Russia has largest share of female top managers

Empty Boardroom

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – June 20, 2014) In Soviet times you knew when something was about to be fixed when the ladies with the white scarves on the heads turned up with their toolboxes and buckets.

One of the real successes of communism was to elevate the role of women in the work place. It was one of Marx’s key ideas: women are equal to men, at least as far as the economy was concerned.

Russia missed out on the sexual revolution of the 60s that saw the birth of feminism in the west and today Russian society remains deeply conservative and patriarchal: for many Russian women getting married remains, at least in part, a career option.

However, when it comes to business Russian women face fewer obstacles and prejudices than their western peers: Soviet women were seen as more reliable, diligent and hard working than their drunken male counter parts which is why so many Soviet banks were run by women.

A central idea for Karl Marx was private ownership of land meant the de facto enslavement of workers who must work for a landowner to earn a living. Marx’s colleague Frederic Engels extended the idea to argue that a woman’s subordination is not a result of her biology, but of social relations formed by this set up, and that men’s efforts to achieve their demands for control of women’s labour and sexual favours have gradually become institutionalized in the nuclear family and are not axiomatic. Consequently a sub-theme to their “revolution for the masses” ideas was equality for women, which lead to communist ideas of free love and collective child rearing, among other things.

That legacy has been held over to today. Russia has the largest share of top female managers (43%) in Europe Ð at least twice as many as the rest of western Europe — according to a survey from Grant Thornton International Business report for 2014.

Women in the work place are also enjoying a demographic advantage bequeathed to them by the pain of the 1990s: as men typically died in their late 50s following the collapse of the Soviet Union whereas women lived into their early 70s today Russian women outnumber men 6:5.

The relevance of the Soviet past is also seen in other central and eastern European countries, most of which beat their western peers when it comes to entrusting women with top jobs: Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia (39%), Georgia and Armenia (35%) and Poland (34%).

Ironically the countries were sexual equity as a principle is most well developed also have some of the lowest shares of women in top roles.

Surprisingly European businesses are amongst the least likely to have women in senior positions with 71% of senior teams in Denmark having no women at all, 67% in Germany and 64% in Switzerland. The liberal Netherlands also fared poorly with just 10% of businesses having women in top positions, reports RT.

In North America things are not significantly different, with the United States at 23% and Canada at 22%, and neither country seeing an increase in the number of women in top positions over the past decade.

Very bottom of the ranking is Japan where only 9% of women have top jobs.