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Where are the Women CEOs?

In the approach to 2020, the European commission released a thematic factsheet entitled ‘Women in the Labour Market’, that outlined a focus on increasing women’s participation in the labour market. The headline target for 2020 was 75% of the population aged 20-64 to be employed by 2020 and a large feature of this was addressing the barriers to women in the workforce. Their study confirmed that women have a lower participation in the workplace across all EU member states, with women in employment more likely to work fewer hours, work in lower paying sectors and occupy lower ranking positions than men.

There are many different factors that account for this: women face challenges to entering the workforce at every level, but particularly those industries dominated by men. The European Gender Diversity Index is compiled annually by European Women on Boards and measures gender diversity in corporate leadership. They compile data from 18 member states in Europe. In the figures released for 2020, only 17% of women were found in executive positions and only 6% of women held the CEO title.

This is an increase from the previous year, but while it’s a small step in the right direction, it's still a very small figure given that half the workforce is female. So why aren’t there more women CEOs? I set out to try and compile some of the reasons below.

Women face an uneven playing field

At every level, be it in leadership or in entry level positions, before women even enter the workforce and girls are still in school, they face obstacles and discrimination. A large part of this has to do with society and existing norms and the way that daughters are raised versus sons. The amount of girls who choose STEM subjects in school is still significantly lower than their male counterparts and in some respects we are doing girls a disservice by not teaching them to aspire to these roles.