Statistics on vertical gender segregation show that the share of women in managerial positions in Estonia was 41% in 2021 that is close to the EU aim of a minimum of 40%. In this statistics mid- and top-level position are both defined the same way. However, closer study shows that there are sharp contrasts between small and big companies and mid- and top-level managerial positions, as the share of women tends to be higher in small companies and women tend to experience a glass ceiling when reaching mid-level executive positions. According to EIGE’s statistics on gender balance in corporate boards in 2021, only 9.1% of Estonian companies have women on their boards, which is the lowest among the EU Member States. In fact, a study of the 100 most influential companies in Estonia found that only 16% of their board members were women. The low representation of women among top executives contributes to a vicious circle in which the lack of women leaders leads to few women being hired, perpetuating their under-representation.  

At the beginning of 2023, the Praxis think tank started a 2-year project “Power of Women Leaders” together with four partners. The project directly engages with the general objectives of the call by addressing the significant underrepresentation of women on business and public sector boards in Estonia and seeking to improve women’s access to high –level decision-making. The consortium comprises research centre Praxis (COO), NGO PARE (Estonian Human Resource Management Association) (BE), University of Tartu (BE), and Swedbank Estonia and the Government Office (Riigikantselei) as associated partners (AS).  

The project´s goal is to bring about a change in Estonian work-place culture to facilitate more women to become leaders in public as well as private sector. Together with University of Tartu, we conduct research to find answers to the following questions: 

  • How does the gendered nature of the concept of power have an effect on who is the “proper” leader and how does one become one?
  • What should change so that women would reach leadership positions equally with men?
  • How to change organizational cultures towards gender-balanced management?

As the result of the project activities the professionals (HR officers, coaches, executives) will have a better awareness of their role as promoters of gender equality. To support the target groups in making actual changes in their policies and organisational cultures, a practical, web-based self-analysis toolkit on how to advance women to leadership positions will be developed. The toolkit as one of the key outputs of the project will be based on the study of leaders, statistical gender indicators developed, policy recommendations and best practices collected during the project. The toolkit will have a potential to become a part of regular tool used by HR specialists, business consultants and other professionals. 

The project is supported by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values program of the European Union (CERV Program). Please contact for any further information.