According to a September 2021 McKinsey & Company article titled Closing the gender gap in Central and Eastern Europe, since making the transition to a market economy three decades ago, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has experienced robust growth.
CEE’s member nations include Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia.
The authors claim that the growth was largely fueled by strong traditional industries and low labor costs relative to Western European countries.
As you may have already guessed however, they suggest that the outlook for continued economic expansion isn’t so rosy, thanks to declines in the aforementioned traditional industries and continued economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To sum things up, the authors assert that:
“The region needs to find new sources of competitiveness.”
And as far as they’re concerned, this new competitiveness will come from – drumroll please – women.
Another recent Mckinsey study cited in the article, titled Win-win: How empowering women can benefit Central and Eastern Europe found that in the seven CEE countries they analyzed:
- Women accounted for 52% of the overall population
- 60% of college graduates were women
- Women made up 45% of the labor force
Considering how traditional and comparatively undeveloped these countries are in relation to their Western European counterparts, it’s surprising that the college graduation and workforce participation rates are so high.
In other words, at least by these measures, women are fairing pretty well.
But that’s not the whole story, because if McKinsey was interested in across-the-board parity, the fact that CEE women graduate from colleges and universities at much higher rates than men would be cause for alarm.
After all, if equality was the ultimate goal, success would mean that the numbers in each category would match up perfectly after the gender percentages in the overall population had been taken into account.
Ask yourself, will McKinsey ever spend one Euro or conduct one study to see what can be done about this glaring problem?
The answer of course, is a resounding NO.
Though McKinsey claims to champion women’s causes, the truth is that they’re probably more interested in perpetuating the “women are victims” meme.
What The Mckinsey Study Found
The authors make the following bold (and unsubstantiated) claim:
“By tapping into women’s potential, the region could add €146 billion a year to GDP by 2030.”
Generating nearly €150 billion (170 billion USD) annually to the overall economy, simply by:
- Adding another 2.5 million women to the workforce
- Women working 2 more paid hours per week
- More women being employed in the most productive sectors
The article states that this would equate to an 8% annual increase over what they call the “business-as-usual scenario.”
This seems to imply that if these changes weren’t made, that the CEE’s member nation’s collective economies would still grow by an estimated €134 billion.
If that’s what they’re saying, they’re saying it in a misleading way.
Whatever the case, the sectors in which they expect to see the steepest increases in demand for new employees include:
- Social work
- Wholesale and retail
But ironically, they claim that nearly half of all CEE women currently in the labor force already work in these key areas, and that they’re consequently “well positioned to fill a large proportion of these vacancies.”
In other words, if the problem they’re referencing actually exists, then it’s likely to self-correct in the very near future without their intervention.
What About the Children?
To be clear, nobody’s claiming that a woman’s place is in the home.
However since the beginning of time in most countries around the world this has been the default setting, and it still is, especially in less developed countries.
We can reasonably assume that a large percentage of the 2.5 million women KcKinsey would like to see enter the workforce are currently stay-at-home mothers who don’t have outside jobs, or have part-time jobs that pay very little.
If these women go to work full-time, what happens to the children they’ve been caring for?
Unless they’re responsible and self-sufficient adolescents or teenagers, they’ll need to be supervised, whether it’s by a mother, a father, a relative, or at a school or a daycare facility.
Perhaps McKinsey’s list of growth sectors in CEE’s economy should include daycare, because in all likelihood, it’s where many children with working parents will end up, at least in families that can afford it.
Key Takeaway – Beliefs About Barriers Are the Problem
What the article also fails to mention is that unless CEE’s collective economy grows enough to accommodate 2.5 million new workers, many existing workers will be displaced.
In fact, what they’re really pushing is a shift in the demographic of the workforce, not necessarily an expansion of it.
While conducting their studies, one wonders if McKinsey’s researchers asked women in CEE what they wanted.
Based on the very statistics they’ve presented, it seems evident that women in CEE are doing surprisingly well.
There’s probably lots of room for improvement, but in yet another study, McKinsey sought to determine why so few women in CEE hold key executive positions.
They surveyed thousands of employees, and found that:
- Women are as ambitious as men, but they perceive more barriers to promotion
- 57% of women were interested in getting promoted, versus 56% for men
- 62% of women were confident that they’d be able to make it to a top leadership position, versus 66% for men
Notice two things.
First, the use of the word “perceive.”
Second, that the numbers are so similar.
In other words, CEE women are as confident and ambitious as their male counterparts, which means that most of them (nearly two-thirds) are confident that they already have what they need to succeed, but they are being convinced (maybe by activists like these researchers?) that they need to believe there are barriers that are holding them back.
CEE’s Proposed Solution Won’t Solve Anything
To wrap things up, the article points out a number of ways that women’s empowerment could be accelerated.
They include a shared vision for the future, launching career-support initiatives, supporting a healthy work-life balance, and challenging established social norms and attitudes.
They’re all great ideas that should be applied equally to both genders so that more members of society can contribute to the economy in a productive way.
Sadly, one surefire way not to empower women is by trying to convince them that the cards are, and always have been stacked against them.