The Wife of the President, Elizabeta Gjorgievska, addressed the opening of the Conference “From Labor Rights March to Digital Economy”, organized by the Center for Change Management, carried out under her auspices.
The integral text of the address of the President’s Wife, Elizabeta Gjorgievska, is below.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am grateful to the Center for Change Management for inviting me to address this Conference. At the same time, I am honored to be the patron of an event with such an inspiring and challenging topic: from labor rights march to digital economy.
The Conference, as we all know, takes place in a period of great uncertainty, between a pandemic that is slowly subsiding and a military conflict that is heating up. Smaller economies, such as the Macedonian, are disproportionately experiencing the effects of crises.
Experiences from the great economic crises of the 20th century show that women are often the first at blow. But the available data also show that it was women who fought for their labor rights who played a key role in the economic recovery of their countries. According to the most relevant international studies, the equal participation of women in the labor market stimulates economic growth and creates value for the society as a whole. Companies that also have women in management positions are often more successful because of the broader horizons and perspectives. Countries with greater gender balance overcome economic crises much faster and much easier.
When considering the benefits of equal participation of women in labor market and in entrepreneurship, the following questions arise: why, despite these arguments, many countries in the world, including the Republic of North Macedonia, lag behind in achieving gender balance? Why is there a “glass ceiling” that hinders the career advancement of women in companies? Why, even if they succeed, are women often paid less than their male counterparts?
North Macedonia has successful women entrepreneurs. You, the present here, are part of them. With your professional success you testify that there is no area in which women cannot be in managerial positions and create value for their companies. But the problem is that women entrepreneurs are still seen as the exception to the rule.
The reasons include social stereotypes that divide the professions into “male” and “female”, but also systemic shortcomings – insufficient number of kindergartens for children and care services for the elderly and sick. Awareness of equality should be built from an early age and continuously through all stages of education.
The Covid-19 pandemic further widened the gap to two levels. On the one hand, many women entrepreneurs had to work from home and take care of their families at the same time because of health protocols and online teaching.
On the other hand, the pandemic has accelerated the process of digitalization and automation, which will inevitably affect the labor market and the economy. In March 2021, the World Economic Forum released its final report on the Global Gender Gap Index. The report shows that gender parity has been achieved only in those professions of the future related to culture and content creation. In other clusters of professions of the future there is great inequality between men and women. This gap is larger precisely in the sectors that require innovative digital and technical knowledge and skills, and on which the digital economy is based. This inequality of opportunity slows down the economic growth and development of the country.
The economic crisis must not only be an excuse for exclusion, but also a reason to increase the involvement of women in entrepreneurship. In order to overcome this crisis more easily, as a state and as a society, we must invest in the still underutilized potential of women entrepreneurship.
The declarative commitments for equal opportunities between women and men should be translated into concrete acts envisaged by the Strategy for Development of Women Entrepreneurship in the Republic of North Macedonia. We all need to contribute to creating a favorable business environment, systemic support and infrastructure for the development of women entrepreneurship, and investing in promotion, networking and advocacy for women in business. This includes adoption of legal decisions and good control over their implementation.
It all means that the struggle for women’s rights, which began in the 19th and 20th centuries, is far from over. We should not only fight for greater participation in traditional professions, some of which will inevitably disappear, but to strive for greater participation of women in new, innovative professions. That way we will ensure that women are a vital part of the digital economy as well.
Only in this way will we build an entrepreneurial eco-system for continuous development of women entrepreneurship. Only in this way will we realize the vision of strengthened women entrepreneurship as a force that contributes to creating a favorable business climate, to the development of existing and opening new enterprises and industries, creating new jobs and professions, and thus strengthening the overall economy.
In that sense, at the very end, I wish you a successful Conference.