Women: the largest disruptive force in business

By the EESC's Employers' Group

Europe loses EUR 370 billion a year due to the gender employment gap. What's more, it is statistically proven that companies with more gender-diverse management boards produce better results. So, why might it take another 217 years to close the economic gender gap at global level, as estimated by the World Economic Forum? On 17 December, high-level speakers from the worlds of business, politics and NGOs came together with members of the Employers' Group to discuss how to leverage the immense potential that women could bring to the European economy.

Two panels explored what was needed to empower women in business and politics in Europe, and came to the following conclusions:

  • Role models are needed, to show women how they can succeed in leading positions, as well as in traditionally male-oriented sectors.
  • "Gender lens investing" is an investment approach aimed at creating a financial return while promoting gender equality. Supporting this form of investment can be a way of empowering women in business. In addition, the role of female investors should be fostered.
  • More transparency and more data on gender equality is needed. The Equileap Gender Equality Global Report and the European Women on Boards – Ethics & Boards European Gender Diversity Index (GDI) are helping to tackle this problem.
  • Currently, few women are participating in fund projects. Creating an investment fund for women or focusing existing funds on the inclusion of women could help.
  • There is a strong need for networking and sharing best practices. However, for current EU initiatives it is at times complicated to achieve this at local level.

Violeta Jelic, who chaired the conference, summarised the meeting by pointing out that the large number and diversity of findings showed that there is still a lot to be discussed. However, the aim was clear – harnessing the disruptive force of women to build a stronger European economy. As Rick Zednik, keynote speaker of the event, stated: "Gender lenses have prevented us from reaching our full potential for too long – being blind to gender means being blind to opportunities". (lj)