It is the shared responsibility of every last one of us, both men and women, to ensure there is equality for the future leaders of tomorrow.

Hanne B. Sorensen, Director (Independent Non-Executive), Tata Consultancy Services

 

Europe has a long history of powerful women. They range from the rulers of empires like Elizabeth I, Maria Theresa and Catherine the Great, to the 19 Finns who became the first-ever women MPs, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who Forbes named the world’s most powerful woman in 12 of the past 13 years.

So it is unsurprising that European nations consistently top lists of the best countries for women, or that Western Europe is the region that has gone the furthest in closing the overall gender gap.

Source: World Economic Forum

But there is still a long way to go before Europe can claim to be gender neutral. Women are still paid less, with an average pay gap of 16% across the 28 countries of the European Union. There are more men than women in every national parliament, and in the European Parliament itself. Only one third of the members of local and regional assemblies are women.

Within Europe, there is a wide variation. Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark lead the world in efforts to tackle gender inequality, while others lag far behind.

In this context, the decision by the European Business Summit to publish a collection of essays by global women leaders is significant. Under the title Tomorrow’s Europe: Inclusive, Innovative, Interconnected, the 21 works tackle many of the most pressing issues facing the continent.

The writers include leading politicians, executives, policy-makers and entrepreneurs from a wide range of backgrounds. Their perspectives, on topics from migration and economic inequality to youth engagement and the role of emerging technologies, underline the importance of diversity. As Pauline Engelberts, Global Chief Operations Officer at ABN Amro Clearing Bank N.V. writes, “Innovation thrives when it attracts and encourages a diversity of ideas, cultures and skills. Our diversity is an incredible advantage.”

The success of businesses, economies and societies in an age where rapid technological change is driving new ways of thinking and working will rely on an ability to harness all the talent available. Åshild Hanne Larsen, CIO and SVP of Corporate IT at Equinor insists, “To sustain innovation, it will be essential to collaborate, to encourage new skills and to diversify the existing talent pool.”

During the European Business Summit on 6 and 7 May, men and women from Europe and beyond will be discussing how to ensure the benefits of innovation and technology are felt by all in society. And while some of the challenges are daunting, as Marjan Oudeman, board member of Solvay SA, puts it, “In the end, it comes down to cooperation. We are a Union filled with nations. Diversity is our strength, cooperation our ally.”