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Polish women are among the most entrepreneurial in the EU. However, there are still too few of them on company boards and supervisory boards

CAREERSPolish women are among the most entrepreneurial in the EU. However, there are still too few of them on company boards and supervisory boards

“Poland is a country that ranks highly in terms of the share and number of women who own small businesses. But, the bigger the company, the fewer women there are. So, one could say that women in Poland are entrepreneurial as long as it depends on them,” says economist Henryka Bochniarz, Chairwoman of the Main Council of the Confederation of Leviathan. Statistics show that despite efforts to increase gender diversity in business, women remain a distinct minority in corporate leadership. This is the result of many enduring societal stereotypes, compounded by economic and psychological barriers. There are also industries still considered typically male, in which women’s participation is rare.

“The participation of women in governing and supervisory bodies in business varies from country to country. It’s safe to say that Poland is lagging behind in this respect. In countries that have implemented various measures that have significantly increased this participation, they could now essentially do away with these tools. However, we still have a long way to go to reach what we might call gender parity, or at least a 30% share for women,” Bochniarz tells Newseria Biznes agency.

Despite efforts to increase gender diversity in business, women remain a clear minority on boards and supervisory boards of companies, and the pace of change is disappointingly slow. Data from the 30% Club Poland shows that by the end of 2023, women’s participation on these bodies in the 140 largest companies listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange was 18%. That’s only 0.8 percentage points more than in 2022.

Bochniarz continues, “There are various reasons for this low rate, and it’s hard to pinpoint one. On one hand, women face traditional roles which make the choice between career and family life difficult, as domestic responsibilities usually fall on them. Until there are more daycare centres and schools, which would give them the opportunity to return to work with the assurance that their children are well taken care of, this will be hard to change. It’s a long process.”

The lack of women representation on boards is due to barriers and prejudices that they encounter early on in their professional paths, during the recruitment stage. Later, as women advance in their careers and improve their qualifications, the system does not account for the breaks made due to childbirth and child-rearing. This leads to a lack of enough qualified female candidates for leadership positions.

“Poland is a country that is near the top of the world in terms of the share and number of women who own small businesses. But then, the bigger the company, the fewer women there are,” observes the Chairwoman of the Main Council of the Confederation of Leviathan. “It’s clear that this is where elements related to men defining the role of women come into play, because they are usually the ones sitting on boards and choosing members of the management or owning companies and choosing supervisory boards. So you could say that women in Poland are entrepreneurial as long as it depends on them.”

Irrespective of the sector or industry, women in Poland face the challenge of breaking societal stereotypes and societal expectations to climb the corporate ladder and fill leadership roles. With continued efforts and changing societal attitudes, it is hoped that there will be a larger representation of women in business leadership roles in the future.

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