lthough the term Glass Ceiling appeared for the first time in a Wall Street Journal article in 1968, it has become increasingly known and used in our societies. After more than fifty years (half a century!), the term has not yet disappeared from our everyday vocabulary, but in some way its use has been intensified. Studies such as the ESADE Gender Monitor, a report on gender balance in the company -a sample of more than 500 directives, that are asked in relation to the equality policies of companies where they work. The latest edition of the report, presented last January, highlighted the increase in the number of female managers that perceived barriers in their company (especially in issues such as family conciliation and wage inequality) and made it clear that in this regard there is still a long way to go.
From various international organizations, several initiatives have been launched to promote equality, such as the HeForShe campaign, a United Nations program created in 2014 to promote female empowerment and gender equality in government, private or public sectors academics; theWomen’s Empowerment Principles, also of the United Nations that serves as a global platform to exchange opinions and create community, or Time’s Up, an organization that insists on promoting safe, fair and worthy work for all kinds of women.
These are just some examples among many other initiatives that have been gaining strength internationally. In addition, each country and region has its own campaigns to promote equality, and at the micro level, companies can adhere to international or other more state initiatives such as the EFR Certification (Family Friendly Company) awarded by the Fundación Másfamilia and recognizes best practices in organizations. Organizations such as CaixaBank or ESADE, among others, have adhered to some of them.
STAGNATION AND LEADERSHIP
The report by Grant Thornton on this matter, Women in Business, also made it clear, by the end of 2018, that female presence in managerial positions has stagnated, with little or no increase 5% since 2011. These and other data point out that companies, especially large companies, are not leading what they should do and it becomes essential to do so as soon as possible.
Some of the big companies here are putting the batteries on the subject, such as the CaixaBank case, which in the last year has launched the Wengage program, which aims to strengthen its commitment to gender diversity and equality, and which includes internal actions aimed at increasing the visibility and proportion of women in management positions, which currently exceeds 39% – one of the highest figures in the sector, taking into account that banking and finance have traditionally been sectors dominated by the masculine gender.
The Managing Director of this banking entity, Gonzalo Gortázar, pointed out that “diversity is key to attracting and developing all the talent of an organization”, specifying a milestone: “In this sense, CaixaBank has achieved its objectives of increase of women in management positions marked by the Strategic Plan 2015-2018 of the company”.
LANGUAGE AND AWARENESS
Promoting equality in the business world involves everyone, regardless of gender and professional categories. And language plays an important role, as has been evident in the last political campaigns and the new actors – political parties – that have been appeared in this field. The Women’s Institute, an autonomous body attached to the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, has as a function the promotion of the conditions that make possible the social equality of both sexes and the participation of women in the political, cultural, economic and social life, and for that reason it has placed special emphasis on this aspect of the language and has developed some practical guides on communication including recommendations for companies that are available to anyone at simple click.
In this sense, CaixaBank has also developed a guide, titled Equalitarian Communication: the challenge of interpersonal relations, a book written by the doctor and professor at the University of Barcelona, Estrella Montolío, and which, among other aspects, includes practical recommendations to prevent stereotypes from conditioning decisions and favoring equality.
CONCILIATION AND CO-RESPONSIBILITY
The reconciliation of personal and professional life – one of the parameters that according to many studies still unsolved, even though it is one of the great demands -, plays a very important role when it comes to positioning oneself professionally. This already involves all actors and for this reason, as some sources point out, “the conciliation mhas been turning towards the so-called co-responsibility” and they add: “the conciliation measures offered by companies must be offered to any person that I work in the company, regardless of personal situation”.
Companies are becoming aware of that and have created protocols of equality and conciliation –CaixaBank, for example, has one since 2007- and specific plans that include measures to reconcile. In the case of the banking entity, the plan they have since 2011 contemplates extension of permits, reduction of working hours and maternity and paternity leave, as well as the possibility of taking care of dependent persons or leave for studies or volunteering, among others.
STEM COURSES: A CRUCIAL ISSUE
Professional courses related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will be the bulk of the paid activities, as various studies point out. The need for professionals with this profile will increase in Europe by 14% by 2020, according to data from the European Center for the Development of Vocational Training. But these courses have not yet overcome the gender barriers, partly due to social stigma.
In order to reverse this situation, the creation of initiatives that encourage women’s participation in STEM courses, a concern even more ingrained at the international level, becomes mandatory, more than ever. Campaigns such as For Women in Science or the Hypatia project, funded by the European Commission with 19 partners from 15 different European countries -these include Obra Social “La Caixa” – want to create the optimum conditions for girls to be interested for this type of course.
Awards like the Wonnow STEM, promoted by Microsoft and CaixaBank, and other types of actions for the recognition of female talent, contribute to reach a moment, as soon as possible, in which this type of initiative no more can be understood as news: when all companies will be responsible for issues of gender and the glass ceiling will have cracked.