project-overviewME-TOTEM Project Overview

When the discussion of equality of women’s positions and power in the workplace comes up, the typical focus is on the number and percentage of board-level positions held by women. This is reasonably due to the higher visibility of boards of directors and the relative ease of measuring progress – or lack thereof. It is of course possible to pass laws requiring a defined presence of women in board positions, as has been done in various European countries with resulting positive impacts on the numbers. Now that a few years have passed since various quota legislation has taken effect around Europe, however, we have identified some issues that may limit the expected impact and effectiveness:

  1. The “golden skirts phenomenon” already seen in Norway seems to be affecting other countries as well. Shareholders have a low-risk approach and tend to appoint women who already have board experience. This does not contribute to the real improvement of board diversity as such women tend to become part of the “old boys’ club” and frequently have a profile and background that leads to a diversity that is only gender-based.
  2.  Board women need to be aware and courageous enough to bring the executives’ issues to the table. The lack of women in executive positions, which are the real “power positions” in companies, is today the key issue to be addressed. This phenomenon is less visible, because more difficult to measure as numbers are not public, but crucial and should become our future focus.
  3.  The path towards top positions should start from the first steps in the working environment. Often men have their career clear in mind from the beginning. Through the years they might take different paths and never reach their original goal, however their ambitions are made explicit and decisions in terms of career steps, training and networking are driven by the initial plan. Not only are women not used to this approach and not trained on the importance of planning, but they are also drawn away from such ambitions due to social conditioning and to lack of role models.

Our project aims to address the following needs:

  • Overcome the extension to women of the “old boys’ club” approach to board positions
  • Increase awareness and accountability among board members and top executives on the need to increase the number of women in executive positions
  • Provide role models for women both in middle management and more junior positions
  • Foster the diffusion of cross-generation dialogue and support

Our project wants to attain the following objectives:

  • Create a direct professional relationship between qualified women and board members through mentoring and sponsorship
  • Mobilize board members and top executives around the need to support women’s career paths and to always include women in recruiting processes to increase the number of women in executive positions
  • Make corporate diversity programs more effective through “woman to woman” mentoring and a higher engagement of top executives (usually men)
  • Make junior professional women aware of the importance of career planning and of finding a mentor and sponsor as soon as they start their career path and support them through role models.

In order to achieve these objectives, ME-TOTEM is focused on 3 distinct target groups that will interact with and influence each other.

  • The first target group is represented by current and aspiring board members. This target group has been chosen because of its three-fold impact: influencing the number and quality of women selected for board positions, influencing the perceptions and decisions of shareholders and bringing the “executive issues” to the table.
  • The second target group is represented by top executives and high potential women from the corporate world. This target group is crucial as the real power in decision-making is in executive positions and only the creation of a real awareness and of a new culture can effectively impact this context.
  • Women in junior positions are the third target. In this specific case the goal is to foster a “top executive/board position” career planning culture, helping younger generations overcome critical moments and social pressures in the career path.
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Read about our objectives here.

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