Published on Eurasian Perspectives

Romania needs more women in business

Women employees and consultants from the Romania and Hungary offices of the World Bank celebrating International Women’s Day 
Living and working in Romania, I find inspiration every day in the people I meet - especially in local women entrepreneurs. During every conversation I have with them, I discover the power of women who have overcome challenges with a strong determination and a belief in their own success.

Many of these women have not only come a long way, they have also paved the way for a new generation. These pioneers have created the space for those who are not timid about taking opportunities to lead the charge, all the while making Romania a stronger and more prosperous country.

Despite this progress, however, I am reminded of the journey still ahead. As Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank Group Interim President, recently remarked, 2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men. It is paramount that we remove the barriers that hold women back.

Reaching genuine gender equality is a long and painstaking process, requiring political will, consistent public policies, and a strong push by civil society. Romania, for its part, has made tremendous progress toward overcoming the gender gap. The country boasts the lowest wage disparity between men and women in the European Union (EU) - just 5.2% in 2016, compared to the 16% EU average, according to Eurostat.

In addition, women in Romania lead their EU sisters in terms of participating in the traditionally male-dominated fields of science, math, and computing. Romanian women are more likely than women from other EU countries to graduate with degrees in engineering and manufacturing. There is no doubt this has been a factor in the country’s strong economic growth performance.
Gender equality is not just a good principle, it’s also smart economics.  

The recently published World Bank report Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform scores Romania 90.63 out of 100 points - a very impressive result showing that when it comes to a legal framework, Romanian women have equal rights with men in most areas of life, including perfect scores on such indicators as starting a job, getting paid, running a business, and managing assets.

But legal rights are not enough for true equality. An IFC study released earlier this year lists the many practical obstacles that women face in Romania, which women in other countries will readily recognize: women in Romania are disproportionally involved in family obligations and child care, leaving less time and energy to pursue a business career. Cultural norms and expectations are also often a barrier, with Romanian women less likely than men to feel that they have the skills, knowledge, and experience to start a business.

This is why it is imperative to continue working on the areas where gender equality is lagging, like labor force participation. Economic inactivity in Romania is one of the highest in the EU. Furthermore, inactivity is nearly twice as high among women as men. Only 56.2% of women are economically active (employed or unemployed) in the country, compared to 74.8% of men.

In comparison to other East European countries, Romania’s entrepreneurial activity is also low. Men are also much more likely than women to start a business here - 9.1% versus 5.6% among women. On the other hand, it’s noteworthy that women entrepreneurs succeed at a higher rate (82%) than men (77%). Even more reason for the country to tap into the talents of women entrepreneurs to ensure sustained economic growth.

If Romania is to continue its strong growth performance, it must rely on the drive and talents of all its citizens, women and men alike. As more women enter the labor market and become entrepreneurs, this country will become ever more prosperous and innovative, creating better jobs and opportunities for all.

To achieve this goal, Romania must help women balance the demands of their work and their life. Policies that allow for more equal sharing of care responsibilities between women and men can support the economic independence and wellbeing of all. Investments in health and education - as well as the availability of child and elder care facilities - are all essential for allowing more women to become economically active.

The successful women entrepreneurs and other professionals I have the pleasure of interacting with here in Romania are proof positive that the country is making great strides in creating opportunities for women.

Furthermore, the economic successes experienced by this country over the last two decades is also evidence that this inclusion has boosted economic growth. By addressing those areas where the country lags in providing equal opportunities to women and men and supporting policies to increase care options, Romania can take the next big leap in its journey toward economic inclusion, growth, and prosperity for all.    


Tatiana Proskuryakova

Regional Director for Central Asia

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