Empowering women to enter the job market and to assume executive positions is the key to unlocking their economic potential

The approaching 70thanniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, officially adopted on 10thDecember 1948 after unprecedented atrocities inflicted by World War II, makes me think about how the modern living conditions of societies nowadays challenge the state of Human Rights, making further improvements necessary. In fact, globalization has transformed many into a class of neglected, forgotten and voiceless people, who cannot take action to protect their rights mostly because of their social status. Illustrative examples are women in the labor market, and direct and indirect constraints they are facing when trying to build a career.Therefore, I believe that fighting inequalities in the labor market, which is considered a significant component in contributing to a more advantaged position of women in many other aspects of society,should be crucial.

Irrespective of its level of development, no society can call itself immune to discrimination by shaping circumstances for self-realization of individuals belonging to various groups based on their gender, age, sex, political opinion, ethnic background, religious conviction, marital status, or other. Being very young the first time I was employed, I was faced with a lot of prejudices in the form of underestimation based on my age and potentially gender. At the time, I was already aware that I am a responsible person and am capable of handling various tasks, so I didn’t let it discourage me, on the contrary, provoked by unfairness and unequal treatment, I was giving my best to prove that such behavior was completely unfounded. I was successful in my small mission, but it’s only an isolated case. The real change and strengthening of the role of women cannot be created as a consequence of isolated cases, but requires a greater level of awareness, solidarity between women and men, and united actions.

In general, women’s decisions to actively participate in the labor market and especially to engage in the public sphere are influenced by numerous demotivating factors. Pregnancy and maternity discrimination take various shapes, e.g. a woman being dismissed or refused a promotion, is not a marginal example as there are plenty of similar scenarios in the private as well as the public sector. Even in the absence of its overt version, the indirect discrimination is frequently present, creating dissimilar conditions for the fulfillment of rights and freedoms men and women should be equally endowed with. Instruments used to create subtle barriers are no less real for being harder to detect. These acts and practices can appear fair in form, but are unequal in impact. An example of this could be companies’ efforts to inspire more womento take leadingpositionsby encouraging themto have greater levels of commitment, aspirations, to work harder and be prepared toaccept more responsibility, all the while actually ignoring the need to question promotion prerequisiteson the basis of obligations usually assigned to women. Therefore, the problematic nature of proving indirect discrimination necessitates a discussion on the common types of conditions and requirements that indirectly discriminate against women, and, therefore, concrete actions characterized by solidarity.

What are the practical results in the Western Balkan context? There is a huge gap between proclaimed principles and concrete practice. Althoughthere is good gender parity in the regionwhen it comes to education,this does not translate into a similar situation for the labour market or in terms of entrepreneurship.The barriers and disincentives to work that women face are multiple,but I would especially highlight the impact of the time spent carrying out unpaid labourin the form of child-rearing and adult care, as well as attitudes and social norms that keep women out of jobs. Anotherimportant indicator, is that women areoften informally employed, and in general earn less. The wage gap and gender discrimination is seen as more pronounced in the private sector. This has had the effect of placing women in low paying jobs that lack stability and advancement by promotion.Therefore, instead of rewarding women for their role in the creation and rearing of future society, women are chronically underrepresented in virtually all facets of public life.

A solution to that would beto devise proposals for compensating career time loss on maternity leave, or to institute child care arrangements, or even to explore other ways of making management a more attractive positionfor them. That’s why we further need inclusion and representation of women in more elected offices and businesses in order to bring a special type of sensitivity towards women’s needs in policymaking, and to contribute to awareness-raising in the region in general.Addressing these challenges and allowing for a better work-life balance for women is crucial to unlocking their economic potential. The Western Balkan countries could work on a policy together so that women can have a shot at entering the job market and the business sector. Consequently, we as emerging economies, in that way would devise a progressive treatment towards women, serving as a good example for the rest of world as well.

Author: Bojana Lalatović

Author: Bojana Lalatovic

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Bojana is passionate and has an inspiring knowledge in Politics and European Integration processes. Currently, she is working as a Trainee in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Montenegro, Operational Communication Center in Podgorica. While previously she has worked in the NGO sector working in the area of EU integration and raising awareness for EU process and perspective for the Balkan region what is more she has also volunteered for the Red Cross Offices in Niksic.  

She has finished her BA in Political Science from the University of Montenegro in Podgorica and holds a Master’s Degree of Law in European Integration from the University of Belgrade in Serbia.  

Bojana has participated in the ERASMUS + mobility programme at the University Roma Tre, Rome in Italy. She speaks four languages, Montenegrin/Serbian, English, Russian and Italian.  

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