“Our economy has a real problem with under-representation of women,” according to Isabella Lenarduzzi, the founder of the ‘JUMP’ forum, which will take place in Brussels on 23 April. Speaking to EURACTIV in an interview, she explained that “women’s role in business is increasingly important”.
As 60% of the young graduates of European universities are women, “we want business leaders to finally recognise and concede to the various studies and research available, which shows that increased diversity equates to improved performance,” Lenarduzzi explained, complaining that maintaining current low levels of female representation in many workforces would mean accepting a very low return on investment.
According to the JUMP founder, there is a direct connection between the absence of diversity and the presence of financial insecurity. “Women tend to be more focused on the whole community,” she explained. Thus “it is not a question of male or female, as it is a question of variety in ways of thinking. By having both men and women in decision-making roles, there is greater balance in the solutions,” Lenarduzzi argued.
“By including more women, men are likely to benefit from this workplace diversity, as it fosters more variety in thinking and acting than traditional male models of behaviour,” she added.
Lenarduzzi quoted a recent French study into the falling share prices of the CAC 40, which revealed the “positive effect of women on boards”. “While the average share price of the CAC 40 companies dropped 43% in 2008, companies with a high number of women in top management recorded better numbers,” she underlined.
“The women shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice her career in the name of a family,” she insisted. “Family management must be a two-person responsibility.”
In Norway, public limited companies have a minimum of 40% of members of either sex on the board. If they fail to do so, they are faced with sanctions. “It is a provocative and exciting measure, one which I enthusiastically support, and which is bound to have interesting results,” Lenarduzzi said, favouring quotas in public administrations and publicly-owned companies.
The businesswoman supported the European Parliament’s stance on extending maternity leave, but “would like to see it as a right and not as an obligation”. “I would suggest compulsory parental leave for fathers, so that they are allowed a certain amount of vital child-rearing time,” she added.
The annual ‘JUMP‘ forum is Belgium’s biggest event dedicated to women and their professional lives.
To read the interview in full, please click here.