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Women in business – Equal opportunities, income equality and corporate integrity

Women in business – Equal opportunities, income equality and corporate integrity

From the beginning of 2019, Transparency International Hungary and the Hungarian Women’s Lobby carried out a series of 4 events aimed at exploring the link between gender and corruption. The fourth and final event of the series took place on 27th November at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Hungary, where we discussed women’s involvement in business and the integrity of female leaders.  Following the lectures, a panel of female leaders in the Hungarian business sector discussed how women’s empowerment can enhance corporate transparency.

The event was opened by Tibor Bial, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Hungary, and by József Péter Martin, Managing Director of Transparency International Hungary, who, referring to various research results, said that “the more female leaders are in a company, the greater the chance is that corruption can be eliminated or reduced in that organization.”  As he explained, combating corruption and ensuring gender equality are the attributes of a well-functioning democracy.

Dr. Beáta Nagy, professor at the Corvinus University of Budapest and a prominent expert on the subject pointed out that, according to KSH’s data, 41% of leaders are female in Hungary, however, this figure includes all types of leadership positions from station managers to the prime minister. Therefore, it does not reflect the actual proportion of female executives in a company’s top management. Dr. Nagy also emphasized that female leaders are mainly present in the public sector, especially in education, whereas in the IT and telecommunications industry or in the corporate sector the proportion of women is extremely low compared to men, especially in senior positions. “However, their average earnings are not the same as men’s. Even if they work in the same field” said Beáta Nagy.

During the panel discussion, participants shared their views on the corporate sphere’s gender-promoting practices and the most important challenges related to these. The discussion was moderated by Szilvia Varró, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. One of the most important questions of the conversation was whether there was a need for a specific gender policy for each company.

Zsuzsanna Beke, Head of PR and government relations at Richter Ltd. said that her company does not have such a policy. “We don’t believe in the quota system; we believe that people should be recruited based on their qualifications and merits. Instead of introducing a quota system, we need to create the conditions for women to be leaders in the workplace. Teleworking or a corporate kindergarten are examples that can help companies go in this direction.”

Gabriella Liptay, Director of Marketing and Communications at KPMG Hungary said that their company is trying to apply the principle of equal opportunities “It is essential not only for a balanced gender ratio but also in demographic terms to have a wide variety of perspectives. We believe in equal opportunity and equal treatment.”

Antónia Mészáros, Managing Director of UNICEF Hungary shared that gender rates have improved significantly since she has been leading the organization. Atypically, however, this means that men also joined the team at UNICEF Hungary. Furthermore, she agreed with those who spoke before that a balanced gender ratio positively contributes to the operation of an organization.

When asked whether it was true that women as less prone to corruption, Diána Müller, Head of Organisational Development & Talent Acquisition at Telenor Hungary stated that compliance rules and codes of ethics are extremely strict at her company, and that these are useful in combating corruption, but women really bring values that can have a positive impact on the integrity and reputation of the company.

At a later stage of the debate, the participants discussed how they personally contribute to the empowerment of women at their workplaces. Veronika Pistyur, Managing Director of Bridge Budapest, for example, said that she mentors and frequently meets young female entrepreneurs in her role as a fund manager to give them advice on how to build their careers.

At the end of the conversation, József Péter Martin, Managing Director of Transparency International Hungary pointed out that although representatives of companies do not necessarily perceive this, research shows that the integrity of executives can be affected both by the more authoritarian leadership style of men and the stricter ethical expectations applied towards women. Based on this, it is reasonable to assume that gender ratios have relevance in relation to corruption.

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