I came across an interesting suggestion in an article I read this week about the extent to which women are included among the directors of enterprises of various sorts, in countries around the world.
The study was made by a group called Grant Thornton International, a sort of consortium of companies engaged in advocacy towards government (as I understood it. I hope I have got that right).
They conducted more than 5500 interviews in 36 national economies, as to how many women are CEOs, financial, human resources or marketing chiefs in their companies, and the surprise was that Russia came out at the top, far ahead of all other countries.
Even more surprising was the reason given by this supremely capitalist investigators: they attributed this result to the long experience of Communism, with its practice of prioritizing equality principles, its high levels of education for women, and its customary provision of family programmes for women workers.
That this was not a freak result is indicated by the fact that Russia heads the table with 45 per cent of senior roles in business held by women, followed by Lithuania (and the Phillippines, indicating that south-east Asia is also strong in this regard) with 39 per cent, Georgia 38 per cent, Estonia, Poland and Thailand on 37 per cent, Indonesia 36 per cent, Latvia 35 per cent and Mainland China 30 per cent, with the G7 countries well behind at an average 22 per cent, with Italy, France and Canada ahead of Germany which has only 15 per cent of women executives. Since we have been conditioned to think of German and American business to be the most efficient in the world, it is of interest that the global average for women in senior positions is 24 per cent, but 33 per cent of the contacted companies had no women in senior positions, and thus the report says the UK. U.S. and India alone are foregoing as much as $655 billion in profits.
To read this praise for something done in Communist countries --- customarily completely damned as the world’s most inefficient economies --- is so amazing that I feel I should quote the actual words of the report: “Eastern Europe owes some of its continued women-in-business success to the legacy of Communist principles on equality. The maxim that men and women are equal partners seems to have sparked a trend within the business world that shows little sign of diminishing. When interviewed by the Guardian newspaper about life in
Poland, Maya Mortensen, a woman who grew up under Communist rule in the 1950s and 60s, commented: ‘The regime made absolutely no distinction between men and women. I never even thought about the division – all advance in society was open to men and women equally.’ A social norm seems to have been created in Eastern Europe under communism, where younger women do not question whether or not they could lead in the future and women in leadership are not seen as a rarity or unconventional. In addition, in Eastern Europe it was common for women to receive higher education, including in subjects such as engineering and mathematics, providing a strong basis on which to build a successful career. And there was high-quality childcare attached to most workplaces, overcoming one of the most common barriers to women’s progression in business.”
I have often wondered why, when these countries decided to abandon Communism, they all seemed to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and it is encouraging to find that some of their advances in social behaviour have lived on after them.
One of the things I hold against capitalism is that the system makes demands on those who do its work, but rarely gives them the support required if they are to perform their jobs satisfactorily. For me, the template example of the heartlessness of capitalism is that they have created a system which requires a household to have two incomes if it to get by, yet it refuses to make the social spending that would help those two workers to perform to their best ability.
The classic example is the refusal in most jurisdictions to provide publicly funded, expert day-care for the children of a couple both of whom are in the work force. I read this week that since Quebec, far ahead in this field in Canada, in 1997 introduced $5 a day subsidized day-care, the participation of women in the work force has doubled, the province’s GNP has risen dramatically, and poverty has been reduced.
Communism had this covered completely: I remember when we were making a film about a cotton factory with 6,000 workers in China in 1978, even before they could walk, all the babies were delivered to the factory’s child crèche where they were given expert, sympathetic care aided by the mothers who were given periods off to attend to their children during the working day. If they could do that in the poorest country in the world I asked myself why it was not the norm in Canada, one of the richest countries in the world. I think studies made in Quebec have shown the economic benefits gained from the child-care programme in terms of increased production, relief from poverty and the like and it will amaze me if the present provincial government will succeed in cutting the programme to the bare bones, thus jeopardizing these economic and social gains.