02. 06. 2017 Corporate responsibility

Women bring into business cooperation, creativity, and the ability to listen

At Diver(SiTy) Seminar: Women in Business the participants discussed, besides other things, what helps women achieve success at work.

In the long term diverse teams bring better understanding for customers’ needs, develop innovation abilities, and help companies penetrate to new markets. Gender diversity and women’s participation at work were two of the topics discussed at Diver(SiTy) Seminar: Women in Business, which was organized by the Business Leaders Forum and IBM in Bratislava on 30 May.

Women in Slovakia

“An increase in the employment of women contributed to an increase in global GDP more than new technologies,”said Oľga Pietruchová, Director of the Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities Department at the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, and Family of the Slovak Republic. Gender equality also has a strong economic dimension. However, in Slovakia women constitute only a quarter of entrepreneurs, and their salaries are 18% lower than men’s. On the other hand, women drive 80% of all consumer purchasing in the EU. Also for this reason, it is necessary for them to have a say in company affairs.

Oľga Pietruchová also mentioned tools to support gender diversity on the part of the state. The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, and Family of the Slovak Republic biennially organizes a competition for companies Employer friendly to families, gender equality, and equal opportunities. Increasing maternity allowances and enabling fathers to draw them too proved to be effective measures. Every year the number of men who go on paternity leave doubles. At the moment, men on paternity leave account for 7%,” said Pietruchová.

Already in the summer of 2017 companies will be able to apply with the Ministry’s Implementation Agency for subsidies from the EU structural funds to create children’s playrooms or kindergartens directly on their premises. Outside Bratislava it will also be possible to support flexible work arrangements for mothers of little children.

What helps women climb up the ladder

A woman must have a drive, but she couldn’t go far without the support of her employer and her family, said Alica Pavúková, a partner and audit leader from PwC, answering a question how to get to a managerial position in a company. As she emphasized, support of gender diversity should be deeply rooted in a company, which is inevitably linked with the equal remuneration of men and women.

Besides measures such as flexible work arrangements, part-time jobs or teleworking, it is important for companies to take into account also the so called unconscious bias factor. It is a subconscious inclination toward what we find similar to us. In practical life it can, for example, mean that a white male manager subconsciously prefers and promotes employees who are like him. “In PwC we offer our new recruits trainings for eliminating subconscious prejudice,” added Pavúková.

Marcela Krajčová, HR Manager at Philip Morris International, emphasized that an individualized approach is what helps their employees to feel at home in the company. “Although there are regulations and rules that the company follows, we are, in the first place, a human company,” said Krajčová, mentioning the example of female employees who were allowed to take a sabbatical, work from home, or adjust the working hours to their needs.

In the men’s world

Although there is still a small percentage of women working in technical fields, experience from companies shows that their presence in a team has a largely positive impact. “Women bring into teams cooperation, the ability to listen, and creativity. It is often women who are leaders,” said Ivana Medveďová, Global Business Applications and IT Services Director for Europe at IBM, who is in charge of hundreds of people from different corners of the world.

IT is a fast growing and well-paid field with good prospects. “It is important to arouse the interest of girls already when they are attending primary and secondary schools, especially in regions,” said Petra Kotuliaková, the founder of a non-profit organization Aj Ty v IT. She added that while a few years ago only 3% of women were studying IT, now it is 10-12%.

Gabriel GalgóciSlovakia Country General Manager & Director Client Network Operations at AT&T, pointed out that although gender equality is a completely natural thing in many companies, children are conditioned into gender roles (by toys or activities) from early childhood, which influences their life journey. “It is a challenge to persuade women not to give up their managerial positions after they return from maternity leave.”

The attendees of the seminar agreed that a higher involvement of men in family and household care might be the way. From early childhood girls should be encouraged to feel equal, choose a professional career according to their liking and be self-confident. Of indispensable importance are schools. However, instead of eliminating gender stereotypes, they often reinforce them.

I think what distinguishes clever people at managerial positions from clever people at non-managerial positions is the fear of responsibility. It can be seen especially in women,” said Júlia Micháleková, Executive Director at the online marketing agency Visibility. She recommends that women (as well as men) should live in “a bubble” of what they believe and what fulfils them and shrug off negative pressures and views of people around them: “There are some advantages to this approach – for example, I didn’t know I should consider gender inequality a problem until I was told.”  

What else was said at the seminar? Read more about how employees themselves can support diversity in their companies.

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