Women, to Tractors!


“If we’re too tough, we’re unlikable. If we’re too soft, we’re not cut out for the big leagues. If we work too hard, we’re neglecting our families. If we put family first, we’re not serious about work. If we have a career but no children, there’s something wrong with us, and vice versa. If we want to compete for a higher office, we’re too ambitious.” So writes Hillary Rodham Clinton in her new book analysing What Happened in the 2016 presidential election.

As much as she is right about how women are still perceived in society, the fact that she is a woman was probably one of the less critical reasons why she is not a resident of the White House. Or else, Europe, including emerging Europe, is far more liberal than 21st century America.

The Old Continent had its Iron Lady in the UK in the 1980s, and has its Mutti in Germany now. Amongst the 23 emerging European countries, there are now three female presidents: in Croatia, Estonia and Lithuania, and one prime minister — in Serbia, who is openly gay. The first female prime minister in the region — Milka Planinc — became the head of the Yugoslav government in 1982. Emerging Europe’s first female head of state — Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga — was elected in Latvia in 1999.

What is it that women here in Central and Eastern Europe have, and how has the legacy of communism affected their situation?


Beata Nagy, professor at Corvinus University in Budapest and the author of Female Managers, the first book about female leadership in the CEE region, gives an example of scholarships that were only available to women, to encourage them to progress.

“For many years during socialism, young girls and women in these countries were encouraged to study or find employment in ‘typically male’ sectors, such as construction, engineering, and others” Boriana Manolova, CEO at Siemens Bulgaria tells Emerging Europe. “The idealised image of the working woman, engaged in hard physical work along with her male colleague, was used for ideological propaganda, but no real equality was achieved. After the political transition, the gap in fact deepened and only in recent years have we started to objectively evaluate the contribution of women to the labour market and to society,” she says.

According to Eurostat, in 2015 there were 3.9 million students throughout the 11 emerging Europe countries which are members of the European Union, with women accounting for 57.3 per cent. This compares to the EU average of 54 per cent. In countries such as Latvia, Slovakia and Poland, almost 60 per cent of students are women.

“In Georgia and in the South Caucasus region the situation is different. These are stereotypes that people cannot get rid of easily. If I was asked about a successful Georgian business person, I would name a man. I am not used to thinking about business women,” says Nino Zambakhidze, chairwoman of the Georgian Farmers Association, owner of a number of successful firms and Georgia’s Young Global Leader, named by the World Economic Forum in 2017.

In the academic year starting in 2016, there were over 135,600 students on bachelor and masters courses in Georgia, with women accounting for 51.2 per cent, according to the National Statistics Office.

Unexploited Potential

“In general, countries in Eastern Europe possess a broad talent pool of highly educated women but are failing to reap the full rewards of that latent potential,” Vesselina Stefanova Ratcheva, WEF’s economist, tells Emerging Europe. “To harness this opportunity for growth, all countries across Eastern Europe can do more to ensure that their policies are up to date and able to alleviate the current care burden on women and ensure equitable treatment across the region’s labour markets.”

Since women’s potential is undervalued and meritocracy is regarded as the criterium, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report estimates it would take up to 128 years for Central and Eastern Europe to close gender disproportions.

Boriana Manolova, CEO at Siemens Bulgaria, believes the idea of introducing gender quotas has often been misinterpreted. Quotas are rather a catalyst for changing public perception of the need for gender equality, which is often lags behind legislation. However, the principle of equality must not override the main criterion in job selection — professional competence.

“In Bulgaria, as in many other countries, women remain a largely marginalised economic power whose potential is still underused and underestimated,” Ms Manolova adds. “Despite the progress made in recent years and decades, in many countries around the world and in many occupations, they continue to live under the notorious ‘glass ceiling.’ Conservative assumptions of the role of women in family, the labour market and society, an often difficult work-life balance, deeply rooted gender stereotypes and prejudices are just part of the amalgam of deterrents, blocking their professional development. All this is lost potential that negatively affects not only women themselves but also businesses and societies.”

Difficult Ascent

At junior levels there is more balance, while the largest gap is seen when a woman’s career is taking off.

