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 Interview Series
featuring: Veronika Pountcheva,
LEAD Advisory Board member, Vice President METRO Group, Managing Director METRO Cash & Carry, Bulgaria
Career and motherhood do mix

By Catherine Francois, Global Director - Diversey Consulting - Risk Management & Food Safety & Member of the LEAD Membership Committee, and Jill Hopper, Freelance Writer
 

Veronika Pountcheva went back to work just 13 days after her second child was born.

Veronika, who is now Vice President METRO Group, Managing Director METRO Cash & Carry, Bulgaria and a member of the LEAD advisory board, cut short her maternity leave in order to open the METRO business in Russia.

However, she sees no conflict between motherhood and career. “Having to make a choice between the two is nonsense and society has a role to discourage this stigma. 

“Women need to be clear about what they want and voice their expectations.”

Don’t try to be Superwoman

Having taken two years’ maternity leave with her first child, Veronika had concerns about coming back to work so soon second time around. 

But her management team were supportive, and she worked out a plan with them to allow her to balance these demands. 

“Being Superwoman is not possible, and if you try to be it’s just a recipe for poor health and frustration,” she says. “Recognise you are only human and be clear about what you need to do your job.” 

More women at the top

Veronika, who speaks five languages, is originally from Bulgaria and joined METRO 17 years ago. Gender diversity is perceived very differently in Eastern Europe, since in the past everyone worked and women did not have the luxury of choosing to stay at home. 

This led to a widespread acceptance of women in senior positions – something Veronika recognises is very different to Western Europe, where career advancement is more challenging, especially in the food industry.

She currently has a mission to identify and develop a strong female pipeline for succession planning within METRO’s advisory board. German legislation requires gender equality at this level within major corporations. 

She believes that, by spotting female talent early enough and providing the knowledge and support required, businesses can capture a huge amount of untapped potential. 

Veronika’s advice for returning to work after maternity leave
  • Admit you need to reconnect – be open, humble and ask questions.
  • Try not to isolate yourself for too long a period. The reality of the business means things move fast, so the longer you are disconnected the longer it takes to catch up.
  • Find relevant platforms within the business to understand critical developments.
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