First companies awarded for best equal opportunities policy

24-11-2004

Despite gradual changes in legislation, women on the Czech labour market still face a lot of challenges, especially if they have or want to start a family. Difficulties in balancing their personal and working life make many women give up their careers and cause employers to lose a lot of talented staff. Those companies in the Czech Republic that have decided to tackle this issue had a chance to show off their achievements this week in the country's first ever contest for the company with the best equal opportunities policy.

Three companies were awarded in the pilot year of the Best Equal Opportunities Policy contest, organised by the Gender Studies centre and the Trade and Industry Ministry. Two were international companies, Air Products and IBM Czech Republic. The winner in the small firms category was the company R-Presse which publishes the investigative weekly Respekt. The paper's editor-in-chief Tomas Nemecek said he was surprised by the award as he said the company followed no special policy, just instincts.

"We hope that we were appreciated because of our attempt to help our employees who are parents, no matter if they are men or women. So we try to help them with flexible working hours and we try to find special jobs for them, for example monitoring of daily press."

Tomas Nemecek says he thinks that in his company there is no such thing as the proverbial glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching senior positions - although at its start Respekt was considered a predominantly male voice.

"Maybe it's still perceived as a male voice, I'm not sure but I hope it has changed since the mid-1990s when my predecessors tried to find women employees, to find a female voice for this magazine. This effort was relatively successful, we found some excellent reporters, like Hana Capova and Eliska Bartova, who are now full members of staff. It's not affirmative action, they are not here because they are women but because of their journalistic qualities."

The pilot year of the contest was meant to help fine-tune the criteria for the following years but its main goal was to establish the issue of equal opportunities in Czech society. Linda Sokacova from the Gender Studies centre, the co-organiser of the competition.

"Equal opportunities are quite a new issue in the Czech Republic. So the first step is to raise awareness among the public and also among employers because they are a very important subject in promoting equal opportunities in society. And we hope that this contest for the best Czech firm in the approach to equal opportunities will promote this topic among the public and will raise the importance of equal opportunities in the Czech Republic."

24-11-2004