International Women’s Day — Let’s Take Action And Then Celebrate


Until about a quarter of a century ago, in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which is my part of the world, every year on 8 March, female employees received flowers from the state-run trade unions. Sometimes they got a single carnation, sometimes a potted flowering plant — perhaps it was dependent on the country— but on that exact early March morning the flower was a wonderful promise of the coming spring, as well as the only token of our then-celebration of femininity. Apart from that single gesture, gender equal opportunities were never a topic of debate, although women were a huge part of the workforce behind the Iron Curtain. 

The approaching International Women’s Day has made me wonder how women and men keep the topic of equality, or equal opportunities on the agenda, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, in 2016. At the beginning of March, I checked Twitter and scanned the buzz for equality, diversity and equal pay.

According to Forbes, women account for ten per cent of the #ForbesBillionaires list in 2016, down from 11 per cent last year. Australian United Voice Victoria posted a tweet saying that male dog-groomers make more per hour than women who are dedicated child carers. The Independent informs us that the millionaire gender pay gap is widening with 14 times more men than women earning seven figure salaries. The US Labour Department says that, on average, women who are working full time earn about 79 per cent of what men earn and added #Oscar and #EqualPay hashtags. While we are on the subject of the Oscars; the Washington Post claims that the celebrities on stage addressed diversity issues because of #OscarSoWhite every five minutes.

It’s good that we talk about it and all the well-intended initiatives that tackle the topic are worth emphasising and disseminating. Twitter highlighted #PledgeForParity, a joint global initiative sponsored by #EY and eight other institutions that include #EBRD and #MetLife. They invited everyone to celebrate International Women’s Day (#IWD2016) and to take action, as there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Their website pointed out that in 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take “until 2095 to achieve global gender parity”. One year later, in 2015, “they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.”

The gender equality pay gap is an evergreen subject. When we look at the situation in Central and Eastern Europe, Slovenia, with only 2.5 per cent, is not only the region’s leader, but the continent’s. According to the European Union’s Gender Pay Gap Index of 2012, the gender equality gap in Poland and Romania is less than 10 per cent. Estonia (at 30 per cent), the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia are far above the EU average of 16.4 per cent, as are Germany, Spain, Finland, Austria and the UK. There is a debate about whether the pay-gap even exists. One thing is sure, the statistics may be slightly inaccurate; Poland’s national sources, for example, report different numbers.

We need to appreciate all the initiatives that help narrow the gender equality gap, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, which, in my view is an innovation hub. For example, there is the local social innovation, #geworkingparents, a Hungarian grassroots volunteer organisation, incubated by the GE Women’s Network East Central Region, which helps men and women have both a career at big companies and a family.

Today, women still get flowers on 8 March, even though the political system in the CEE region changed in the early 1990s. They are no longer gifts from the state-run trade unions but come from a male colleague representing the union, the works council or the employer. As we say, old habits die hard. From that point of view, it seems like nothing has changed, but it has.

Today’s women, that’s roughly half of the population of 130 million living in Central and Eastern Europe,  can be part of the local and global debate and can initiate actions to drive change. This much needed cultural change starts with awareness, with well-structured dialogues between men and women and is followed by action. It is no longer acceptable to simply point to it being someone else’s responsibility or fate, as we live in free countries. If we remain on the side-lines, we will be doomed to suffer the consequences.


On 10 March, 2016, #geworkingparents are organising another best practice sharing conference for several companies in Budapest. You may want to check it out on Twitter.


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

January Kicks Off an Exciting Year for Emerging Europe

Hungary and Israel: the Collision of Past and Present

Budapest synagoge

A Bosnian Referendum Shows Russia’s Influence in the Balkans—As Well As Its Limits

The Voice of European Business Must Be Heard Loud and Clear by Brexit Negotiators

Bulgaria Needs a Reform-Oriented Government to Take Full Advantage of its EU Membership

bulgaria emerging europe

Are There Differences Between How Tax Regulations in Poland and IAS Treat Intangible Assets?

Impact of Brexit on EU-CEE Not Overstated

theresa may brexit

United or Divided? Europe in the Face of the Challenges of Tomorrow

The EU’s Choice: Fundamental Reform Or Disintegration

Romania Surviving the Waves of Recent Political Tsunamis in Europe

Falling into Old Ways in 2017? Ukraine’s Struggle for Functioning Economic Institutions

Measuring Growth of Societies with GDP Alone Shows an Incomplete Picture

Czech Republic Renaming Has Real Economic Costs

Prepare for a New Europe

CEE-Benefits and Disadvantages of Joining the Eurozone

forint zloty euro

EU Visa-Liberalisation Strengthens Georgia’s Pro-Western Path

georgia emerging europe eu

EU-CEE Is Still Growing at a Healthy Rate

Prague emerging europe

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

How Will Trump’s Visit Affect Polish Politics?

Donald trump

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

When Neutrality Isn’t an Option

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

Swimpassing Dniester Without Prejudice To Democracy

Parliament of the republic of moldova in chisinau, national flag, stefan cel mare street, spring time with blue sky

The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?

