Innovative Women Workshop 5 December 2016

What challenges and opportunities do women have in leading positions or as entrepreneurs? How can public and private organizations encourage women to take on challenging roles? Why is there a need for female leaders? These are examples of questions asked during an interactive workshop that took place on 5 th December arranged by Business Sweden in cooperation with the Embassy of Sweden, the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities and several leading Swedish companies. The purpose of the workshop was to highlight the challenges that women face as leaders and entrepreneurs in Hungary today, and how the public and private sector can promote gender equality at the workplaces and a good work-life balance.

Welcoming notes were made by Dr. Orsolya Pacsay – Tomassich, Deputy State Secretary at the Ministry for Human Capacities, who described the balance between work and family life as a common goal for the government, for the employers and employees and indirectly to the whole Hungarian society as well. She stressed that the Swedish and Hungarian governments have the same goals when it comes to gender issues and equality, but their approaches are different.  While the Swedish government declared itself a feminist government, the Hungarians call their policies and approach a family-friendly approach.  This includes a range of child care services and benefits that help mothers to return to work or to make their own career choice.  The Hungarian government strives to ensure women with the opportunity to make their own choices.  Mothers are offered with the opportunity to decide whether they want to return to work or to stay at home with their children up to the age of three.

Swedish “double entrepreneur” Monica Lindstedt, founder of the newspaper Metro and Hemfrid, one of Sweden’s first providers of household services, shared her personal experience on the difficult task of all women: how to combine a successful career and a big family. Lindstedt claimed that she created a solution to her own problem by starting Hemfrid, whose business idea is to simplify everyday life for Swedish families or, to use her own words, “to create time” for busy women and men.

Veronika Pistyur, CEO of Bridge Budapest, focused on the theme “What I have learned from men” while she also emphasized the importance of good role models and a supportive environment for women to be able to see themselves in leadership positions. Pistyur said that the she was lucky to be surrounded by women and men who encouraged her throughout her career and that this is unfortunately not the case for all women.

After the key-note speeches the guest speakers were invited, together with some representatives from Swedish companies, to a panel discussion on the theme of female leaders and entrepreneurs. Hungarian and Swedish experiences were exchanged and a thought-provoking discussion started involving the audience.  Through a mobile app the audience had the opportunity to participate in the discussion, where they were asked to express their opinions on the topics discussed in the panel.  

During the discussion, several interesting points were made, such as the different expectations of women and men in parenting, influencing factors like family background and environment, as well as the responsibility of the government and the companies. Monica Lindstedt emphasized parent’s responsibilities to treat their children equally regardless of gender, as expectations on boys and girls today differ. An expert from the audience stressed the importance of legislation, and the Swedish system of paternity leave was also highlighted as a good example. 

The workshop ended with an award giving ceremony  of a school contest  focusing on gender equality and sustainability organized by Business Sweden earlier this year.  Pupils at the age of 12-16 were invited to build green and sustainable cities in the computer game Minecraft. The purpose of the contest was to promote girls’ interest in technology. Prerequisite of the registration was to have at least one girl in the team. You can watch the winning films here.