“Success in High Heels” – Women in Local Government, Politics – and Business

One of the debates held during the 3rd European Congress of Local Governments in Krakow was devoted to the position of women in social, political, scientific and economic life. Women hold managerial positions, which once were “reserved” only for men, more often. Women’s activity is also evident in the sphere of politics and business. One of the reasons for this change is the effective and consistent policy conduct aimed at ensuring uniform representation of both genders in each area of social life, while guaranteeing women equal opportunities for professional development. Has the glass ceiling for women finally been shattered?

Comment by Eszter Szabo, who took part in the debate as one of the speakers.

Respect, opportunities, and progress in the workplace, this is what the woman want. I could not resist suggesting during the debate that the women should accelerate their individual and group development by utilizing the leadership culture and best practices of global companies operating in Central Europe more extensively. I was impressed by the man-women ratio in the room where the session “Success on High Hills” took place. Normally equal opportunities/female/women topics attract few men in any countries in CEE therefore mostly women sit at conferences.

As I learned, Poland is different. It is very far in awareness raising, agenda setting and intensity of the debate on women’s participation in the leadership compared to other countries here. For example, we can consider a success that in the local government women have 44,33 per cent — a much higher number as it is in the Sejm or in the Senate as Elzbieta Anna Polak, the Marshall of Lubuskie Voivodeship pointed out in her speech. From a management perspective in business, this pool would serve as a talent pipeline for higher public positions in the country as these women have accumulated experience. This is exactly what the only female Marshall of Poland stressed.

Apart from me who represents Fortune 50 experience, all panelists were powerful Polish women who have gone through tough times in earning their current positions (…) The first wave of women in leadership positions had to face tough times, had to cope with harsh behavior as Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, an MP, and others shared in a low voice referring to the environment they got into 20 years ago or they still work in. Today we take for granted that women have the rights to vote. Our generation has to figure out how to achieve a fair share in the decision-making level of the workplace, in the organizations in the countries and beyond.

How can we all who made a career in Central Europe accelerate the development of female talent? My suggestions require actions, increased co-operation and collaboration between man and women as we all want to see results without a growing tension in the society. The below listed international business management tools would make a huge difference if introduced extensively in Central Europe.

My number one is to engage as many men as possible. They have to be involved, educated and convinced about the opportunities more representation of women in the top decision would make to a company, government, and the economy. We have to share numbers like the recently published EIGE studies on the correlation between GDP growth and man-women/gender equality.

My number two is to make ourselves visible as a leader. We want to turn into a female role model, an example who helps others through networks and mentoring. I saw only a few hands when I asked the audience in Krakow who was part of a female network. If you want to grow yourself with the support of others the best way is to set up a professional network or join one. It is crucial to involve men not as members but as supporters as you do want to have them on the side of your initiative. You rather have them support your aim to fulfil your career potential and not just stay at low ranking or supporting jobs.

My third is sponsoring. Sponsoring means you recommend someone to a position and you stand behind that person’s capability. As I see few women sponsor other women. This must have to do something with risk adversity, therefore, an area of development for us.

To read the whole article, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-women-want-2017-eszter-szabo?published=t

“Success in High Heels” – Women in Local Government, Politics – and Business – apart from Eszter Szabo the debate was attended by speakers from Poland: Elzbieta Anna Polak, Marshal of the Lubuskie Voivodeship, Beata Superson-Polowiec, Partner, Polowiec i Wspólnicy Law Firm, Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, Member of Parliament, Beata Moskal-Slaniewska, Mayor of Swidnica City Council, Monika Piatkowska, President of the Board, INNOVO Polish Mining Innovation Association of Employers and was chaired by Dorota Babiak-Kowalska, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Municipium.

Eszter Szabo, Member of the Economic Forum Programme Council, Corporate Communications, Public Affairs & Government Relations Executive, currently Director of Global Reach Division in PlanB, based in Budapest. Over 15 years of experience in Central and Eastern Europe at GE and in the Hungarian government.