On The Front Lines: How The Bosnian War Shaped This Entrepreneur's Career Path


Transitioning from an investigative journalist to a real estate entrepreneur was a major career change Aleksandra Scepanovic never saw happening in her lifetime, but now as the managing director and co-founder of Ideal Properties Group, it's safe to say that same career move has her at the helm of one of the leading real estate firms in Brooklyn, New York.

But before actually moving to the Big Apple for the first time in 1999, Aleksandra was reporting hard news on the front lines of war-torn Bosnia. These same challenging investigative reporting experiences fueled her strong work ethic, and also lead her to pursue a new future in New York City. Although Scepanovic never imagined moving to New York at first, moving to the East Coast allowed her to build a new business from the ground up successfully, and of course, achieve her own version of the American Dream.

“I've always found the American dream to be an interesting conjecture, based on the notion of hard work, little play and a solid, however unfounded, dash of unwavering hope for a better future," says Scepanovic. “For me, personally, it seems that these embedded prerequisites to achieving the American version of success are simply part of my makeup. I was born an eternal optimist capable of dreaming grand dreams, and a workaholic, who finds even the most tedious and repetitive work – fun, or if not entirely fun, then at least interesting enough for me to want to complete."

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Now, staying 20 steps ahead of the Brooklyn real estate game, Scepanovic works alongside her partner Erik Serras who serves as the Principal Broker of Ideal Properties Group. And although not all couple work partnerships are easy, both parties make it work by running the business on equal terms.

“The most important aspect of our partnership is the clear definition of our respective spheres of influence," she says. “What I do, he cannot, no matter how at times he feels that he could. The same goes for me – I am, beyond any doubt, the wrong person to complete his tasks. In short, the most important part is understanding which parts you're responsible for bringing into the partnership, and which parts are your partners', and make sure to stick to them. If his or her job is to generate revenue, and yours is to develop training programs – no matter how good you feel you may be in sales, relinquish the task to your partner."

Photo Courtesy of Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times

As Ideal Properties Group continues to expand, Scepanovic sees the company far ahead of where it is today in the next five years. And although she has faced several challenges as a female entrepreneur, she advises other female business owners to keep on going, no matter how much others disapprove.

“Jump in, breathe, don't look back or listen to theories your friends, family, or competitors are likely to offer, as to how (un)likely your effort is to succeed," she suggests. “Arm yourself with confidence, and never stop."


A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.

Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.