Conclusions of the
conference – discussion hosted by the Bulgarian Industrial Association
“Gender balance in business – let’s break the glass ceiling”
7 March 2016, Sofia
– to present the European GEMA project to a broader audience and draw the attention to the gender equality in boards and management teams
– to make a project-related campaign for the women’s day (8 March)
Participation – over 30 participants:
- Representatives of 2 Bulgarian ministries
- Member of the European Parliament and ex-member of the national parliament
- Representatives of sector organizations – members of BIA
- Representatives of Bulgarian trade unions
- Representatives of gender and women entrepreneurship organizations
- Representatives of companies
- BIA staff members
- TV, radio and other media
The event was moderated by the Executive President of BIA and it was organized in cooperation with the Association of women entrepreneurs in Bulgaria having close relation to and deep interest in the gender equality development.
Lydia Shuleva on behalf of the Council of women in business in Bulgaria welcomed the initiative but could not attend the event.
The event focused on the following main points;
- Presentation of the GEMA project (Gender-Equal Management Approach)
- The equality of women and men in economic decision-making – measures and policies by the Ministry of labour and social policy
- Measures and policies for women’s entrepreneurship encouragement by the Ministry of economy
- Participation of women in the decision-making process at national and international level – the trade unions’ viewpoint
- Gender equality development in Bulgaria, the role of women in management positions and the glass ceiling – the gender organizations’ viewpoint
Some interesting statistics and information presented:
- Women are 60% of university graduates in the EU.
- Women represent 52% of the European population, but only 34% of self-employed and 30% of the start-ups.
- Less than 3% of the largest public companies are led by a woman.
- Men represent over 80% in the boards of largest public companies and women less than 20%.
- SMEs run by women are 10 to 20 percent more profitable, and their turnover is 50% higher than average.
- Women control as much as 70% of consumer spending globally. Women are often in charge of household spending on financial services, healthcare and insurance, and have been estimated to account for 93% of food and 65% of car purchases.
- Women who are business owners in Bulgaria are around 40 000. 18% of them are owners of large enterprises. Women managers are mainly in trade and services but increasingly common in the hospitality and real estate
- A number of studies show that investors react much better when the board of directors includes women
- A higher participation of women in corporate boards leads to better economic indicators. The women on boards directive is blocked already two years in the Council.
- Female entrepreneurship may be a driving economic factor in any EU country.
A broad discussion followed the presentations and speeches.
Two major questions provoked temperamental debates between the participants:
- To fight out or to empower the right of women to take managerial positions and become part of boards.
- To make the gender quota in boards a must for companies or not
Employers, supported also by BIA, backed the opinion that any quota enforced by law is not good for businesses. The business activities and characteristics of the individual companies should be taken in consideration. Women and men, regardless of gender, need to show their potential and skills prior to reaching top positions in management teams. The place of women in business, in itself, is a challenge and challenges move the society.
The opinion of this group was to let the employer decide alone whether to appoint a man or woman. The existing written rules should be followed and the entrepreneurs just have to prepare an in-house strategy when hiring an employee of whatever gender.
On the other side, trade unions together with women organizations supported the idea that we need first to change the existing stereotypes to women in work and this can be realized by introducing short-term legally-binding quota. Norway was mentioned as a good example where this legal measure helped avoiding stereotypes and increasing the performance of company boards.
Ministries were also in favour of introducing and promoting temporary gender equality measures in order to attain good gender diversity in the company management.
There is no equality when there are not common solutions and dialogue between men and women. The social dialogue takes an important place and the gender equality may become part of the bilateral social dialogue negotiations.
A strategy to promote reconciliation of the work and family life must be developed.
The glass ceiling will break when we break the stereotypes of thinking and when good examples prevail over the prejudices. Despite what the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy are doing, the most important would be the efforts of the Ministry of Education because small children should learn good and working patterns of behavior from their early years.