National conference Women – the Tender Force of Business: Bulgaria is doing its homework in gender equality legislation

National conference Women – the Tender Force of Business: Bulgaria is doing its homework in gender equality legislation

The future belongs to women not only in politics, but also in business. This is the opinion of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Funds and Economic Policy Tomislav Donchev.

"Bulgaria has to do its homework, for we are the only EU country without gender equality law." This is what Ivaylo Kalfin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Policy, stated in a special video address at the national conference Women – the Tender Force of Business of Manager magazine. The conference is organized with the support of the Council of Women in Business in Bulgaria, whose members are leading managers and representatives of companies and organizations in our country.

According to Ivaylo Kalfin, it is a fact that "for one and the same job women are paid less" and "there is a lot to be improved in terms of ensuring conditions for child raising in our country".

He added that the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy had prepared a proposal for a law on gender equality and relied on the opinion of the Council of Women in Business, on Manager magazine, and on all those who want women to be treated equally and to be able to successfully balance child raising and career. In his words, except for the equal rights, another highlight in the law is the equality in remuneration for men and women.

He said further that flexible working hours and more opportunities for social services should be considered too. "Let's help women in a way that will motivate them to go back to work after childbirth and that will ensure conditions also for working women to have more children.", Minister Kalfin concluded.

"Having a balanced board of men and women is not only a matter of equality, but also a matter of business, of profit and loss. If the structure of the management board is not a reflection of society, there is no way for the company to work effectively for this society",Tsvetanka Mincheva, Director of Retail Banking Division and a member of the Management Board of UniCredit Bulbank, said. As a representative of the Council of Women in Business, she opened the conference together with the Editor-in-Chief of Manager magazine Maxim Mayer and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Funds and Economic Policy Tomislav Donchev.

"The Council of Women in Business has two main goals: we aim at supporting women in business to take new challenges for development and growth, which we do via the Leadership Academy; the second goal is the development of young people in Bulgaria, support for education and opportunities that we can give them here, in Bulgaria". She said further that over 40 women had already graduated from the first Leadership Academy of the Council of Women in Bulgaria, and that the second one was to start at the end of May. Besides, the ladies from the Leadership Academy are included in the Mentoring Programme of the Council.

"I would be very glad to be invited in this academy", Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev said and confirmed his forecast from some years ago: "The future belongs to women not only in politics, but also in business. Undoubtedly women are effective, for they have emotional intelligence, they are adaptive in comparison to the sometimes disastrous straightforwardness of men." According to him, we should talk about good practices rather than about men and women.

"Equality in companies' boards through introduction of quotas and equality in remuneration are the two main topics on which the Council of Women in Business has prepared some very particular proposals for the law." This was said by Lidiya Shuleva, Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria in the period 2001–2005 and head of the working group of the Council of Women in Business dealing with the equality law. "It should be noted that we defend the idea of equality not only of women, but also of men. That is why the quotas will apply to them too", she added. "The philosophy behind the proposals of the Council is entirely in favour of the creation of real stimuli for working parents – please note, not only for women, but for both parents, for the people who want to have children and keep working", Shuleva said.

"At present there is discrimination against the women who start work before expiry of their paid maternity leave. That is why our proposals are for elimination of this injustice and for support of the working parents", Lidiya Shuleva commented.

"The proposals sound perfectly reasonable", Minister Donchev commented. He expressed concerns that he would have difficulties in filling a male quota in the ministry.

"My personal attitude towards the topic about quotas in the boards is ambivalent. It is undoubtedly a chance for the ladies to demonstrate their abilities. It is important though that successful women at management positions be appointed to such positions as a result of genuine competition. This would even be a matter of self-confidence for the ladies, in my opinion", Tomislav Donchev thinks.

Asked what Bulgaria could do for women, he answered that "there is a deficit in how the state supports women to meet the challenges of their role in the family, in how they are helped in their responsibility, care and pleasure of being mothers". His opinion is that both the society and the state have a duty towards women. "They have to be supported in their being real women and this is not simply a matter of legislative regulations", Minister Donchev thinks. "Usually behind the successful woman there is a successful man supporting her", he said.

"The balance in the family plays an important role", Tsvetanka Mincheva agreed with him. As a member of the board of the largest Bulgarian bank and a manager in charge of a team of over 2000 people, she said that the qualities she was looking for when selecting a suitable employee were not gender-based. "I look for determination, qualities, willingness of the person to invest energy and efforts in accomplishing whatever is necessary. A person has different roles that have to played well. If that person is good at them, he/she has the chance to get recognition for his/her work and for further development", Tsvetanka Mincheva thinks.

Successful women managers of different companies in Bulgaria shared their experience with the participants in the conference. Host of the conference was Grand Hotel Sofia.

The Council of Women in Business in Bulgaria is a non-profit association for public benefit. Its members are leading managers and representatives of companies and organizations in Bulgaria. Among the goals of the Council are the spreading of good practices and programmes encouraging the professional development of women in small and medium-sized enterprises and their growth into management positions; developing and establishing professional values in civil society, education, science, culture, technologies; support for the young specialists and talents for realization of their potential in Bulgaria and support for disadvantaged youths in their education.

More information about the activity of the Council of Women in Business is available at:

www.womeninbusiness.bg

www.facebook.com/CouncilWBB