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Opportunities and hindrances when heading for positions of power in the labour market


The “Women Making Waves- Enhancing Female Leadership Skills” project, was launched in October 2019. Due to the high unemployment rates in Europe and the still-existing gender gap, the aim of the project is to increase women’s confidence, self-awareness, employability, and leadership opportunities. Moreover, through this project, we aim to eliminate the gender gap in relevant positions, by increasing and supporting female representation.  

The project also aims to build stronger connections between women seeking to develop their careers across Europe with a cross-border support system and address social inclusion by helping double disadvantaged (Women not in education, employment or training (NEET) , migrant, disabled, in early career stages, women returning to work after a long absence or those pursuing a new career path) and women attain their professional goals. 

The first phase of the project, the research in each country and interviews with women and stakeholders, has been completed; the development of the Women Making Waves Competence Framework. The aim of the Framework was to identify the skills needed for double disadvantaged women to pursue leadership positions and increase their leadership skills.  Data were collected in each participating country about the educational and occupational status and opportunities of women and men. Interviews with women who have faced hindrances were conducted in each of the participating countries as well as discussion in focus groups.

Seventeen women took part in the interviews and 39 women took part in focus group discussion.  In order to connect women’s needs and preferences with the demands for talent in the labor market, interviews with 11 stakeholders were also conducted. 

The main findings are that there is a large set of factors that can impede women in their development. These are for instance political and cultural factors and since the external factors cannot be modified before the internal factors are understood and adjusted, there are also specific points where a woman can develop. 

The initial study carried out has shown that there are many points in common between the countries analysed with regards to the employment situation and the professional aspirations of women. 

The country data collected in the first part of this study reveals that, in general, women have a higher educational level than men and the share of women graduates in tertiary education is growing at a faster pace than for men. The EU employment rate (of people aged 20- 64) is 67 % for women and 79 % for men. With an overall employment rate of 73 %, the EU is close to achieving the EU 2020 employment target of 75 %. 

The data proved that for the labor market, the lack of studies and training cannot be considered as a barrier for the advancement of women in their career, especially since the statistical evidence and research show that women are more qualified than men in some of the industries identified. 

Therefore, it can be argued that other factors are impacting on the advancement of women. The answers collected from the women participants both in the interviews and in the focus groups, talk about the need to receive training that allows them to have more confidence in themselves, as well as to learn how to be more assertive. 

Among the opportunities that they would like in the market to have in their personal or professional life, besides support, time and money, most of them emphasised the need for continuous training and the acquisition of new knowledge and skills that will allow them to advance in their professional careers. They emphasised the importance of developing contact networks, learning how to be more assertive, being self-confident, and looking for a mentor. 

With the enormous spirit of self-improvement that all of them have shown, this seems to be the last push they need to be able to continue progressing in their careers and reach management positions. 

It is also clear that women face more obstacles in their lives in addition to dealing with the challenges that men also struggle within their professional and personal life. For example, women need to prove themselves, they need to fight against stereotypes, and accommodate more family obligations.  

The findings from the research and the interviews have provided valuable information on how to design and implement seminars for the Women Making Waves project’s target groups in order to empower disadvantaged women in the labour market. The seminars will be designed in the months to come. 

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