Panel ponders ways to break glass ceiling for women in corporate management
Encouraging more women to take positions in corporate management was the topic at a panel discussion organised by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA) held in Helsinki on Monday.
To discuss the issue, EVA invited former Left Alliance chairwoman Suvi-Anne Siimes, Eija Ailasmaa, CEO of Sanoma Magazines, and Björn Wahlroos, CEO of Sampo Bank to ponder how to get more women into executive positions.
The issue appeared to be of considerable interest - at least for women. EVA director Risto E.J. Penttilä said that no previous EVA panel had attracted such a crowd - not even the ones in which Nokia's Jorma Ollila interviewed candidates in this year's Presidential election.
Suvi-Anne Siimes had a simple recipe: gender quotas for seats on corporate boards of directors, as has been done in Norway.
"Quotas would force companies to seek out good women, who might not otherwise be found and appointed. The next time they would be chosen on the basis of a job well done", Siimes said, provoking a response from Björn Wahlroos.
"The question is, how to get women to advance in their careers, instead of just sitting in boring board meetings. The composition of boards of directors does not interest anyone except the media, and the retired executives who are trying to get in. Instead of quotas, market forces will take care of it. Companies have to find the best, if they are to succeed", Wahlroos answers.
Currently just 29 percent of Finland's corporate executives are women - slightly below the European Union average.
Wahlroos feels that a better way to encourage women to take executive positions would be a significant improvement in the tax deductibility for domestic services.
"It is difficult to work at two careers at the same time. Home help would make it easier."
Ailasmaa agreed with Wahlroos: home help is OK for her, but she feels that subsidies for home care of children should be abolished. In her view, it is an impediment to women's career advancement.
"The current child care system is too good. Women are offered three years of secure absence from work", Ailasmaa says.
Siimes agrees, saying that a good child day care system is a better idea.
There were also calls for more transparency in the recruitment process, which would make it easier to see if an applicant was chosen on the basis of his or her ability, or gender.
Other ideas came from the audience. Former Bank of Finland governor Sirkka Hämäläinen called on parents to rethink how they bring up their children.
"Don't raise nice girls. Raise tomboys, who are willing to take risks, fail, and confront setbacks. The corporate world is ruthless, and there, and in life in general, it is easier to get on if you are willing to take risks."
National Coalition Party MP Marjukka Karttunen pointed out that fathers of families have an important role in the matter of gender equality.
"Genuine equality is that today's fathers actually want to stay at home to take care of children."