A day of inspiration and celebration of successful women

April 8, 2024
March 19th, 2024 was dedicated to women. The women who chose to share their experiences and knowledge, but also the women who came to be inspired. This year, the 19th annual TOP Women of the Czech Republic survey conducted by Hospodářské Noviny was preceded for the first time by a day-long conference at Prague's DOX, where groundbreaking women from Czech businesses and public administration met with aspiring businesswomen and managers. Michaela Bakala, the patron of the project and founder of our family foundation, attended both events to offer her support and share her experiences.
Every year, the TOP Women of the Czech Republic survey recognizes successful women in the business, non-profit, and public service sectors. The survey, however, does not stop there: it also highlights the most pressing issues that women contend with in their careers and family lives.
Inspiring speeches and topical issues As one of 30 speakers at the conference, Michaela drew on her extensive experience in political marketing to give a presentation about who wins elections and why. Her talk was preceded by Daria Hvíždalová’s lecture on AI and today's digital age, whose speed and "immediacy" changes the rules of the game from one instant to the next. We must learn these new rules quickly or we will be left behind. Michaela likened the need to react immediately in these fast-changing times to the live, prime-time broadcasts she organized during her 10 years at the helm of the Miss Czech Republic contest. "You learn to react really quickly,” she noted, “which is absolutely essential in political marketing."
Michaela went on to highlight that although AI and the digital age create new opportunities for making work more efficient, they also bring the threat of fake news. "Today, politics has become a landmine. Even the media itself is looking for ways to respond to fabricated information and to report the fact that most of the news that politicians and political parties put on the air is false. How can we defend ourselves against fake news? It is very serious," Michaela noted. She was referring not only to Czech politics, but largely to the current political situation in the United States, where she lives with her husband and four children.
It is precisely this fake news that Michaela believes is the primary threat to democracy. "Many claim that we live in a post-democratic era. I don't want to accept that," she added. "I would warn against the questioning of our institutions. When we question them, the system breaks down. We don't need to change the system; this would devalue the very concept of the institutions that keep our society functioning", she noted, as she warned of the risks to the stability and credibility of democratic communities.
The political marketer Anna Zemanová and Pavla and Michal Nýdrle, who were behind the presidential campaigns of Danuša Nerudová and Petr Pavel, respectively, also spoke on the topic of political marketing. It was Danuša Nerudová's speech that Michaela recalled in her talk: “The announcement of election results signals the start of the next campaign. I really liked Mrs. Nerudová’s concession speech, which was skillfully prepared in support of Petr Pavel. She immediately offered her support and galvanized her own constituents and team to help elect a democratic president."
Before a predominantly female audience, Michaela openly admitted, among other things, how challenging it was to work for a leading political party and political leader in the 2000s, to study at FAMU, and to work as a producer in a male-oriented environment.
Michaela left politics voluntarily. She was not willing to compromise her values and make concessions so early in her career. She was also aware that in politics, it is difficult or even impossible to fulfill all of the pre-election promises and expectations. This led her to the private sector, where owners and managers can be held more accountable for their work and the implementation of their plans.
However, Michaela and her husband continue to contribute to an active civil society and the strengthening of democratic values and human rights, especially through their longstanding support of the legacy of Václav Havel and the leadership values of the Aspen Institute Central Europe.
And how did Michaela sum up politics and political marketing? "Preparing for a winning election, whether for a party or an individual candidate, is not a sprint but a marathon. It requires long-term preparation. Only a candidate who is truly committed to the position, who is persuasive, who evokes the right emotions, who is courageous and at the same time capable of self-control and correction can win. In politics, as elsewhere, success requires a bit of luck and chance." But make no mistake, she concluded, "Being prepared rather than surprised is important not just in politics, but also in business.”

Honoring not only the winners, but all women

At the awards ceremony, Michaela highlighted the stories of the successful and inspiring women she has met thanks to the TOP Women of the Czech Republic survey. “Each year for the last 19 years, I have noted with great interest and pride how many inspiring Czech women there are in entrepreneurship, management, and the non-profit sector. And I am honored to be a patron of the Hospodářské Noviny TOP Women of the Czech Republic project, which is about supporting one another, building self-confidence, and appreciating women in business and in the public sector. It is also an opportunity to appeal to company managers, politicians, and society as a whole, said Michaela in her opening speech.
These appeals were heard several times throughout both the conference and the ceremony. For men, fathers, to take an active part in childcare and in daily household duties. For companies to meet women's needs and not wait for quotas to be imposed, but to be proactive in allowing part-time work, flexible working hours, and providing children’s playgroups. She also called upon the government to provide sufficient capacity in nursery schools and kindergartens to help ensure that women who want to play an active role in building our economy can do so. Time and again it has been made clear that women are not calling for quotas, but for the equal opportunities that are still lacking.
During the evening awards ceremony, many of the TOP Women of the Czech Republic winners were given an opportunity to speak. Eva Lehečková, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University and the winner of the Public Sector category, shared the indescribably difficult moments she experienced in her role after the December attack at the faculty. Silke Horáková, who took second place in the Women in Business category, presented her philanthropic activities, and Jaroslava Rezlerová, who was second in the Manager category, shared experiences from her two decades of work in a recruitment agency. The interview with Kamila Kopřivová, the first Czech female rabbi and currently working in Great Britain, was also very inspiring. The conference was held under the auspices of the Government Commissioner for Human Rights, Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, who rightfully took second place in the Public Administration category. During an interview with Hospodářské Noviny editor-in-chief Jaroslav Mašek, she spoke about her work to gain equal opportunities for women, vulnerable children, minorities, and Ukrainian refugees.
The day was dominated by sincere joy at the successes of women and a willingness to share experiences and motivate others. "I would like to congratulate not only the winners, but also all the nominees. Because all of you, dear ladies, are an inspiration for other women and girls. Proving that it makes sense to do something, to fulfill your dreams, to work on yourselves," said Michaela at the end of this year's awards ceremony, as she looks forward to next year, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the survey.


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