WOMEN’S CAREER FOR A LIFETIME CONFERENCE
The conference „Women’s Career for a Lifetime” was opened by Andrea Ferenczi, Chair, President of the Association for Women’s Career Development in Hungary, who thanked the National Assembly Committee on Employment and Labour for helping organize the event as part of its Open Day, which event helps improve gender equality in the labour market.
The Conference was officially opened by the greetings of László Nagy, MP, who spoke on behalf of Nándor Gúr, President of the National Assembly Committee on Employment and Labour. He emphasized: it is intolerable that the most beautiful moment in a woman’s life, having a child, is at the same time the worst moment for her career. The aim–László Nagy continued – is to let women return to the labour force after childbirth as proud mothers. A suitable working environment is also necessary for that, which has already been implemented by a few companies. The MP thanked them for their efforts.
“Women are necessary if we are to make Hungarian society successful,” began Dr Zita Gurmai, MEP, Vice Chairwoman of the Committee of Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, in a speech she gave with the title „Women in a Changing Europe”. Mainly the financial problems of those industries – the car industry, the building industry – caused the present economic crisis where mostly men work, so women have an outstanding role in cooperation and peace, she continued. Emphasizing the best practices of the Scandinavian states, Dr Zita Gurmai said that as in the Northern states, everyone is needed to make a welfare state operate, and in decision making the proportion of women should be 25% everywhere. If women are well represented, we also have to pay attention to the fact that we should not just work silently, but make ourselves visible, emphasized the MEP, which is also the main purpose of the Best Workplace for Women award. As a first step, the aim is to increase women’s representation with a 10% increase as part of the Lisbon Strategy between 2000 and 2010 , and also the higher representation of the disabled at the labour market. The voice of women politician is very weak in the media presently, while in the West women over 40 appear more on the screen, said Dr. Zita Gurmai. “Let us cooperate to make the slogan Gender Equality a reality!”, the politician said in closing.
Lynn Gardner Heffron, Founder and Chairwoman of the Diversity Spectrum Corporation (USA) found it important to emphasize at the beginning of her speech how interested some big American companies committed to gender equality, e.g. Ernst&Young and the US Coast Guard are in her Hungarian trip, whom she will inform about her experience in Budapest after she returns to the US. “It is a real global issue,” Ms. Heffron claimed. “If you want a career for a lifetime, participate in the trainings and courses offered by your company,” she advised, “it can be in several forms; e.g. mentoring or reverse mentoring (when young colleagues teach older ones).” The aim for women is to be independent of men, gradually getting rid of dependence. But for that they need courage and strength, Ms. Heffron emphasized. The President of Diversity Spectrum encouraged the audience with two examples from American history, which helped women achieve gender equality: the women’s rights movement in 1848, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the latest period with the inauguration of Barack Obama and the “Yes we can” political mantra. Ms. Heffron also talked about the fact that presently diversity and inclusion are the slogans that employers use, reflecting the fact that 45% of the income of families comes from the income of women and that 76% of American women are present in the labour market. Diversity is not only a racial issue, the diversity expert added; it influences all the characteristics of people. From the point of view of an employer this means that we should recruit and keep people with different talents and provide them with the necessary opportunities to use their talents. A diversity workplace is a workplace where everybody’s opinion counts, and the main purpose is to create an inclusive atmosphere that makes it possible for each employee to utilize their talents to the greatest extent. The two greatest problems at a workplace is the tension triggered by sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Two recent achievements in this respect have been the passing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act against the
discrimination of lower salary for women, and the fact that the Council of Women and Girls has been founded at the White House, whose duty is to draw the attention of legislators to the effects of the decisions of the Cabinet on women.
Katalin Hajós, CEO of AEGIS Media Hungary Kft. analyzed the relationship of women and the media from two aspects: representation of women in the media and their media consumption. Regarding the slew of criticism in connection with the media appearance of women, Katalin Hajós said: “We reinforce the superficial representations on TV, since we watch them,” though not to the same determining extent, since we are watching the big traditional channels less and less, and the specific cable channels more and more, Ms. Hajós commented. Preferences are different in connection with radio and the printed press: we listen to entertainment programs and we buy cheap newspapers that we throw away and almost don’t buy any daily papers at all. It is good news, though, that Internet-use by women is already 49%, and more than half of the women use it every day. We have reasons to be disappointed regarding the media representation of women, since they appear in idealized, young, traditional roles and emotional situations. We lack the presentation of performance and expertise, said the CEO of AEGIS. She concluded: “The world is colorful, our roles are colorful, we would like to see this reflected in the media as well.”
Prof. Valéria Csépe, Deputy Secretary General of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences suggested solutions whereby a woman does not necessarily have to choose between a career and motherhood. Using the metaphor of “the pipeline of a career with a hole”, Prof. Csépe pointed out the dangers that can destroy the promising career of a woman. Such danger factors can be the lack of support, motherhood, lack of career expectations, and isolation. The danger lies in the fact that while the proportion of women with a university degree is 53%, the proportion of women with a Ph.D. is only 37%, and only 13% have a doctoral degree at the Academy. Prof. Csépe said that the sources of the problem were that the conditions of research were created for men, and so were the length of getting a doctoral degree, the inflexible working hours, and the burdens of the life of a researcher. Accordingly, we must pay attention to the results of gender research, do surveys at research+development+innovation places and compare the real situation in Hungary with the EU recommendations. Prof. Csépe pointed out that her workplace, the Academy, realizing the above, started a complex program so that a career in research should attract and keep more women. The program makes flexible working hours possible for women, helps build home office systems, and has launched a special assistant program to reduce the burden of administration. Besides the improved work conditions at the Academy, she also called attention to the outstanding importance of role models. Accordingly, a series of portraits of female members of the Academy has been published, a copy of which was presented by Prof. Csépe to László Nagy, MP.
Ildikó Modláné Görgényi, Vice Director General of the National Institute of Vocational and Adult Education, talked about reforming adult education. She emphasized the fact that there are new opportunities in career planning adjusted to the different, non-traditional roles of women. In the course of the reform the purpose was to increase knowledge capacity, and to enlarge the workforce, for which new ways of learning are also necessary e.g. e-learning, non-formal and informal learning. A modular professional structure was created, based on competence, said Ildikó Modláné Görgényi, which was created according to EU directives, including our best practices. According to the modular structure everybody can see where he/she is, and in what direction he/she can develop. Bearing the interests of women in mind, one of the purposes of adult education is the realization of lifelong learning, gender equality, sustainable processes, professions based on job analysis. In the frame of the New Hungary Development Plan, the Social Reform Operation Program started nine new sub-projects, which are, among others, quality assurance, survey-evaluation, professional development of teachers and increasing the need for education, through which they aim to realize their goals.