Croatia Falls Short as EU Demands More Women in Management Positions

Lauren Simmonds

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The EU wants to see around 40 percent of women making up positions on company management and supervisory boards by the year 2020, and Croatia falls short. According to various results, gender-balanced business has increased revenues and directly affects GDP growth, and unemployment level is also reduced in general.

As Lucija Spiljak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 21st of November, 2018, if women are successful, their countries are also successful – this was the conclusion of the conference on rights and business: The Positive Effects of Adopting a New European Regulatory That Strengthens Business and Women. The conference brought together women in managerial positions and was focused mainly on the overall importance of improving gender balance in managerial positions, how to properly lobby for this directive in state bodies and in private sectors, and the practice of good gender politics and examples of good practice throughout the territory of the EU.

Back in 2015, lawyer Tarja Krehić, along with fifty colleagues, founded the Croatian Association of Women in the Legal Profession, of which Krehić is president. She explained in detail the goals and the legal aspects of improving gender equality in management boards, backed by the statistics of the Republic of Croatia.

What motivated you to found the Croatian women’s association in the legal profession? What does that deal with?

Law associations exist in the United States, in all European Union countries, they also act as umbrella organisations which bring together lawyers, and they observe women’s empowerment trends and regulations. Since I graduated in law in the United States, I got acquainted with women’s associations in the legal professions and realised how important it is for women, for business, and for justice.

In Zagreb, I gathered together colleagues, prominent judges, attorneys, and lawyers in economics. We founded the association and today we’ve gathered together more than 400 lawyers from all sorts of legal branches, from judges and state attorneys, to corporate lawyers and lawyers in economy. We’re working on some interesting projects, and we’ll begin with an academy that will be attended by students of the Faculty of Law, in order to improve their knowledge, and also for the profession to get what it needs from young lawyers.

I believe that the quality of knowledge at law faculties and at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb could be better. Practitioners who don’t understand the practice and these new trends are on their way out. We’re also organising a professional lecture where we bring experts and lawyers who talk more in detail about all the problems of the system with which society is not very well informed.

We deal with the legal profession, in a quality, professional, modern way, and not the conservative and traditional way in which it’s being perceiving today. We also open up issues related to the EU and the effects of adopting the European regulation which empowers women in business and law.

What about the statistics on the representation of women in managerial positions in Croatia?

There’s a so-called ”glass ceiling” in the whole society and so to some extent in the legal profession. When we focus on the legal profession, more than 70 percent of lawyers are female and in the judiciary, yet we’ve never had a female president of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia, and we’ve never had a female state attorney.

The Faculty of Law in Zagreb has existed for more than 240 years, and we’ve only had two female deans. Obviously, the status of women in our profession, as well as in general business, could be improved. There are many women in business and law who want to get into leadership positions and be leaders, but have a problem with that due to fear and a lack of ambition.

Given the rather defeating results, how do we improve the status of women in business, and thus stimulate the economy, too?

At the EU level, it was determined that women are highly qualified and skilled but not sufficiently utilised in their own professions. To improve the economy and to deal with international trends on a global level, society as a whole needs to be engaged. Having a large group of highly skilled personnel that is not adequately used presents with a problem that needs to be solved.

It places this issue as the number one issue and deals with the implementation of the [EU] directive for laying down a fixed female quota for the management boards of companies, which has already been implemented by a large number of European Union countries.

There’s a law in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Austria which states that the management boards of the largest companies listed on the stock exchange must have 30-40 percent women working in them, and if they don’t, then they don’t even have an adequately functioning company. There is another set of EU countries that don’t use a quota regulation but use self-regulating measures.

Their goal is the same, and that is to have 30 or 40 percent of women on supervisory boards and within company management, not by statutory obligation, but by self-regulating measures, meaning that the business has sat down at the table and said we obviously have unbalanced management functions in terms of gender. We’ll impose those rules on ourselves. For example, the United Kingdom managed to reach up to 27 to 28 percent of women in the supervisory boards of some of the largest companies in ten years by using self-regulatory measures, and they started out with just ten percent.

What should we be focusing on, and what is the level of importance of this directive, and ultimately, what are the benefits for the country?

We need to work, act, and introduce concrete measures, which unfortunately doesn’t work in our country, neither by passing laws nor by self-regulatory measures. The statistics don’t support us. In Croatia, 21-22 percent of women work in administrations, 19 percent work on the supervisory boards of stock exchange companies, and Europe have said that by 2020, we must have between 30 and 40 percent women in such positions.

So, we don’t stand well at all and the problem is that nobody is actually dealing with this issue. We don’t advocate the application of any of these methods, but we’re insisting on the fact that it’s necessary to act on them. It’s up to the state, state bodies and the profession to decide upon the direction by which this imbalance should be resolved.

The gender-balanced business management structure has increased revenues and directly influences GDP growth, it reduces unemployment of women and unemployment in general, it improves natality and addresses pension issues as women contribute to the pension system.

Through projects like the debate on the directive, we’re doing only good for our society, the EU recognises that and we want to put Croatia on the map of those countries which are dealing with the gender-balanced business issue. We want to live in a country that is advanced financially, economically, socially, and in every other aspect, and through expert engagement on these topics, we’ll manage to arrive to this.

Although Croatia falls short in this respect at the moment, the situation appears likely to improve, likely at a far slower pace than most would want. Want to keep up with more information like this? Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.


Click here for the original article/interview by Lucija Spiljak for Poslovni Dnevnik


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