“Usually in most large businesses the ratio of male and female employees is almost 50/50. Then when you go to senior and director levels, there is a lack of women,” says Olga Grygier-Siddons, chief executive of PwC in Central and Eastern Europe. “When I entered PwC I changed positions every three years. In 1998 I became a partner and for me it was a huge thing and for the first time I realised there were only a few women. Then the biggest challenges came when I had my children. When my daughter was born I was going through my admission process to the partnership and it was quite difficult to manage,” she adds.

Once in a managerial role, it is hard to balance work and personal life. And employers look more for men willing to travel twice per month and work in the weekend.

“Maternal leave can kill careers,” Edina Heal, country manager of Google Hungary, tells Emerging Europe. “Men put more effort in their jobs because they have a wife and children waiting at home. And women are pushing them to work more as well, because they would earn more and help the family achieve a higher standard of living. Things are changing in Hungary, at least in big cities where women are more educated. More often we see fathers playing with their kids in playgrounds or picking them up from school.”

“Luckily, there is a growing awareness that governments and companies can no longer afford to ignore both the economic and leadership potential of women if they want to prosper,” says Ms Manolova. “In this sense providing equal opportunities for the career development of both genders is not only ‘politically correct’ but also economically beneficial. Numerous statistics show that more women in senior positions mean better business performance. But when applying for work, men are more likely to get a managerial position. Quotas could help to give an initial boost for a change in this respect.”

“Also, CEOs are beginning to realise that with technology being much more prominent, the skills they are looking for — adaptability, problem-solving, leadership, emotional type intelligence — are more related to women,” adds Ms Grygier-Siddons.


In her books, Hillary Clinton talks about young men and women who she has hired and promoted over the years.

“Much of the time, this is how it went. ME: I’d like you to take a bigger role. YOUNG MAN: I’m thrilled. I’ll do a great job. I won’t let you down. YOUNG WOMAN: Are you sure I’m ready? Maybe in a year? These reactions aren’t innate. Men aren’t naturally more confident than women. We tell them to believe in themselves, and we tell women to doubt themselves,” she argues.

And society doesn’t help.

“In our culture, everything belongs to men, and women cannot own anything. When I got divorced and I wanted to start a business, I asked a bank for a loan and they didn’t give it to me because I didn’t have a husband who would guarantee the loan,” Ms Zambakhidze says.

According to Renáta Tamási, CEO and a co-founder of Samebug, an IT company based in Budapest, role-models are what we need, as women tend to have lower self-esteem than men. “It is good to find role-models who are in the same stage of life as you, so you can relate more, because you feel they understand what you are going through. Women need to find their equals,” she explains.

“Women must be aspirational, apply for jobs, attend more dinners, networking and business trips. There are many initiatives aiming to help women find strength in each other, like female networks and seminars where they can meet and share their experiences,” says Google’s Mrs Heal. “At Google we organise ‘unconscious bios’ training sessions. We work on prejudices in order to eradicate them. American companies are really keen on that, if all companies would do that, there would be no gender gaps.”

But networking might be challenging for women, especially those who are mothers. Environments dominated by men can be another obstacle.

“It is very difficult to attend a networking event if you are the only woman in the room joining groups of men who are talking about football and car racing. We must encourage women to take part in more events,” PwCs Ms Grygier-Siddons tells Emerging Europe.

Taking the Lead

“What I keep highlighting to executives and people who have an aspiration to make an international career later: a successful career is made up of 10 per cent performance, 30 per cent positive image and 60 per cent visibility. And in brand and visibility men are much better equipped as they naturally form networks. When I am the only woman attending a conference panel or sitting at a board meeting somewhere in Central and Eastern Europe I always think: ‘I am not the only one, I am the first one,” says Eszter Szabó, founder and former regional leader of the GE Women’s Network. She is also a member of the Krynica Economic Forum’s council and co-chair of the Hungarian Female Leadership Roundtable focusing on women’s participation in the business decision making.

“I’m not sure what we call feminism now — I’ve lost count of which wave we’re in. But there’s a lot that feels new,” the first female candidate to try and make it to the White House writes in her book. “While we’re defining things, let’s take a moment for feminism: ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’. Not domination. Not oppression. Equality. Or as the English writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft put it 225 years ago, ‘I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves,’” Mrs Clinton adds.

