Michaela Bakala: Femininity is not about the brand or the price, but about the personality

photo: with the consent of BM Management

Michaela Bakala is an entrepreneur, manager and today above all a mother and philanthropist. Areas closest to it include the promotion of education, the development of a democratic society and the empowerment of women. She is the chairwoman of the boards of the Bakala Foundation family foundations in the Czech Republic and the Zdenek et Michaela Bakala Foundation in Switzerland. Both focus on supporting education and award scholarship programs to talented students. Together with her husband Zdeněk Bakala, she co-founded the Central European branch of the Aspen Institute, is the Vice-Chairwoman of the Board of the Václav Havel Library and is also the patron of the Top Women of the Czech Republic poll.

As a successful woman, you have gone through many different activities in your life. Success permeates your entire professional life. What are your biggest successes? And how can a constantly acquired program be effectively managed?

Thank you. Something will succeed in life and something will not. I was very lucky and got many opportunities. Today I have something to look back on. I consider the greatest success to be that I am still here and that I am still healthy. I have a great husband and four children, I have a background and a job that I enjoy, and I still have a lot of plans for the future. I manage the program because I’m not alone in everything. The family works as a team and we also have people around us who help us. Without it, it would be much more complicated and I would have to cut somewhere.

What is your personal motivation for professional life? Is it possible to take a break from such a demanding job?

My job is my hobby. In the last few years, it has been more of an organization connected with our family, work and travel. I focus most on our philanthropy and oversee some investments and projects, for example, I am a patron of the Top Women of the Czech Republic poll, which is organized annually by Hospodářské noviny. My main motivation is the feeling that I am devoting myself to something meaningful. We help talented students, defend honest, independent journalism, develop Václav Havel’s legacy and the activities of the library bearing his name. We also support the activities of the Aspen Institute Central Europe apolitical platform, which develops young leaders and seeks solutions to today’s greatest challenges. We practice philanthropy not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Switzerland, South Africa and the USA. Especially now, in the time of covid and the period that will follow, we want to help wherever it is needed. No one has any idea what the world and our country are still waiting for, how long the restrictions will last and what the consequences of the pandemic will be.

What do you think is the current position of women in society? Have you ever encountered a conflict in your life, when you had to decide between family and work? If so, how did you resolve this conflict?

Women are gaining strength, visibly and in the long run. Now the question is what we women really want. What role are we striving for? Family versus work is an issue that has several solutions. It is often us, the women, who have to answer it and find a suitable solution. It is optimal to fulfill both. Motherhood is irreplaceable, the family is often held together by a woman, a mother. We often adapt to everyone, even at the expense of ourselves. In my life, I was lucky to meet a man who allowed me both – family and career. He is aware of how important this is for me and for all of us. So I didn’t have to choose between work and family.

photo: with the consent of BM Management

You often travel abroad and one of your favorite destinations is the United States of America, according to available sources. Can you compare the status and equality of women in our country and in the USA? Do you have a personal incident related to this topic that happened to you in the USA and that would illustrate the situation?

Um, good question. I don’t think the position is any different today. Moreover, one cannot speak entirely of the United States as a whole. It is a huge country with 330 million inhabitants. Opinions and customs vary according to location, political, cultural or religious orientation. You will find almost everything here – the best and the most complicated. For me, President Trump was an unpleasant experience, and he has not yet understood and recognized women as equal partners. I think that could be part of the reason why he was not re-elected. In contrast, the success of current Vice President Kamala Harris speaks differently. Not only she, but many other governors, senators, businesswomen, artists and scientists confirm that women have something to say and that they are able to hold important positions successfully. She deserved a lot, and we can be proud of her, Madeleine Albright, who became the first Secretary of State alongside President Clinton. Interestingly, the equal status of men and women or minorities, I think, is not explicitly stated in the US Constitution. Our constitution guarantees us equality, but we still have to work on the social acceptance of women as equal partners for men. Prejudices and barriers still survive. Even the statements of some men and politicians indicate that this is a topic and often a problem.

One of your primary projects was the establishment of the Czech Miss. What do you think female beauty means? What do you think makes Czech women unique?

