Romanian National Study

Executive summary

Romania has a history of a top-bottom approach to gender equality, enforced by the dominant gender egalitarian communist ideology. Specific measures on equal gender access to education, training and labour market affected positively the participation of women in education, labour market and politics in communism time, but maintainedthe patriarchal structures of the their “natural” private role (taking care of the household and children) virtually  unchallenged. In the recent decades, the European Union accession process provided an incentive for a legislative and institutional change in the field of equal opportunities. However, due to the lack of political will to prioritize gender equality and diminishing institutional capacity the status of Romanian women remains caught between opportunities and vulnerabilities. While there has been indisputable progress in the field of equal opportunities, especially in the past 10 years, the reality remains that Romania has the lowest level of gender equality in the European Union. Currently, women still lag behind men in terms of labour participation and the gender gap in earnings is reproduced also in the private sector.

In the last 20 years, Romanian Government and other responsible institutions drafted several national strategies, programs and measures for equal opportunities. But the gender institutional infrastructure can be qualified as “good on paper, bad on application”, mostly due to the lack of a monitoring procedure. Romania has no yet policy/legislation/action regarding gender quota or any other measure/quantitative target (in place or planned) to achieve a gender balance in economic decision-making. It has no legislative mechanism to establish quotas or targets for gender representation on company boards. Almost all the initiatives in the area of gender balance in economic decision-making processes are led by NGOs or/ and private companies.

In the beggining of 2015, we conducted two in-depth qualitative case studies, one in a conventional enterprise and one in a social enterprise in Romania. 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. Our research clearly shows that gender policies at the level of private or social economic entities in Romania are not explicitly promoted. Gender neutral practices are observed in both private and social organizations and level of awareness in case of gender stereotypes and discrimination is still very low. Informal arrangements are provided for pregnant women or women with small children, But this is perceived as a favour and not a legitimate right. Training opportunities are still limited and are rather gender neutral.

In conventional enterprise, women have no formal barriers to access the managerial positions, but often they have to sacrifice their personal or family life in order to be sure that dedicate enough time for their carrier development. In the surveyed conventional unit, the level of confidence in their promotion perspectives is lower in case of women, compared to men and women need first to be sure that they acquire appropriate skills for a specific management job. Competition, job performance and results oriented policies are often stress factors for women promotion.

An interesting situation from gender perspective is observed in the social enterprise. Although the organizational structure is rather patriarchal, the organizational culture oriented towards humanistic principles and values of social contribution and charity seems to be more in favour for building confidence and job fulfilment of women, with a lot of space for creativity and personal initiative and with more opportunities for a better balance between work and family life.