Interview with consultant Andrea about TOPX Summit 2022

27 September 2022

Last week our consultants Rocio and Andrea spoke at the TOPX Summit 2022 about gender equality and the Gender Equality Plan. We chatted with Andrea about their presentation.

Why do we talk about gender equality and why is it so important?

‘This was highlighted throughout the event, but also during our presentation. There is still a gender gap at different levels and aspects. For example the investment gap. Compared to male entrepreneurs, besides having fewer female entrepreneurs, many female CEO’s receive less investment or do not get capital back. From the entrepreneur side, this is because businesses are in general not the typical equity target. Women are also less likely to ask for external financing and are held back by gender bias. On the investor side, the gender bias is reflected in the questions VCs ask: questions posed to women are often related to safety, responsibility and security whereas men they get questions related to hopes, achievements and advancements.

The European Commission and other funding bodies such as NWO see the gap and are trying to take measures to close it. For example, the European Innovation Council’s EU Prize for Women Innovators. 

Gender inequality also exists when looking at healthcare. The industry used to focus its research and clinical trials on men. For example, heart diseases. They only included men in clinical trials, so the female heart was under-researched. While it is actually a very different situation. We call this the ‘gender data gap‘. 

It is important to create awareness about gender equality. It is emerging, but not everyone in an organisation understands the definition of gender equality and what it really means.’

How did the audience define gender inequality?

‘This was a very interesting discussion. The first thing someone said: ‘But what do you mean by gender inequality?’ There are different definitions. You have gender inequality, equity, diversion and inclusion. A metaphor someone in a previous session told us about equity is that you both walk up the same stairs, but a minority, for example disabled people, cannot even reach the beginning of the stairs. They need something extra, “a ramp”, to get to the same point. And then you have diversity and inclusion. Someone in a previous session gave a great example: diversity means being invited to the party and having different ethnicities and genders present. Inclusion means that you feel really welcome and comfortable at that party, so you start dancing.’

You also talked about the Gender Equality Plan. Can you explain what a Gender Equality Plan is?

‘The Gender Equality Plan is one of the measures taken by the European Commission to ensure awareness of gender equality. It is a set of commitments and actions that aim to promote gender equality in an organisation through a process of structural change. If you want to receive funding, you have to have a GEP.’

‘The Gender Equality Plan is a good start, but it is not the holy grail.’



Will a Gender Equality Plan enhance gender equality in organizations and what can we do about this?

‘We had an interesting discussion about it in the session. Someone in the audience answered to this question: “Is it just an administrative burden? We have to develop this plan and then we can submit the grant proposal”. Based on the audience, I would say it is the case. I think the Gender Equality Plan is a good start. It creates awareness, but it is not the holy grail in solving this issue. Essentially, it is about the intrinsic motivation within the organisation, within the top, to develop such a plan internally and not just because you need funding. Only if the organisation is already doing this intrinsically from within, where they have their own plans and measures to address gender equality, then it has a real impact.’

You also talked about ‘change agents’. What does this mean?

‘Change agents can be anyone who understands and sees that there is gender inequality and wants to do something about it. They will try to influence management. Change has to come from two sides, from the bottom to the top and from the top to the bottom. If the top does not see the urgency and is not motivated, you can only achieve minimal impact.” One way to raise awareness is to start the discussion with a diverse group of people (e.g men, women, different ethnicities, different nationalities, etc.). We need to initiate the discussion and gather all perspectives. And make time for it within an organisation.’

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