Montenegrin Employers Federation (MEF) and International Labor Organization (ILO), in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Business Women Association of Montenegro, hosted a final conference of the project “Women in Management in Montenegro – Support to Leadership and Professional Development of Women in Montenegro” that took place today at hotel Hilton in Podgorica.
Within a working part of the conference, there was a first public presentation of ACT/EMP Report on women in business and management in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (“Women in business and management: Gaining Momentum in Eastern Europe and Central Asia”), which put Montenegro in the focus of regional developments. “If women were to participate in the economy at the same rate as men, Eastern Europe and Central Asia could see as much as a US$1.1 trillion boost to gross domestic product (GDP), or an additional 23 per cent of annual regional GDP”, Kristina Crnjanski Vlajcic, a manager of the regional project, pointed out as one of the key findings of the report which includes Montenegro as well.
The study highlights the growing talent pool of women as well as the steady progress seen in the region. Women account for over half of the labour force in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, but female participation in the most productive and export-oriented sectors remains limited.
The region is a global leader in terms of women in senior management, with 20 per cent of enterprises reporting a top female manager compared to the global average of 18.6 per cent. However, women are more likely to be managers in small companies and are over-represented in support functions like human resources and communications, which offer less exposure to core business and therefore a more difficult path to top executive roles. In addition, women managers in the region are concentrated in lower and mid-levels management. The ILO company survey which forms part of the report confirms this “leaky pipeline” phenomenon as it finds that nearly 75 per cent of companies in the region report that the retention of skilled women is a challenge in their business.
One of the most significant gaps in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is seen in women on corporate boards, with women holding an average of 8.5 per cent of board seats compared to a global average of 18.5 per cent. Most studies show that in order for companies to reap the full benefits of gender diversity on boards, a critical mass of 30 per cent women is needed.
Gender pay gaps also persist in many countries in the region, ranging from 5.3 per cent in Slovenia to roughly 50 per cent in Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. In addition, women continue to perform an uneven proportion of family and household responsibilities, spending on average 1.6 to 6.2 more hours per day on unpaid work than men do. These barriers can act as disincentives for women to enter and stay in the workforce, and combine with cultural norms and gender stereotypes to limit women’s career choices and advancement.
Despite remaining challenges, the report finds several bright spots for women that offer promising avenues for future improvement. Women increasingly compete on the same level as men in terms of educational attainment and business exposure, with women tertiary graduates now surpassing men in 23 out of 25 countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Women are also increasingly becoming employers, accounting for 25 per cent of all employers in 23 out of 25 countries in the region.
According to the ILO company survey, the top 5 measures for companies to promote women in management in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are: exposing women to all company operations and functions, executive training for women, assigning women managers visible and challenging tasks, recognition and support for women, and providing mentoring schemes.
Activities and endeavors in this regard are expected from national employers’ organizations, and in support of it, Svetlana Vuksanovic, MEF President, emphasized the activities MEF realized within the project: “We met and linked many successful business women, founded a team of trainers and delivered a training programme for women managers, created contents which can help employers develop policies aimed at higher representation of women. We founded a Women Managers Network, created a Business Women Database which will be developed further and conducted a second survey on participation of women and men in management structures of Montenegrin companies.
Today’s conference is a part of the project “Women in Management in Montenegro: Support to Leadership and Career Development of Women in Montenegro” implemented by the Montenegrin Employers Federation (MEF) with the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO), within a regional project “Promoting Inclusive Labor Market Solutions in the Western Balkans” jointly realized by the ILO and the UNDP, and financed by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).