that I am a believer in a better world and always will be.
Please share with us your career journey. What was your first job after university?
I have graduated from the Faculty of Philology, as my first loves are languages and art (in all forms). My first job was working in a language school as an English and Russian language teacher, while at the same time volunteering at the Faculty of Organizational Sciences and teaching students language through music, movies, and literature. In that time, I had the opportunity to be a translator at the Fudokan karate World Championship, which gave me the self-esteem boost for my future career path. Not long after that, I got the opportunity to work at NIS Gazprom Neft, and from there I started working in ManpowerGroup company, which gave me the chance to express myself and grow, which is an opportunity I am truly grateful for.
What challenges have you had to overcome in your career and personal life and how did these challenges transform you?
I have been working for a small salary in a different city that I had not lived in at that moment. I had to fight for righteous treatment and to be given a chance to prove myself. In our world, besides the marginalized groups that people are aware of, there is the unrighteous treatment of the “visible” groups. I had to prove myself over and over again in different industries, but I do believe that this made me the person I am today. The culture of my country is still very patriarchal, and almost every family has certain expectations that a woman should meet, i.e. to be married by a certain age, to have children, to be a homemaker, etc. I was not given anything but had to fight for it. And fighting for yourself while standing behind your beliefs can be difficult, especially in a society that does not necessarily understand you or share your values.
What has been your proudest moment?
There have been a few moments in my life when I felt proud of myself. In different life stages, people are proud of different things. At this moment seeing the results of the things I believe in is both fulfilling and satisfying. When you see the change you had an impact on, when you can almost feel it, that exact moment is where the proudness starts. I will always remember the call from a woman that was in a low phase of life and the hope in her voice while saying to me: “Sometimes a little humanity and empathy are really more than enough”.
Based on your expertise, how can we enhance women’s voices using culture and art?
Culture and art are a safe place where women can draw attention to their problems. The more women enter the culture, the more visible their problems will be. Culture and art would be a great medium to point out problems and to achieve the much-needed culture shift.
Please share about the pro bono project, why did you start it and how do you see it impact the communities that you engage with?
We have recognized that certain groups on the employment market are less visible and saw a chance to help using our expertise. The essence of the “Business Inclusion” program is empowerment for employment of hard-to-employ groups of citizens (persons with disabilities, young people on margins, persons over fifty years of age with an emphasis on the unemployed who are declared redundant and the “strong women” group – single mothers and victims of violence) on the one hand, and inclusion, i.e. greater awareness of the local business community on the other hand – with the ultimate aim of promoting both equality and equity in employment. Project implementation activities differ depending on the above-mentioned groups, but in summary, it offers passing a series of educational digital workshops and/or live workshops aimed at harmonizing competencies and acquiring additional skills, assessment tools focused on strengths and potentials of each individual, specialized reports for each individual, individual workshop, a recommendation to companies according to preferences and profiles. After the end of the first project cycle, we have evaluated the results and tried to measure the impact it had on these specific groups of citizens, and out of more than 120 people’s feedback, we had a 93% success rate in empowering for employment which led to 36% of employed people from these hard-to-employ groups.
What aspects of your current role do you enjoy the most?
I almost equally enjoy all aspects of my job. If I had to choose, I would have to say kind words and gratitude expressed by people, the much-needed changes in lives of those in need, also as I have mentioned the results that came and the difference they can make, as well as the involvement of people and the proven fact that we can do a lot when we come together. Culturological change can make an impact on the business and consequently it changes the business and shifts it towards the goals of the society. That is the most meaningful aspect of my role and these kinds of roles in general.
What personal passions does Marija have?
I am passionate about a lot of things, that includes reading, writing, poetry, travels and learning about different cultures and values, helping different organizations and individuals in need. But most important of all – love, life and my family.
What’s next for you?
I am very proud of the second phase of the “Business Inclusion” (continuing to work with the aforementioned marginalized groups) and the expansion of the project to the whole country, with the inclusion of additional multiple vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as refugees, asylum seekers, and Roma. Ultimately, I strive to influence (and be part of the) change and increase the level of diversity and inclusion in my country.