Sharing the Finnish experience - Workshop in Helsinki

  • Photo credit: djb e.V.

(27.10.2014) The " European Women Shareholders Demand Gender Equality" project (EWSDGE) is progressing well. During the first project meeting on July 19th, 2014 in Brussels and the follow-up meeting in Berlin on September 20th, 2014 national coordinators and project partners supported by the project office team discussed intensively on the main cornerstones of the EWSDGE project. Quite soon during the first project meeting, it became clear that the national coordinators have a huge responsibility in order to prepare the visits of the annual general meetings (AGMs) in each of the participating countries in 2015. All national coordinators came together for a “train the trainers” workshop on October 8th and 9th, 2014 in Helsinki to get more specific information and preparation. The host for the workshop was the Finland Chamber of Commerce, which is a project partner. Leena Linnainmaa, Deputy Chief Executive of the Finland Chamber of Commerce, who is the Finnish advising national coordinator in the EWSDGE project, invited the national coordinators from France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Benelux and UK/Ireland as well as the project team to Helsinki.

During the two-day workshop guidelines for the work of the national coordinators were intensively discussed and agreed upon, as well as the proceedings of the national workshops that will take place in spring 2015. Moreover, the toolkit supporting the visits of the annual general meetings (AGMs) was refined. A particular emphasis was given to the catalogue of questions. As a next step until the end of 2014 the national coordinators will develop specific toolkits for their respective country.

Beyond the actual training that the workshop provided, the participants had the opportunity to gain insight into the Finnish experience of women in management positions in the public sector through a Seminar held at the Swedish Business School Hanken in Helsinki: “Wanted: More female business leaders!” In her presentation, Leena Linnainmaa exemplified the international attention that the Finnish model of promoting women leadership is attracting. In 2013 Finland held the EU record of women’s participation on the boards of large cap companies. This achievement has been reached without binding quotas. Finland is a promoter of women leaders through self-regulation. Despite of this best practice, in Finland women as chief executive officers (CEOs) in private companies are rare. The accounts showed that there is still work to be done. Time alone will not change the situation automatically. Most women on the executive management level work in support functions such as Human Resources, communications, legal or financial affairs. A major factor behind the non-existence of women CEO’s of listed companies is that CEO’s are chosen among managers of business operations, not among executives in charge of support functions. There is a need to bring more women into the pipeline and therefore specific supportive measures have to be taken.

All in all, having the possibility to learn and exchange the Finnish experience was very enriching for all national coordinators. The advice and guidance gained through the workshop in Helsinki was crucial to implement the tasks of the EWSDGE project further in the veil of the visits of the annual general meetings in the course of 2015.