TThe same rights and salaries, the possibility of development regardless of gender, taking care of the health and needs of employees – these are just some of the questions raised during the debate on virtual Poland. What actions should companies take to win the employee or employee contest? The guests of the Polish army discussed the evolution of the labor market.
Until recently, business was a male-dominated space. Today, more and more women are leading companies. However, parity in companies does not automatically mean equal wages and the same rights. We talked about the reality of women in the labor market with our guests: Dominika Kulczyk, President of the Kulczyk Foundation and President of the Supervisory Board of Polenergia SA, Ela Bona – Diversity and Inclusion Lead at NatWest Group, Bartosz Ciołkowski, Director general for Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Mastercard Europe and Konrad Maj, PhD – social psychologist and head of the HumanTech Center at SWPS University. How did the experts assess the situation of women (not only) in business?
Inequality is not just a problem for women
It would seem that today gender equality should be a norm, but the labor market (and not only in Poland) still leaves a lot to be desired in this regard. In the European Union, women earn 15% per hour. less than men. Stereotypes related to motherhood are also still valid. – In the corporate environment, it is still women who are entrusted with parental responsibilities – despite the directive allowing men to take care leave. This shows how a flexible approach to women’s needs is needed so that they can grow at the same pace as their colleagues in the company – said Ela Bonda of NatWesta.
However, business inequality is not just a problem for women. – Unequal rights create frustration and disrupt relationships within the team. Such a situation causes divisions in the group and has a negative impact on self-esteem – employees who feel inferior automatically withdraw and do not show initiative in the company – argued psychologist Konrad Maj .
The President of the Kulczyk Foundation, in turn, drew attention to openness and honesty in relations within the team. Also in the context of menstrual health. – Are men expected to take toilet paper with them to work? As far as I know, that’s not the case. However, women are forced to go to the toilet with their own hygiene measures, which puts them under stress. To avoid this, let’s standardize the subject of menstruation. It’s nature, not a reason to be ashamed and hide – said Dominika Kulczyk, saying at the same time that the lack of pads or tampons can affect self-esteem, self-confidence and, by therefore hinder the professional development of women. Therefore, employers should make them available to employees, just as they provide the team with water, coffee, beverages or fruit.
Ela Bonda assured that the NatWest women’s toilets were equipped with boxes with the necessary hygiene products. The company gives voice to its employees and often asks about their needs – including those concerning the toilets. The issue raised in the forum is not only menstruation, but also menopause – the next stage in women’s lives, which affects many women working in business.
When an employee is… a woman. How can equality change a company?
It is (not) a man’s world. How do companies fight against gender inequalities?
Dominika Kulczyk underlined that corporate equality is possible and should be the norm in all business environments today. Adding that women are the advocates for these changes and should actively communicate their needs.
– At Mastercard, we see the need for change and we want to actively support women in their professional activity. One of our most important initiatives is equal pay for equal work, ie the systematic correction of wage inequalities. The company is not forgetting the men either – they are currently entitled to 16 weeks of paternity leave. This convenience makes it possible to reverse the roles – mothers can develop their careers, while fathers stay at home and take care of their offspring – argued Bartosz Ciołkowski.
– At the recruitment stage, we encourage women to apply for positions in our company. We lead conversations among women about the changes in our lives and how they affect the need for change at work. We practice various initiatives for women, such as a support program after returning from maternity leave, support for funding family planning and IVF, talent programs. However, first of all we try to pay attention to the social element that initiates a dialogue on the needs of women – said Ela Bonda.
Psychologist Konrad Maj believed that today such changes are of paramount importance for women when making employment decisions. An additional barrier are businesses dominated by men and not adapted to the needs and sensitivities of women. Research shows that women prefer to work in an atmosphere similar to home conditions, pay attention to relationships in the company and take care of good emotions in their environment.
How can equality change the face of business?
– In my opinion, equality is a natural state – said Dominika Kulczyk. – In the past, I thought I had to conquer this world, fight for myself, be more masculine. Today I wear pants with the feeling of being a woman one hundred percent – assured the president of the Kulczyk Foundation.
“Tie should be normal,” added Ela Bonda, representing NatWest Group. – My dream is that we don’t have to talk about her anymore.
– It is much better to work in a company that cares about the equality of all employees and is more competitive in the labor market – admitted Bartosz Ciołkowski from Mastercard.
– Equality is an opportunity for better cooperation between the sexes – added Konrad Maj, psychologist from SWPS University.
Differences in practice. What inequalities do women face at work?
Unequal pay and fewer career prospects than men are the most common issues in many companies that women pay attention to. It turns out, however, that there are a lot more obstacles to a good, satisfying job. Examples? Work clothes in the workplace are not suitable for women, especially pregnant women. The air conditioning system and the weight of the entrance door are also adapted to the anatomy of men.
However, unequal access to toilets can also be surprising. A woman’s visit to the toilet lasts on average 2.3 times longer than a man’s visit. Indeed, women have more clothes to take off and, when they have their period, they also have to change their hygiene measures. Access to clean, female-friendly toilets affects not only their psychological comfort, but also their health and safety.
However, issues that seemingly only affect women have a huge impact on how businesses operate. About half of the female population is of working age, which means that a quarter of the world’s population menstruates. The unpleasant symptoms connected with menstrual experience up to 84%. women. According to research by the Kulczyk Foundation, 17%. of women in Poland did not go to work or school for this reason, and one in ten Polish women had to quit their job for lack of a sanitary napkin. These seemingly innocuous situations can constitute a serious obstacle to the professional development of women and increase inequalities in the business environment.