Inspirational female leaders: Irina Tsvetkova

Irina Tsvetkova is the country senior partner of PwC in Bulgaria. With offices in two cities across the country (Sofia and Varna), the firm employs 186 people, sixty five percent of whom are female. At partner level, the percentage of women is very good: half of the firm's partners are female, compared with 15 percent globally.

Although Bulgaria had a strong tradition of mothers working full-time supported by a well-developed system of publicly subsidised nursery schools and kindergartens, the number of childcare institutions declined during the country's transition to democracy, beginning in 1989.

Today, working women face a number of challenges. Nursery schools—both public and private—are in short supply, particularly in Bulgaria's capital city Sofia. Working mothers often use private babysitters and grandparents to care for children, especially in the youngest age group.

Across society, the care of children is not widely regarded as an equally shared responsibility between parents, with the women taking on the major role. In addition, working hours are long and there is relatively little discussion about work-life issues or the role of employers in supporting working parents with flexible working schemes and other initiatives.

Irina's story: Focusing on professionalism rather than gender

I started my career as an attorney-at-law and joined PwC Bulgaria in 1992. At the time, I was the only Tax and Legal Consultant, and I grew the practice gradually during the next few years. After becoming a partner in 1999 and being asked to lead the tax practice, I was named country senior partner in 2008.

The benefits of working in a small office

Every role I had contributed to my growth and to gaining experience in my area of practice. I learned a lot from the challenging experience of building a practice in a difficult environment. Because we were a very small office at the beginning, I was exposed to very interesting and complex assignments and worked for almost all the clients of the firm at the time. I also had the opportunity to train and develop the people we recruited, which I enjoyed very much.

Focusing on professionalism rather than gender

I would not divide people based on gender in a professional world—for me, there are people who are good professionals and should be given every opportunity to develop and grow within our firm. Sometimes women need a more flexible approach in relation to their responsibilities outside of work—family and children. But this can be managed in a proper way. This has been my approach in Bulgaria, and it has worked well.

Defending your management approach

I think women should pursue their career and develop their skills. They should remember that they are professionals and are valued for their contribution. They should be proud of their achievements and should not be afraid to impose their own management style, if they think it is appropriate. They should try to achieve a reasonable work-life balance and not feel guilty for devoting time to their outside activities, family and children.

In my career, I have always tried to do things in a professional way and to provide the highest quality of work. I defended my own management approach and never tried to "be a man"—I did things in my own way, but always pursued the highest results. I always believed that I will be valued for my contribution and the results I achieve.