For an improved experience, please update your browser to one of the following:
For urgent assistance, please contact us:
With so many diversity and inclusion activities underway it is easy to assume that progress is being made. Then why are there so few women in executive positions?
The new McKinsey report “Win-win: How empowering women can benefit Central and Eastern Europe” examines the potential benefits of greater gender equality for businesses and society, identifies barriers to progress, and suggests actions that could unlock as much as €146 billion in annual GDP by 2030—an 8 % increase over a business-as-usual scenario.
In the seven CEE countries analysed (Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine):
To find out why there are so few women in executive positions in CEE, the survey of approximately 3,000 employees in the region uncovered the following insights:
Ambition is not a challenge: Women are as ambitious as men, but they perceive more barriers to promotion. Men and women showed almost the same level of interest in getting promoted (57 % of women versus 56 % of men). However, 28 % of women said that their gender made it harder for them to secure a raise or a promotion.
Women blame themselves; men blame others: Women who thought they were unlikely to make it to the top said that it was because they lacked the necessary skills (43 %) or the right leadership style (38 %), or that promotions to top executive positions were not based on merit (33 %). A far smaller proportion of men said that they lacked the necessary skills for the job (8 % less than for women), and a much larger share said that it was because promotions were not based on merit (10 % more than for women). In other words, women are more likely to blame their own shortcomings for their failure to become executives, while men are more likely to blame the shortcomings of their company.
Unpaid work is a major barrier: Nearly 40% women provide daily unpaid care work (looking after children, the elderly, or people with disabilities). This is twice as many as men. Essentially, female employees are still working a “double shift”.
The COVID-19 crisis has created additional burdens on women: The increased burden has fallen disproportionately on women. 54% of women with children under the age of ten said the pandemic has made them more likely to consider scaling back on their paid work, compared to only 25 % of men.
Correcting this imbalance would tremendously benefit not only women in their careers and personal lives, it could have a potentially transformative effect on the economies of CEE.
Despite abundant evidence that gender equality in leadership is good for business, for an overwhelming majority of organizations advancing women into leadership roles is not a formal business priority.
One of the major and most complex challenges is to shift the underlying cultural factors. The McKinsey research highlights the need of the leaders of companies and public institutions to be visibly engaged in efforts to reduce the gender imbalance, rather than delegating this work to Diversity Officers.
But including men (holding 98% of CEO positions in CEE) in diversity efforts is not as simple as inviting them to a gender-equity event. Worldwide data from BCG shows that 96 % of companies with men actively involved in gender diversity initiatives report progress at all levels, compared to only 30 % of companies without men engaged. It seems intuitive that involving men would lead to greater results. Yet part of the challenge of getting men to join the efforts, according to BCG data, is that they tend to overestimate how well their company is doing in terms of gender issues.
To remove the barriers that hold women back at work, we have to acknowledge that the barriers exist. We need to realise that gender equality is not a “women issue”, it is a “leadership issue”.
The last thing that women need is men “rescuing” them or assuming the role of the workplace knight in shining armor.
Because men are in so many leadership roles, they have an enormous opportunity to accelerate progress. Men’s voices are critical because of, not in spite of, their gender. When men speak up against gender disparities, they not only become visible as allies, they also raise awareness and acceptance about gender inequity as a shared problem, not a special interest.