The first project in my life was the opening of two restaurants in Brno in the early 1990s, then with my friend. Then, after leaving politics, I founded a PR agency and only then introduced the Czech Miss to the public as an alternative to the traditional beauty contest. I called it a “new generation competition” for myself. I approached beauty as a gift that girls should learn to approach responsibly. Czech women, those I know, are unique in that they look for solutions in all circumstances, they have inner strength and sparkle. Our DNA combines the various influences of how history has passed, and this brings a special and recognizable kind of beauty. It is often known to me in the world that I come from Central or Eastern Europe. And not just according to an accent that I will probably never get rid of. I report to my roots and do not try to look different. I know that I am a girl from Brno, and I want to stay like that.

photo: with the consent of BM Management

Are fashion and style important elements of femininity for you? Do you have a personal favorite brand or designer?

I think yes. As we dress, we feel and act on the surroundings. But femininity is not about the brand and price of clothing, it is primarily about personality. We should always look tidy and we don’t have to become victims of the latest fashion, suffer from uncomfortable shoes or clothes. I combine leisure and comfortable clothing Aviator Nation with more elegant clothing and accessories of the Italian brand Etro. I also like Bottega Veneta, Celine and Tom Ford accessories. Now I’m sorry the talented Lanvine designer Alber Elbaz has died.

You are the wife of one of the richest men in the Czech Republic. Was this partnership a lifelong challenge for you? How do you see for you personally the positives and negatives of who your husband is, or the cases in which he figured?

Our connection was a gift and an opportunity for both of us. It is deep, sincere and contains emotions and reason. We are both strong and different personalities, we both come across each other from time to time, at the same time we complement each other. I admit that when I met Zdeněk, I had no idea what he was doing and what awaited us. It was an intuitive and strong acquaintance, culminating in the birth of our first daughter, then three more children, within a year of the first meeting. We are united by the same values ​​and background, we are both from Brno. Ten years later, we went out into the world at a young age, Zdeněk emigrated to the USA in the eighties, I flew there from Ruzyně in 1990. We believe in freedom, democracy and education. Zdeněk is a financial investor, he graduated from some of the best schools in the world. He is a visionary and is demanding of himself and others. The fact that he encountered the interests of some politicians in the Czech Republic does not surprise me in retrospect. I know my husband is an honest man with a big heart. He says and lives: crisis is an opportunity. We experience together the school of life that united and strengthened us. Although we have been living abroad for twelve years, we still help Czech society.

photo: with the consent of BM Management

Within the Bakala Foundation, you know the environment not only of Czech education. If we omit the current situation, what are the biggest weaknesses of Czech education compared to abroad?

People, and especially politicians, need to see education as the key to solving the future and many problems. Education is a lifelong process, it is good to invest in it. It is not about collecting titles, but about the education of the whole society, regardless of income. Teachers should be evaluated financially and socially. It should be invested in their lifelong growth. It is necessary to flexibly apply to the school system what today’s world needs or requires. In essence, there should be a revolution in it. I would strengthen subjects such as communication, media and information verification, civics, financial literacy and health prevention. More creativity, critical thinking and foresight are needed. It is not enough to know theoretically data and formulas, children should learn to apply their knowledge and understand connections. The Czech school system is also lagging significantly behind in the use of modern technologies. Covid and the need to learn at a distance have accelerated digitization, but it is too spontaneous. In addition, the digital divide is widening inequalities in access to quality education. That is why we recently decided that our family foundation Bakala Foundation will support the community of Czech.Digital volunteers and their innovative projects, which are also “We teach online”.

What “positive” do you think Czech education can take away from a pandemic? Who is to blame for the current aggravated situation surrounding the return of pupils to the benches and the exchange-exchange of the Minister of Education?

It is not essential to look for the culprit. We have a huge chance to learn and move forward. Do not repeat mistakes, do not go back. Let’s give young people and young politicians a chance. Now I do not mean only physical age, but especially young thinking based on the right values, with a clear vision for the future. I miss the outlook and the plan of what will be, where the Czechia should be in twenty, thirty years. Where are we going? It takes a vision and it packs people willing to work on it.

What challenges do you think Czech business is currently facing, but also for your Bakala Foundation, in connection with the pandemic and probably the coming economic crisis?

Understand and analyze the current situation correctly. Find it positive and leave some things outdone. The billing is yet to come. We wake up to a new world, but with the same people. We will all have to arrest and endure. To look at the crisis as a challenge, an opportunity and a lesson. We need to think about how we can do things differently and better. It will not be easy, but the world and the Czechia will manage it. I also believe our foundation. 🙂

photo: with the consent of BM Management

Source: MODA.CZ – Pánská móda, dámská móda a vše ze světa módy by www.moda.cz.

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