Woman of inspiration: Michaela Bakala

November 19, 2018
Top Class magazine interviewed Michaela Bakala: In everything she does one can trace her perfectionism. Even as a student at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts, Michaela Bakala was involved in organising the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. And prestigious projects continue to form milestones in her career. She led the press office of Občanská demokratická strana (Civic Democratic Party). She was behind the establishment of Czech Miss, a national beauty pageant in the Czech Republic, which she later managed and developed further. She is on the board of directors of the Czech publishing house Economia, supervises the development of the administrative and communal complex Forum Karlín and of the business strategy of the luxury goods retail company Luxury Brand Management. She is actively involved in the projects of Bakala Foundation in the Czech Republic and Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala in Switzerland, as the chair of their boards of trustees. And last but not the least, she is a patron of the TOP Czech Women contest, which awards leading women in both the public and private domain in the Czech Republic. You are one of those inspiring women who manage to balance several high level professional positions at the same time. Was it difficult for you to establish yourself in areas which are usually the domain of men, who often tend to look down on women? I came across this phenomenon soon after I won the beauty pageant. And the prevailing wisdom is that a pageant winner, a model simply cannot be beautiful and smart at the same time. I think, however, that today in particular it is difficult be successful in high positions both for women and men. When I was starting my career in the 90s, the market was full of opportunities. Anyone who was willing to work, spoke foreign languages got a chance, and this I think also helped my faster rise to higher positions. What experience do you have with women in high professional positions? Do you like to have them around? In the TOP Czech Women contest, of which I am a patron, we discovered that companies employing women in leading positions have better financial results. Today we are getting used to seeing more women in higher positions. In the past, I have worked in teams where men were in majority, but all of a sudden there were only women around me in the Czech Miss pageant. My co-operation with them turned out to be so successful that I have as many of them around me as possible. People say that when some women gain a high position they don’t like the have female rivals around them. But I am looking for allies. I don’t judge people based on whether they are male or female but on their personal qualities. You travel a lot and live also abroad. How are Czech women seen in the world? I can say that Czech women in managerial positions are held in really great esteem. For their perseverance, courage, determination, desire to achieve something, and they are also hundred percent reliable. Here in this country we are also learning to appreciate women. Even though many people still find it unusual for young and beautiful woman to manage a large company or a nuclear power plant, for example. But things have changed significantly since the 90s. How do you see the difference between Czech women and women living outside our country? What would you recommend in this respect to Czech women who want to build their own career? I think that Czech women should be more relaxed. To understand that a husband is a partner and not a rival, that marriage is a partnership. We should be more resistant to stress. We should not bring work home, as we tend to do when we are addressing some important issues, and we often discuss them also at home. Men are handling this better. They leave their work behind when they close the office door and don’t bring it home. You are involved in many diverse activities ranging from business to philanthropy. Which of them is more gratifying to you? Today it is clearly philanthropy. I am not so active in business anymore, I sold the Czech Miss beauty pageant four years ago because I could no longer focus on it fully. It was an amazing challenge, but I had achieved everything I could have in this area. As for my other activities, I am grateful that thanks to my husband and the family’s acquisitions in the media business I can follow their development. I have been dealing with media all my life and the publishing house represents a great opportunity for me to keep learning as the communication world has changed significantly. It is very different from what it was when I started working there. In the past we were used to watch the good night stories for kids and the news at fixed times, now you can watch them whenever you choose. My children have no knowledge of the old style TVs from the time we were kids. When we arrive to a place where there is such an old fashioned TV set, they keep touching the screen and don’t understand why they are unable to select a programme the way they do on iPad, for example (smile). Thus we are starting almost from scratch. The media are searching for a mode of operation in the future, how their distribution will look like or what services they will be offering. The whole world is facing this challenge. You have to balance your work with care of four children. How do you manage it and did you have to give up something? It is complicated, one must get right one’s priorities and constraints. I had to sort out what is more important for me. My time with the children or building my career. I cannot keep my mind completely off the children, I need the certainty of knowing they are being taken care of at hundred percent while I am working, so that I can focus fully on my work. I had to give up some of my activities, but I admit that this happened even earlier, when could afford to schedule my work as I needed. It helps, of course, that I am not left alone in handling my family responsibilities. I have the means, an understanding husband, and assistants. If I were a mother without such support, if I could not afford to pay nannies, it would be more difficult, of course. And I bow deeply to mothers who are on their own in such a situation.

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