Europe Needs To Be More Proactive In Embracing Armenia

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

Stuck in Neutral: Georgia’s Constitutional Reforms

Tbilisi Parliament Georgia

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Moves from Frozen to Kinetic


How Will Poland Approach the Brexit Negotiations?

Political Tensions Rise As Croatia Allegedly Breaks the Dublin III Refugee Regulation

croatia migrants

Is there any prospect of ‘Polexit’?

poland european union polexit

Could the West At Least Help Ukraine To Insure FDI Against Political Risks?

Only a United Opposition Can Defeat Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party

Classical building of Polish parliament. Warsaw in Poland.

Poland’s Unicorn, Slovakia’s Flying Car and the Future of Europe

Big Fish, Small Fish, Where to Fish? On the Eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

Resignation in Ukraine: War, Revolution, Crisis — Some Things Never Change

Where’s My Cheese? – The GREAT British Food Tour 2014

Cheese Shop

LGBT in CEE — A New Acceptance Is Being Born From Migration

Regional Relations in the Western Balkans: Moving Beyond Folklore

Bosnia and Herzegovina flag with Serbia flag, 3D rendering

Adam Smith’s Warning for Poland

Brexit: Let’s Learn the Lesson and Hope a Better Europe Will Arise

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

Poland’s Confusing GDP Growth

China: A Giant That Is Hard to Crack

PiS Uses Media Control to Bring Poland to Heel

Jaroslaw kaczynski pis emerging europe

Poland: Is it Ready, and is it Time to Adopt the Euro?

Examining How a Strong Swiss Franc Could Single-Handedly Topple Poland’s Economy

Why Hungary’s New NGO Law Is Harmful for Business

Budapest, Hungary. Aerial view of the old city Budapest, Hungary with river and Parliament Building with cloudy blue sky

The CEE Region Is Making Advances in Prioritising Waste-to-Energy Projects

History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

The Long Tail of Global Expansion

Macedonia’s Controversial Coalition Government

SKOPJE MACEDONIA emerging europe

Central and Eastern European Consumers Are Joining the Global Trends for Change

Poland’s Capital Saturation Lower Than the Czech Republic’s

deloitte fdi poland

Is the Level of Foreign Ownership a Problem in Emerging Europe?

Flags of European countries flying from their capital cities. Viewed from the South.

Poland Challenges the European Identity

Poland emerging europe

Will a Two-speed European Union Side-line the Visegrad Four?

Breaking With Imitations of the Past

Partnership is the Key to CEE-Indian Business

A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

E-lifestyle and Cyber Security: Some Views From Estonia

Cyber Security Protection Firewall Interface Concept

The Right to Water: Who Can Change Today’s Situation?

The Capital Markets Union: a New Beginning in the European Financial Sector?

Poland Needs to Cling to the Eurozone

zloty euro emerging europe

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

Global Expansion in the Digital Age

After Its Significant Rise the Georgian Economy May Now Fall

Panorama of Tbilisi, Georgia in sunset rays. Vivid, saturated, splittoned image.

Good Match But Unlikely Marriage

Azerbaijan: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Nothing


Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

Albania’s Election Apathy

tirana albania

Slovenia’s Presidential Election: Pahor Expected to Romp Home

Slovenia flag against blue sky waving in wind

Is the CEE Region About to Steal the Outsourcing Crown From India?

Amazing view on the Taj Mahal in sunset light with reflection in water. The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river. Agra Uttar Pradesh India.

Moldova Falls Victim to Politicising

moldova emerging europe

The Morawiecki Plan Promises a Brighter Future for Poland

Defending EU Values in Poland and Hungary

Eu hungary poland

How strong is V4?

Viktor Orban

After 25 Years of Restructuring, the Romanian Power Sector Is at a Crossroad

Poland’s Drift Away From Democracy

CEE — Do We Need a Launch Pad For Our On-Site Tech Intelligence in the Silicon Valley

Business Moving Forward with Cautious Optimism — Can Investors Win the Confidence Game?

Belarusian Journalists Still Face Huge Problems

Fiscal Policy Predictability in CEE — It’s Time for Change

Ukraine’s Reputation for Cheap Labour May Not Ring True in the Long-term

The Netherlands’ Objection to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement could be Costly to Europe

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

Will the New Five-day Visa-free Regime Encourage More Visitors to Belarus?

We, the Post-Communist Generation, Have the Skills to Rid of the Past And Create Our Own Future

Emphasising the Incongruence Between the V4 Countries

Macron emerging europe

Serbia’s New PM Is Cut From a Familiar Cloth

Serbian flag emerging europe

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

2018 Elections — Vital Decisions for Hungary’s Future

Victor Orban energing europe

Polish Tax Laws — Fighting a Winning Battle Against Tax Evaders

The Sharing Economy Could Bring New Business Models to CEE

Czech Own Currency Insures Against Euro Losses

Euro Czech republic emerging europe

Can Armenia Keep a Foot in Both Camps?

European union armenia russia emerging europe

Ex-Transition Economies’ FDI Recovery

dollar euro fdi

Under Promise, Over Deliver: Prospects for the EU’s Eastern Partnership in 2018

Eastern partnership

Hungary’s Nationalist Assault on Free Enquiry

victor orban ceu

Will Poland Leave the European Union?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *