Interview. Romanian women discrimination is more at the top level, according to the Professional Women’s Network (PWN)

Georgiana Bendre | 19/05/2017 | 17:11

Women discrimination has become an important debated topic. Representatives of the Professional Women’s Network (PWN), the non-profit international network of professional women, talked to BR exclusively about this issue and about the program “Women on Boards & Engaging Men”. This initiative brings fresh insights, new solutions and contacts that will support in engaging  males and advancing gender balanced leadership in organizations.

How did the network help women from the launch until now? What are the results?

“PWN in Romania does wonderful things in helping more women in getting to executive positions, create awareness around the potential of women, leadership in organizations and balance leadership in general. If you look at the talent of women, which is very underutilized, you’ll see bottom-line growth, a high retention of the employees and a more innovative organization due to diversity of boards,” says Sonya Richardson, president of PWN (main picture-left).

“We are now seen as a reference organization in Romania, both with leadership members and authorities. We engage important ambassadors, CEOs from Romania, EBRD, World Bank, IMF. We have a strong leadership base, we have four pillars and we are an important player in advocacy for promoting the regulation we need to allow women to access board positions, such as possible legislative measures to get quotas,“ says also Sorana Baciu, VP executive forum of PWN (main picture -right).

You engage men also in diversity programs. How do you do that?

“ We understood that if men aren’t engaged in diversity programs, the gendeRober_Baker_Dec_2015r equality wouldn’t move forward. A lot of men don’t see the need of change, they are already in the power position and they didn’t have to confront with discrimination. Part of my job it‘s been to raise awareness, firstly by showing the data and sometimes they are shocked about it and take measures. I also get to an emotional connection, for example if they have daughters and would be discriminated for a top-management position, how they would feel about that. They start to think differently, but it’s still a challenge,” says Robert Baker, senior partner and client director of Mercer UK & VP Engaging Men, PWN Global.

Do women from Romania feel discriminated in their professional life?

“I think discrimination in Romania comes at the top. Up to the level of middle management, everybody is encouraged to be there. But for the top management, women are not seen fully committed because of their personal life, such as maternity leave, “ says Baciu.

“Women are generally judged quicker negatively than men would judge other men. They are judged more critically and more negatively, which is a very important factor, ” says Richardson.

HR department is also important in discrimination prevention. Did you try to promote this prevention within companies?

“We are not quite active in this area, but we are looking forward into promoting it, “ says Baciu.

“HR department is usually open. But if these initiatives are not owned by leadership, they don’t work. The CEO and top-level executive has to support them. HR can help, but CEOs are essential,” says Richardson

mona opran“Discrimiation is also about not accepting that you are in this position because others did not have the chance to compete with you,” adds Mona Opran, vice president marketing & communication at PWN.

Romania is among the EU member states with the smallest gender pay gap. Romania took the top spot with a potential gender pay gap closure date of 2018 with women aged between 25 and 34, according to Expert Market, Europe’s leading B2B marketplace. Why do you think Romania has better results compared to other European states?

“We as a country had historically women working. When the revolution took place, young women were driven. But when you starting deconstructing, women are only at a certain type of level and type of work, at the middle management, up to the top, very well paid, but there are few women at the top and generally less women who work. If we had more women on top positions and more women working, maybe the gap would be higher,” says Opran.

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