Isabelle Walczak is a consultant working on cross-cultural communication and work-life balance.
A number of influential professionals and politicians led panel discussions in order to find solutions to decreasing the gender gap and strive for more equality in our society.
In this blog article, we explore what were some of the plans and possible solutions put forward to improve women’s participation in organisations and in politics.
THE GENDER GAP IN INNOVATION
The contribution of women to the economy is very important. Nowadays, we are facing a digital revolution and it is more difficult to attract women into these fields of study and skills because we do not have female role leaders and our society is pushing girls to pursue a career in humanities.
First of all, more women should be motivated to enter the STEM and IT fields of study from an early age, to be prepared for the future of work and the technology-related jobs. In agreement with the panellists of the event, our system as a whole has to change in the way girls are educated from school to university and female role leaders could be a good example to lead young women towards more technical careers. If for sure, women have a high level of education, it is more focused on the humanities field. Digital education should be the same for men and women for all citizens to be prepared for the future of work.
Secondly, providing more flexibility to women - allowing them to work from home and be able to take care of their career as well as their families - is a quality solution. High skilled women often think that after the birth of their children, the path of their career will drastically slow down and they will not be able to keep the same high position. It is partly true and many women have to make the choice of family or career instead of having an integrated work-life. Female professionals are also faced to go back to work after childbirth to jobs with lower qualification requirements. A change in women perspective must be taken into account in order to change our society.
The study we conducted earlier this year for the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), contributes to improving knowledge on strategies to promote better and wider participation of women in the labour market and greater development and implementation of work-life balance policies and practices, with a specific focus on the ICT sector.
“It is almost impossible to raise capital for women in Europe unless you have endless energy.” Isabella De Michelis, CEO and Founder (Ernieapp Ltd.)
No woman has ever been President of the European Commission, the European Council, the European Central Bank or the Eurogroup.
It is necessary to increase the rate of female employment throughout the EU in the private, and also in the public sector in order to represent the makeup of society also at the workplaces and in decision making. Even in professions with a very high female workforce, the majority of senior leaders are men.
For instance, in the EU Parliament, only 16.7% of management posts are held by women. According to this trend, for example, in Britain, the percentage of women in an influential non-executive post is only 8%.
There are many women in low-skilled labour but few in top management. Nevertheless, we need more women involved in the decision-making process, as numerous studies have shown, that when there is a greater diversity around the table both at private companies and in public office, when decisions are made, they are more equitable and fair.
Even if gender equality has been in progress for the last decade, there is still a lot of work to be done for improvement.
In addition, according to a Deloitte study, having more female leaders would also lead to a decrease in the talent shortage. Companies hiring women and promoting them into leadership positions face better team dynamics, higher financial performance, and higher productivity.
EQUALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY
“Equal pay for equal work” Monica Mandelli, Managing Director (KKR Capital Markets)
Gender equality will not be achieved on its own. The panel also offered a very interesting historical overview of some of the achievements in equality. Notably, in 1968, the Ford female sewer machinists in Dagenham went on strike to defend their right to equal pay for equal work. It led to the Equal Pay Rights Act in 1970 in the UK. It is the proof that gender equality will not come without action. “We should stop being nice, wait for our turn and think that we will have our innate right in time,” said Sandi Toksvig, joint founder of the Women's Equality Party, a feminist political party founded in the UK in 2015.
We need to overcome this democratic deficit because the contribution of women to the economy is instrumental. Equal participation has a number of benefits, due to women and men doing things differently. Women take a more comprehensive approach to politics and focus on society as a whole. Diversity is needed to the extent that the world we are living in is diverse.
Moreover, the other benefits are that if society thinks that women have to stay at home and do the chores, it also limits the men. If some men would like to take extended parental leave and focus on their family during a period of their lives, society will blame them for not being ambitious. Our global mentality still pushes us to think women should stay at home and men should go to work.
Parity shall be the normality and nothing more. The issues are not about women but about society.
“Diversity leads to better performance and better productivity” Theresa Griffin (MEP, S&D Group)
Without action, nothing will change and part of the action means to change mentalities. Women represent 53% of the world's population and therefore we need to act as if they were a minority. There is still a lot of work to do in society and a new system, with a total gender equality and without discriminating women has to be created by women and men together. The objective of the EWA is not only to have more women but to lead to a radical change and to reinvent a new paradigm. The European Parliament is currently working on a number of initiatives involving women and the most important question for them is “equal pay for equal work”, the gender gap in salaries.
We need a cultural evolution, or better said a cultural revolution!