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»Sustainable economic development requires equality«

European Women Forum - Berlin: 10 years, 10 countries, 10 stories

Berlin, 9 December 2014 – »Sustainable economic development requires equality,« is the key conclusion of the first European Women Forum, organised in Berlin by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Berlin, the European Commission Representation Office in Germany and the SheXO initiative of the company Deloitte Central Europe. The European Women Forum in Berlin marked the 10th anniversary of the EU enlargement with the emphasis on the role of women in the accession; panels and the debate – the event was attended by almost 200 businesswomen and businessmen and representatives of political and social life from the 10 countries that entered the EU in 2004 (EU10) and Germany – were focused on the position of women in various social areas (business environment, politics, culture, etc.) in the mentioned countries.

“Sustainable economic development requires equality,” in her introductory speech emphasised Manuela Schwesig, the German Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. “Strengthened equality will improve economic growth and contribute to our welfare. A lot has been said about the lack of expert workforce – and this is where women come in, as the men potential is, technically, exhausted. Namely, men already work full time plus overtime.”

Alastair Teare, the CEO of Deloitte Central Europe, stressed: “The economic reasons to retain and further develop women are so strong, I am surprised that anyone can ignore it.There are a wealth of studies demonstrating that diverse teams make better decisions. I have personally experienced this, and strongly believe that any business that relies on a highly homogeneous leadership view will at best perform below the optimal level and even potentially fail.”

The participants of the first panel – EU10 and Germany politicians - assessed that in the last 10 years women contributed significantly to a stronger Europe, while the attendees of the second panel – successful businesswomen from different countries – shared their personal stories of success and their experience and views of the role of women in business.

In addition to the event, Deloitte Slovenia in the framework of Deloitte Central Europe and its initiative Deloitte SheXO carried out also the survey on position of women in business in 8 countries that joined the EU in 2004 (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia) and Germany. The survey was aimed at finding out the middle and top management’s opinion on status of women in the business environment. The results were presented by Barbara Zibret-Kralj, Partner and Leader of the SheXO initiative in Deloitte Slovenia. Findings of the survey are presented in the brochure Women in business in Central Europe: Faster, higher, stronger1?

Key findings of the Deloitte SheXO Survey 2014: Women in business in Central Europe: Faster, higher, stronger?

A new report from Deloitte, “Women in business in Central Europe: Faster, higher, stronger?” analyses the conditions for women in the EU10 countries plus Germany and includes an analysis of the results of the Deloitte SheXO Survey 2014 gauging the sentiment of 800 top and middle managers in these countries on the issue of the status of women in business .

Ten years after the European Union’s largest enlargement, the newly-admitted countries among the EU10 (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) have all improved economically but are still lagging behind socially and politically in the area of gender equality. Conditions for women to develop their careers vary greatly from country to country, gender inequalities are still present in the business environment, and opinions are divided on the benefits of EU accession for women in business, according to a Deloitte analysis and survey of top and middle management in the EU10 countries.

54% of top and middle managers from 800 of Central Europe’s and Germany’s largest companies agree that companies with gender-diversified management boards are more successful than those without diversified boards, and 59% do not support the introduction of quotas to ensure gender diversity, meaning that it is up to the companies themselves to find ways to support women in reaching leadership positions. However, with 72% of top and middle managers reporting their company does not have an established program for talent development – and those that do have programs find them catering mostly to men (23%) or both genders equally (57%) – it is evident that companies are not doing enough to actively promote gender diversity internally. While there are several steps companies can take to promote gender diversity, only some of them will generate the results and returns they are looking for.

A majority of respondents (54%) believe that companies with gender-diversified management boards are more successful. On the controversial issue of gender quotas on management boards, most respondents (59%) do not support their introduction. When asked about the most influential factors for companies seeking to diversify their leadership teams, respondents from a total of 800 companies identified flexible working conditions/working location, programs of smooth transition to and from maternity leave, and programs for balancing professional and private life.

Other highlights of the survey’s findings:

Conditions for women
  • Respondents believe that gender inequalities are still present in the business environments of EU countries. Based on respondents’ feedback to a number of questions, the overall perception of gender equality amongst top and middle managers seems to be the worst in Germany and Hungary, and the best in Estonia.
Impact of EU accession
  • 66% of top and middle managers perceive that the number of women in leadership positions after 10 years of EU membership has increased in their country.
  • Opinions were divided about the impact of EU accession on the status of women. Half of all respondents (50%) believe that joining the EU positively influenced the social status of women in their country, while the remainder believes that EU accession had no effect on women or even a negative one.
Gender inequality and diversity in business
  • 51% of top and middle managers reported that women in leadership positions are compensated less in comparison with their male counterparts. 56% of respondents believe that women are required to put more effort into achieving the same position in their career as men.
  • Respondents as a whole would encourage a female relative in her efforts to become CEO (4.0 on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0), with women respondents (4.2/5.0) more than men (3.9/5.0).
  • 54% of top and middle managers believe that companies with diversified management boards are more successful.
    Talent and career development
  • Awareness about corporate talent development programs still needs to be increased as a majority of respondents’ companies (73%) do not have talent development programs in place.
  • Respondents see talent development programs as mostly gender-balanced (57%) or as favourable to the opposite gender (23% men, 20% women).
  • Respondents reported that gender is among the least important factors when they need to decide about selecting a new board member (1%). The most influential factors: previous experience (17%), broad perspective (11%), creation and fulfilment of vision (10%), and good previous work results (10%).
Steps companies can take to increase gender diversity among leadership
  • The question of quotas remains challenging. Almost two thirds of respondents (59%) do not support the introduction of quotas that would ensure gender balance in management boards.
  • However, in countries where the perception of gender inequality in business is the highest (Germany and Hungary) respondents strongly supported quotas: 59% in Germany and 62% in Hungary.
  • The most influential programs companies can implement to increase the number of women in leadership positions: flexible working conditions/work location (59%), programs of smooth transition to and from maternity leave (45%), programs for balancing professional and private life (45%).
  • The least influential would be: gender-adapted recruitment goals and programs (11%), request for at least one woman candidate for promotion (11%).



The survey was conducted by Mediana d.o.o., Slovenian market research and consulting company, using CAWI (computer assisted web interviewing) and CATI (computer assisted telephone interviewing) methodology. Malta and Cyprus were not included into the survey due to the fact that a sample was not statistically representative.

Find more

Women in business in Central Europe - Faster, higher, stronger?

PDF brochure, 100 pages, 3,5 MB
Program - European Women Forum - Berlin: 10 years, 10 countries, 10 stories
Europäisches Haus, Unter den Linden 78, 10117 Berlin, Germany
December 9, 2014
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