01 Nov Breaking the Glass Ceiling: What are the challenges faced by European women in their career advancement?
Gender equality has been one of the founding principles of the European Union, and the principle has been successfully upheld as believed by many: men and women seem to enjoy equal fundamental rights in their daily lives, and nine out of ten highest ranked countries in terms of gender equality are in Europe, according to the United Nations Development Programme. The European women are apparently better off than their counterparts in other parts of the world, but the recent developing in the EU might have suggested that women still face invisible barriers to their advancement in the workplace.
A week ago, the EU decided in the last minute to postpone the vote on a plan to oblige companies to reach a 40 percent female boardroom quota by 2020 as it was deeply unpopular with many of its member countries.
Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner who proposed the plan, insists that she “will not give up” on her quest to push the quota plan because she firmly believes that “Europe has a lot to gain from more diverse corporate boards.” Her statement is very true, indeed: reports published by Credit Suisse Research Institute, McKinsey, Deutsche Bank Research and Ernst & Young unanimously points out the fact that companies with a significant number of women in senior positions outperforms those that do not. A study by Goldman Sachs even found that closing the gender gap could boost the euro zone’s gross domestic product by up to 13 percent. The answer is obvious: women are the key to economic success. It is necessary to incorporate the talents of half of the population into the corporate leadership as diversity is essential to better results.
Unfortunately, gender inequality still persists in the highest levels of decision-making in the corporate world: only one-in-ten board members in the EU is a woman, and only 3% of chief executives are female. Progress in the entire Europe has been very slow except in Norway and France, and the only reason for their successes was their legislation on the quotas for female board members in big companies. Legislation is proven to be the most direct and arguably, the most effective way to reach gender balance in the workplace, and it is clear that on this particular issue government involvement is required – or else the business world will only do it at a very slow pace and it might require 50 more years to achieve the same level of gender equality.
The EU is now facing a difficult time in dealing with its economic recession and it is unwise to leave the female talents behind, for the various contributions they can make to the business world. It is therefore high time for Europe to act, not only for improving gender equality as it is the mission of the EU, but also for allowing women to play their part in reconstructing Europe’s economy. The glass ceiling should exist no more, and quotas for females in board room should be legislated as soon as possible – for the good of Europe.