Forum explores ways to strengthen women’s role in economy

By Axel  Reiserer

Forum explores ways to strengthen women’s role in economy

EBRD organises forum in Zagreb together with the Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and the Crafts of Croatia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary

Support for inclusion is one of the priorities for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). In line with this approach the Bank organised together with the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Croatian Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts the “Women’s Central Eastern European Forum” in Zagreb.

The conference explored ways of promoting and strengthening the participation of women in the labour force. Participants shared examples of best practice in Croatia and Hungary focusing on increasing female entrepreneurship as a way of stimulating GDP growth through additional economic activity, increased employment and innovation and improving efforts by companies to nurture diversity and inclusion as well as expanding and managing the talent pool.

The Forum was attended by Nataša Mikuš Žigman, State Secretary, Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts, Republic of Croatia; Orsolya Pacsay-Tomassich, Deputy State Secretary, Ministry of Human Capacities, Hungary; Vedrana Jelušić Kašić, EBRD Director, Regional Head of Croatia, Hungary, Slovak Republic and Slovenia; and representatives of the business and diplomatic communities. Viktoria Horvath, ambassador at large for special foreign trade initiatives and initiator of the „Added value - Women for CEE”- conference series, was also present.

According to a study presented by the management consultancy Deloitte, inclusion plays an increasing role in attracting talent and for work satisfaction. Eighty-six per cent of all female and 74 per cent of all male millennials consider corporate diversity and inclusion polices before accepting jobs, a study presented by Sabina Softić, Partner, Deloitte Bosnia and Herzegovina, found. Diversity stimulates innovation and creativity and improves efficiency, while inclusive teams out-perform non-inclusive teams by 80 per cent, Deloitte says.

On this path a lot remains to be done. The Croatian Gender Equality Ombudsperson, Višnja Ljubičić, presented an update on the situation of women in the country’s workforce: according to Ms Ljubičić women represent the ‎majority of underemployed with 56 per cent, they also represent the majority of parents taking maternal/parental leave (only 4 per cent of Croatian men do) and are still paid less by 10 to 11 per cent than men for the same job. The share of female entrepreneurs ‎in Croatia is around 30 per cent, despite an increase of 23 per cent over the last 15 years.

Vedrana Jelušić Kašić emphasised the importance the EBRD puts on inclusion: “We have introduced successful programmes which support especially women in business, but also help young people to enter the workforce with a long-term perspective. A skilled and well-educated workforce is a major asset for any economy and we are working very hard with investments and policy dialogue to create new and sustainable opportunities.”

Thanks to the TaiwanBusiness EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund the EBRD Women in Business programme in Croatia alone resulted in cooperation with three partner banks (RaiffeisenBank Austria, Privredna Banka Zagreb, Hrvatska poštanska banka); the training of 184 women entrepreneurs; advisory services for 95 women-led enterprises; and the matching of 21 women with an international mentor‎.

Inclusion is one of the six transition qualities as defined by the EBRD when evaluating the transition to a market economy in its countries of operations. The transition concept, which entered into force at the beginning of this year, argues that a well-functioning market economy should be more than just competitive; it should also be inclusive, well-governed, green, resilient and integrated. These qualities are implicit in the EBRD’s founding articles.