And even though there is still a lot to be done, there are excellent examples of women in emerging Europe, who have taken over that power. And by the end of 2018 there could be more. In its Outrageous Predictions for 2018, Saxo Bank claims that things will change and change fast in 2018, as more and more females get to lead the world’s biggest companies. The bank claims that 60 Fortune 500 outfits will be run by women by end of year: “The revolution will be sparked not by a desire to right an historical wrong but rather, by an incontestable economic imperative.”

Women, to Tractors!


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Euroscepticism in Serbia: An Image Problem?

Growth Continues for State-Owned Azerbaijan Airlines

Azerbaijan Baku - September 16 2015: View of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport sign in Baku Azerbaijan. The airport is the home of Azerbaijan Airlines the national flag carrier.

Poland’s New PM Defends Attacks on Justice System

warsaw supreme court

Romania Can Still Provide Stability Within the EU

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - 05 February 2017: More than 240,000 protesters in Victory Square (Piata Victoriei). "Torches" moment. At 09:00PM Romanian protesters shone torches on their phones.

Putin Urges Belarus to End Oil Transit Through Lithuania

Athens Greece - May 27 2016: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers

Bulgaria Ski Resort Plans Concern WWF

Bansko, Bulgaria - December, 6, 2015: Two Bansko cable car cabins and snow mountains peaks

Romania Warned Again by European Council Over Budget Deficit

romania finance ministry

After Economic Shocks Armenia Plans for Macroeconomic Stability

yerevan armenia minister of finance

GSA Names Ukraine as UK’s Offshoring Destination of the Year

map of ukraine emerging europe

Ukraine’s Q2 Growth Climbs

kyiv ukraine emerging europe

Non-Financial Reporting No Longer a Secondary Consideration in CEE

CEE Emigrants Could Boost Their Countries’ Economies

Londoners walking through Millennium Bridge with St.Paul's Cathedral at the background after sunset - London, UK

Romanian Cabinet Reshuffled as New Splits Emerge in Ruling Party

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 25 2014: The Victoria Palace. Victoria Square.

Romanian Competition Council Approves OTP Purchase of Banca Romaneasca

BUDAPEST HUNGARY - JUNE 22 2014: People walk by OTP Bank in Budapest. OTP is the biggest commercial Hungarian bank with 1500 branches in 9 countries.

Emerging Europe Internet Speeds: Could Do Better

3d rendering internet speed meter close up

Czechs Hold Emerging Europe’s Most Powerful Passport

World Bank: Western Balkans Need to Speed Up Growth For Faster Convergence

world bank

Poland Set for New Expressways, But Problems on the Roads Remain

poland roads

Ukraine’s Economic Recovery: Good, But Slow

ukraine money

CEE Must Improve Infrastructure and Logistics

Aerial view of Gliwice Sosnica motorway junction. There are international traffic in four directions

Growth Increase Offers Glimmer of Hope for Moldova


Lech Wałęsa: Hard Options Can Force Nations to Get Down to Work

Young Georgians Make Their Mark at Emerging Europe-EBRD Event

maximilien lambertson at emergeing ebrd outlook on georgia

New Start-Up and Innovation Report Names Estonia and Slovenia as Market Leaders

Tallin, Estonia - July 06,2017: Scenic view of the modern part of the city of Tallin, Estonia

Ukraine’s Finance Ministry Wants Urgent Tax Reform

Georgia Leads Emerging Europe in Ease of Doing Business Report

A Risky Evaluation of Croatia’s Economy?

ZAGREB, CROATIA - JULY 17, 2017: Square Ban Josip Jelacic with tourists and trams on a summer day in Zagreb. City of Zagreb is the capital of Croatia.

Efficient Innovation: Entrepreneurship in Bulgaria

Beautiful photos of modern buildings under blue sky. Europe, Bulgaria, Sofia.

Slovakia: Growth Continues But Problems Remain

Emerging Europe to Record Positive Growth Across the Board in 2018

coins growth

Poland’s Business Constitution Must Be Finalised

Front of finance ministry in Warsaw Poland with a fountain framing the entrance. Could be used for images about Euro currency problems

Bucharest’s Stock Exchange Reports Growth; Eyes Emerging Market Status

bucharest stock exchange

Chickens Blamed for Romanian Budget Deficit

Two white chickens or hens inside a chicken coop or hen house seen through chicken wire.

