Innovation in Women’s Hands. Working Towards Equal Opportunities

The under-representation of women in business and finance in the region has a negative impact on its productivity. By attracting female investors, it is possible to mobilize new, previously dormant capital in the economies of the V4 countries. The number of women, including in the innovation sector, still lags far behind the number of men involved in business decision-making processes. How to get more women involved in the innovation industry? Who should act to increase the feminization rate in decision making? Is it possible to increase the competitiveness of Central and Eastern Europe in the era of digital transformation? The round table is a part of a project entitled: Democratization and increased equal opportunity in innovation decision making.

Ewa Okoń-Horodyńska, Head of the Department of Economics and Innovation of the Jagiellonian University and the Chairwoman of the Science Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Marta Mikliszańska, Director of Public Affairs and Sustainable Development, Allegro.pl, Sylwia Chada, Director General of TikTok CE, Katarzyna Sobótka, Head of Business, EIT InnoEnergy and Kinga Pasternak, Spokesperson for Centrum GovTech in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister discussed the diversity and equal opportunities in the world of technological innovations. The discussion was moderated by Aleksandra Karasińska, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Women.

In Poland, there are more women with a master’s degree than men and this is a European trend, we also have 45% of women among people with a doctor’s degree – noted Ewa Okoń-Horodyńska. The new law on science on the other hand, caused that so far, according to new research, only 10% of titular professors at universities are women. Today, women are beginning to be outraged that the topic of glass ceilings keeps coming back and little is said about men. However, for real changes to occur, even in the technology sector, men and women must work closely together.

Moderator Aleksandra Karasińska noted that there was a technological leap as a result of the pandemic – how does this affect the professional situation of women?

Sylwia Chada confirmed – the leap that took place over the last year is a decade in terms of technological progress. She admitted that the recruitments in her company, she conducted entirely online. However, it is not gender, but competences, that are of key importance in this process. Women have also other tasks, not only related to work, and if they decide to fulfill many roles, it is their conscious decision, and the role of the company is to create a place and time for them to combine these roles. Transparency is the most important thing. Work from home is equally good for men and women, it all depends on the approach – she summed up.

Katarzyna Sobótka added that the people from an early age should be made aware of the need for diversity, because such cooperation gives great results and gives a different point of view.

Research proves that it is the lack of self-confidence that is the biggest blocker in a career already at the level of choosing college or university. Women find science to be difficult for them, and this belief is supported by the external message they encounter, noted the editor-in-chief of Forbes Women.

Marta Mikliszańska stated, that Allegro employs three and a half thousand employees, currently 42% of employees are women, and 19% work in technology. Against the background of market data, this is a very good result. Last year, twice as many women as men were promoted to executive positions. A Diversity Advisory Committee has also been established.

At the Prime Minister’s Office, we run a program for young leaders. 50% of the leaders are women. We have a lot of applicants and most of them are female. The GovTech branch is not an industry that is associated only with programming. We have plenty of women in marketing and technology who are doing great – reported Kinga Pasternak. Aleksandra Karasińska added that we shouldn’t think that people working in technology must be programmers.

Ewa Okoń-Horodyńska mentioned, that some people are trying to convince us that we have other hemispheres and so on. These are social expectations. Consequently, there is no male and female innovation. The problem is that society affects us differently. – This is how we are brought up. Since we are brought up this way: sit down politely, no wonder that we do not fight for ours – agreed Sylwia Chada. According to Ewa Okoń-Horodyńska, cooperation between the Visegrad Countries can greatly increase the level of Polish innovation and diversity.

Kinga Pasternak stated, that over the last year, we have made a huge step, unplanned but very necessary. She hopes the way we think and the way we reach and resolve administrative matters will change. It is an opportunity for all of us to see how we function and in what environment we operate. New technologies are not far from us at all. If we learn to use it, we will achieve an increase in competences and thus economic growth.

I agree that the transition to work from home, especially for women who decide to start a business and prefer online activity, we as a company offer the perfect infrastructure. We give access to financial tools, we guide our new entrepreneur on how to show a product and determine prices. I agree that this forcing entrepreneurship can be a good effect caused by the pandemic – summed up Marta Mikliszańska.

The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance  ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.

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