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Women in Politics and the Economy

Małgorzata JANKOWSKA
Accountant at RSM Poland

Shortly after the results of the US presidential election were announced, Kamala Harris, the first female Vice-President in the history of the United States, said: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this a country of possibilities” and this message travelled the world with a lightning speed. With these words, she empowered American women and encouraged them to take up key positions.

Through her speech, attitude and achievements, Kamala Harris is an inspiration for many. Her message quoted above gives women hope and is proof that the policy she pursues will represent the interests of women. However, despite the changes that are slowly taking place and the fact that words ‘economy’ and ‘politics’ are feminine nouns (in Polish), achieving full gender equality in these fields, so important for the society, is not going to be an easy ride. It is therefore necessary to consider whether women actually have their say here and ask what the situation of women in the world looks likes at the moment. In this article, I will attempt to find the answer.

Rule of women

At present, women more than ever want to finally step out of the shadow of men, but, unfortunately, this is not an easy process, especially in the political arena; this can be seen in the statistics, which are very telling. The EU Women organisation reports that only in 20 countries all over the world women hold key positions in politics, while in 120 countries it has never been the case. Given that there are now 193 officially recognised countries, women’s participation in the legislature is only about 25%. Admittedly, this is twice as much as it was a quarter of a century ago and the trend is still upward, yet the statistics are changing at a very slow pace. At this rate, true gender parity at the highest level of government will not be achieved until at least 130 years from now.

German way to gender parity and rejection of discrimination

What is important, politics is not the only field in which women find it hard to win a place for themselves. Women are also underrepresented in the economy. The European Union noticed that and strives to increase the presence of women in management boards and supervisory boards. In this respect, the situation of women is the best in Scandinavian countries and the worst in the Balkans. Gender parity in companies has also been high on the political agenda in Germany recently. ”Manager Magazin” has recently reported that our Western neighbour has adopted a ruling coalition proposal of the mandatory participation of women in management boards of listed companies. This means having at least one woman on the management board of a listed company, provided that this body has three or more members. It is therefore possible that boards completely dominated by men will soon become a thing of the past.

The upcoming changes in Germany will also affect supervisory boards in which the state has a majority shareholding. Women are to make up at least 30 per cent of members there, according to the Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Affairs.

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Strength of women on the Polish labour market

In Poland, there are currently no legal regulations on gender parity in place. Does this mean that our country still has some homework to do in this respect? Do women in Poland have an opportunity to hold high positions on an equal footing with men? It is time to take a look at statistics.

Some may be surprised to learn that when it comes to women taking up high positions in companies, Poland is among the top EU countries. From 25 to almost 35 per cent of Polish enterprises are managed by women. Although 30 per cent of these entities are small companies with a headcount of up to 9, women’s entrepreneurship is gaining prominence. Every year, Mastercard prepares the “Index of Women Entrepreneurs” report, analysing supportive entrepreneurial conditions for women in different countries. According to the collected data, Poland ranked 5th out of 58 surveyed countries and first out of 11 surveyed EU countries in 2020. In the previous edition, our country ranked 16th, so we have made an impressive jump of 11 places within a short time. Who is ahead of us? In the global 2020 ranking, Israel was ranked first, followed by the United States and Switzerland. Germany, which was mentioned here earlier in the context of gender parity in company boards, was ranked only 28th.

The good situation of women in our local business environment is also confirmed by the “Women in Business 2020” study, according to which about 38 per cent of leading positions in Poland are held by women: presidents, board members and department managers. Considering that the EU average is about 30 per cent, and globally it is about 29 per cent, our result is really good, even though it is clearly still far from ideal.

Effective action for equal opportunities at RSM

Promoting inclusion is one of the key values we have in our organisation. This can be seen for example in the fact that finding ways to combat discrimination is high on the agenda of this year’s RSM Europe Regional Conference. But what does it look like in practice? Is RSM Poland dominated by women? The statistics are great. The share of women in partner positions is almost 42 per cent and it has increased by about 14 per cent over the last 3 years. The results are even better when it comes to gender distribution at the middle management level. Here it can be safely said that women have taken the lead: they hold 83% of full-time positions. RSM Poland is definitely an example for other companies to follow.

The changes in the way women are treated in today’s world on the political scene and in the economy are becoming more and more pronounced. And even though the pace of this progress leaves much to be desired, the reality around us is becoming more and more feminine every day, and that is probably good news for everyone, including men.

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