Moody’s: CEE Creditworthiness Holding Up

Man's hand holding pen and checking spreadsheet

Chinese Electric Car Maker Seeks Emerging Europe Base

zhi dou d2

Bulgaria’s Bitcoin Mystery

bitcoin bulgaria

China Agrees to Build High-Tech Business Park in Serbia

BELGRADE SERBIA - SEPTEMBER 29 2016: View on the city center and the junction of Rivers Sava and Danube in Belgrade Serbia.

Fitch And the World Bank: Economic Growth To Remain Solid Within CEE In 2016

GE Inaugurates Its New Bucharest Software Centre

Asian Outsource Developer Team Sitting At Desk Working Laptop Computer Mobile Application Software Real Office

Georgia’s Great Potential

The highland agriculture lands in Gudauri with the herd of sheep grazing here Georgia.

EY: Belarus’ IT Scene Is Thriving

High tech park minsk

Hungary’s Solar Dreamer

hand sun and blue sky with copyspace showing freedom or solar power concept

Changes Are Making Ukrainian Banking More Aligned with International Standards

Bulgarian Capital Pulls Above Its Weight


Retail Rents Rise Across Emerging Europe

Na Prikope Prague

EU Commissioner Launches Veiled Attack on Poland and Hungary

eu commission

Estonia Leads Baltics in Cutting Sugar in Food and Drink

Does the Sceptre of Separatism Haunt Emerging Europe?

Szekely Land Flag

Albania’s Construction Sector Supports the Country’s Growth

SARANDA, ALBANIA - MAY 18: View of the city Saranda, most important tourist attraction of the Albanian Riviera on May 18, 2017 in Saranda, Albania.

Emerging Europe Key to China’s Belt & Road Plans

freight, ship, trade

Ex-Banker to Become Poland’s Next Prime Minister

Larisa Manastirli: Where is Bulgaria After Ten Years in the EU?

Wizz Air in Huge Polish & Ukrainian Expansion

wizz air a320

Romanian Transport Infrastructure Failures Pile Up

Cernavoda Romania - June 20 2012: Construction works at the A2 highway connecting Romania's capital Bucharest to Constanta.

Budapest’s Property Boom Goes Nationwide


Romanians Take to the Streets in New Mass Protest

New Political Crisis Hits Moldova


Poland Is Set To Become a Large Economic Zone

Aerial view over the building materials processing factory. View from above.

Warsaw Back on Top in Polish Banking

WARSAW, POLAND - MAY 07, 2016: Building Palace of Culture and Science among the modern buildings of the city

Warsaw Rising: The Polish Capital’s Skyline Gets Even Taller


Still Potential for Growth in CEE as Economies Stabilise

Ask for Georgian Campaign Set to Expand Abroad

Traditional Georgian carpet. Carpets with typical geometrical patterns are among the most famous products of Georgia.

Poles Still Keen on German Jobs

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in Germany. The Brandenburg Gate is a triumphal arch a city gate in the center of Berlin. It is one of the most known sites in Berlin.

The Peculiar Growth of Poland

KRAKOW POLAND - JUNE 2017: logo of Galeria Krakowska shopping center.

Slovenia: An Optimistic, Export-Led Economy with First-World Problems

Big cranes in port of Koper in Slovenia

e-Estonia: Believe the Hype

Ukraine Is Offering Europe Unique Combat and Technological Experience

Romanian Opposition Unites Against ‘Crime Syndicate’ Government

Georgia’s Sweetest Export Targets EU & Japan Expansion

Kiwi fruits growing on the branch on autumn

Investors Eye Opportunities in Emerging European Infrastructure


Bulgaria Eyes Azerbaijani Gas Deal

Yellow gas pipes in natural gas treatment plant in bright sunny summer day

SEE Link — Sharing SEE Europe’s Hopes for a Brighter Investment Future

IMF: Institutions Key to Sustainable Growth


Estonia: Europe’s Little Technological Giant

China Eyes Moldovan Trade Agreement

CRICOVA MOLDOVA July 24 2017 :Underground wine cellar with collection of bottles in niches. Winery with 120 km of underground passages for wine storage

Romanian National Bank Hikes Interest Rates

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 25 2014: The National Bank of Romania (BNR) building palace designed by Albert Galleron and Cassien Bernard.

NATO Opens New Moldova Office

NATO Moldova

Meghri Becomes Armenia’s Third FEZ

armenia emerging europe

Slovenia Sets Green Vehicle Deadline of 2030


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