European Union of Equality – Expanding Women Participation in Politics, Business & Trade

By Volodymyr Leschenko

No Member State has achieved true equality between men and women so far: women are still underrepresented in politics, business and trade. We need to foster an environment conducive to more active participation of women and their talents in the workforce. In the past few months, the pandemic taught us the value of flexibility and alternative perspectives, especially when rising to meet unexpected challenges. Diverse teams, equipped with men and women from all cultural, social and professional backgrounds, are on the right track to achieve the objectives set by the European Union.

Moderated by Srita HEIDE, Delegate & Member, Consultative Committee on Industrial Change, EESC; Special Representative Diversity, SME Europe of the EPP, the Virtual discussion saw such high-level speakers such as: Ivan ŠTEFANEC MEP, President SME Europe of the EPP; Angelika WINZIG MEP, Vice-President SME Europe of the EPP; Co-chair SME Intergroup in the EP; Christine SCHNEIDER MEP, FEMM Committee; Helena DALLI, European Commissioner for Equality; Anabel DIAZ CALDERON, Regional General Manager EMEA, Uber; Paola LIGABUE, Vice President FEM – Women of European SMEs; International Co-President European Women’s Management Development; Brigitte BAUMANN GERVAIS Founder Go Beyond; Expert & Jury Member Horizon 2020; Liisa PAKOSTA, Commissioner for Gender Equality and Equal Treatment in Estonia.

In his opening speech, Ivan STEFANEC shared his personal experience in entrepreneurship that made him value the role of women in business even more. A mixed and diverse team worked much better in comparison to only male or only female teams. He believes that everybody should be provided with equal opportunities and equal salary. Things that can be worked on to help the participation of women in European business and SMEs are a flexible labor code, access to capital and improving digital infrastructure.

Angelika WINZIG encourages women to start their own business and for politicians to address their concerns. Female entrepreneurs need to be involved in the legislative process because too many politicians have no practical experience in economy and business. 

Helena DALLI makes an accent on the gender pay gap. She’s convinced that the main reason is the lack of transparency, which is why the Commission proposed legislation on pay transparency in the EU. The aim is to provide employees with information on how their own pay compares with average pay levels. If pay discrimination based on gender is suspecte, women will be able to make claims for equal pay. The Commission’s goal was to develop a proposal to address this problem in the most proportionate manner possible in order to limit costs and the administrative burdens for SMEs. 

On behalf of Uber, Anabel DIAZ CALDERON remarks their continued support s to all the women empowerment initiatives as they believe that there should be more female leaders in the EU. She also speaks about the importance of women’s safety in the area of business and the progress that Uber has done in this area.

Brigitte BAUMANN says that anything that’s done on diversity is helping diverse thinking and individuals to fit in the current systems but also to benefit from these different perspectives to innovate and expand the current system. In order to integrate more willing women into the business ecosystem, it’s important to provide them with education and more low-risk opportunities.

Paola LIGABUE speaks out of her own experience that female-led enterprises have always faced some kind of inequality when compared to men-led ones. On the behalf of her SME, she strongly advocates fo cooperation with organizations focused on fighting against gender based discrimination.

According to Liisa PAKOSTA, the safety of women and their comfort plays a significant role in the pay gap issue. For example, home violence or taking care of children or elderly people can act as a “sticky floor” that holds women from achieving their full potential in terms of career. But, at the same time, it’s important to acknowledge that we are moving in the right direction and a lot of very effective initiatives are being put into action.