Czech National Study

Executive summary

In the Czech Republic, women are severely under-represented in decision-making positions. Women make up only 26% of legislators, senior officials and managers, and only 3% of employed women are employed in management positions. These figures have not changed significantly over time. Gender equality infrastructure is almost wholly limited to the central level (Government and Ministries) in the Czech Republic. In the Czech Republic there is currently no legislation or policy aimed at achieving a gender balance in economic decision-making. The current position of the Czech Government on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Commission to introduce quotas in boards of directors of 5000 businesses listed in the stock exchange in EU member states rejects efforts for positive change affecting the low representation of women in decision-making positions. Czech Government considers corporate self-regulation to be the only acceptable form of promoting gender balance in decisionmaking bodies of companies.

Like the legislation on gender quotas, the Czech legal system has no legislation on social enterprises/the social economy. In 2014, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) of the Czech Republic defined two types of social enterprises: a) social enterprises providing economic, social, environmental and local benefits, and b) work-integration enterprises seeking to integrate disadvantaged groups into the labour market. These goals need to be set out in the founding documentation of the given company. Social entrepreneurship is rather underdeveloped in the Czech Republic; the Czech Social Entrepreneurship portal had data only on about 208 social enterprises by 15 January 2015.

In 2014, we conducted two in-depth qualitative case studies, one in a conventional enterprise and one in a social enterprise in the Czech Republic. Both were small companies with less than 65 employees, operating in the feminised sector of the provision of goods and services. We interviewed between three and four managers and six female employees in each company. The analysis focused on the topic of women in decision-making positions, horizontal and vertical segregation, gender-based discrimination and the conditions of work-life balance in companies. The findings reveal that both the social and the conventional enterprise accept and invite women into managerial positions. In contrast to the conventional enterprise, the management of the social enterprise does not reproduce stereotypes about work and career being mutually exclusive. The results reflect a lack of focus on gender equality and low sensitivity to gender based discrimination. On the level of company policies, formal processes to support women in management are missing in both enterprises. The attitudes towards quotas on women in management are negative in the conventional enterprise and reserved in the social enterprise. Quotas are viewed as something ‘unnatural’ in the conventional enterprise, whereas mild support for quotas was expressed in the social enterprise. Informal arrangements and individual achievement are considered to be the better way to achieve fair access to leadership positions for both men and women.

We can conclude that the distrust to direct support of women in the managerial positions through specific measures is present not only on the official level in the position of the legal bodies (senate, parliament) but is also reflected in the attitudes of the managers and the employees in the companies analyzed. We can assume, that this perspective, that stresses more the individual responsibility rather than the institutional and structural measures, still represents mainstream attitudes of the Czech society towards gender quotas and other measures systematically improving female career prospects.