Plan to boost gender equality set to go before cabinet

Photo: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The cabinet is this week due to discuss legislation aimed at increasing equality for Czech women, who make up the majority of university graduates but are far less visible in the highest echelons of business and politics. The new plan envisages a gradual approach to increasing female representation.

Photo: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Czech Republic is not among Europe’s more progressive states when it comes to gender equality.

Sixty-one percent of the country’s university graduates are female. However, only 10 percent of directors of state-owned firms are women, and they account for only three places in the 17-member cabinet.

Ministers are expected to discuss on Wednesday a plan aimed at increasing top-level female representation at government departments and state majority owned enterprises.

The proposals have been submitted by the minister for legislation and human rights, Jiří Dienstbier, and envisage women eventually holding two-fifths of senior positions at such institutions. He explained his reasoning to Czech Television.

Jiří Dienstbier, photo: Filip Jandourek
“If we don’t allow everybody – men and women – to become involved and build their professional careers on an equal footing, then together we are going to miss out on both economic and social potential.”

The plan envisages a gradual approach to boosting female representation at senior levels.

Dubbed “+1”, it wants to see one woman added to boards and the highest echelons of ministries every year until the figure of at least 40 percent is reached.

The proposal also includes greater gender equality on selection panels for top posts and a guarantee of 40 percent of spots for women on candidate lists in elections.

While some cabinet members may be cool on the bill, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová-Tominová supports it. She was a spokeswoman for the NGO Gender Studies for seven years.

“I believe that the state should lead by example. This is a system in which preference can be shown to one gender, women, only in the case when candidates will have comparable qualifications and experience.”

Michaela Marksová-Tominová, photo: Filip Jandourek
But the social affairs minister points out previous attempts at improving women’s lot via legislation have not always proven successful.

“There is a real cultural debt here. Because even now there is an anti-discrimination law in place. For many years such differences have been outlawed in our country. But from what I’ve seen, such cases have only very rarely come to court. My impression is that judges aren’t at all capable of dealing with this area.”