Women, business and diversity

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Zsuzsanna Ránki, Head of the Business Network Centre, is the founder of the Hungarian Business Leaders Forumand member of the Top Womanagers. In this interview she shares her personal experience and opinion about diversity and presents how IBS pays special attention to it.

Diversity is a key issue in business, business ethics these days. IBS also pays attention to diversity and hosted events in the last couple weeks. What were these event?

IBS hosted two events recently. One was an event jointly organized with the Hungarian Business Leaders Forum which advertised a competition among high school students. To make a video about what and how they understand diversity in their own environment, in the school. Each applicant was expected to prepare a video that contained their understanding of diversity in their own environment; how diversity is represented in their school. There were approximately 20 applicants who made 1,5 minute long videos. The award ceremony was at IBS organized by HBLF, and we greatly enjoyed the short films that high schools students made.

The other event was organized by a private group which is called Top Womanagers. The members of this group are senior or top business women in the Hungarian business community. This is a private initiative organized by one of the female business leaders in Hungary. The meetings usually take place at the workplace of one of the members. This way everybody can present her business environment, show her workplace, company, background. At these meetings we also talk a lot about the life of business women in Hungary and it is always good to share our experience with each other. This time it was me, that is, IBS who hosted the event. Pro-rector, László Szepesi presented our school, its role and place in Hungary, and after lengthy Q and A session, we organized a campus tour.

You are a member of both organizations, HBLF and Top Womanagers.

Actually, I was the founder of HBLF, that was initiated 23 years ago by Prince Charles. I was the chairwoman of this organization for many years, now I am the honorary chairwoman and I also sit in the board of HBLF. The Top Womanagers was established approximately 10 years ago, I have been a member ever since the beginning.

You are the organizer of the Alumni eves at IBS. For the last 5 or 6 events you invited top business women. Is it accidental or a conscious policy on your part that you invite women?

It is a conscious effort on my side. When you look at the participants of the Alumni eves over the past ten years, you can see that the majority of the guest were male. Approximately a year ago I decided that we would focus on female leaders. I did a conscious effort and looked around to find female business leaders in Budapest. I was very happy to find many excellent business women. I also try to present them to my IBS colleagues, for inviting them as guest lecturers. There is also a new initiative, a kind of a movement, Ajánld nŐt!  (Recommend a woman!). Female business leaders should recommend each other when there is an opportunity to do so, that is, women should consciously focus on supporting each other.

What is your personal opinion, do women need a kind of positive discrimination, a quota system?

I think yes, women need positive discrimination because of the traditional role of women in society. A female business leader generally has to skip a few years, because of child bearing and also because of the traditional expectations of society towards women, and because of the same reason she cannot be so fully available in her job and work as her male counterparts, although they can be as good as their male counterparts, if not better. Because of that, I do believe that women need positive discrimination. I am not saying that a woman should be given special privileges just because she is a woman but if she is as good as a man, she should be given an opportunity. HBLF also pays special attention to women and women’s position in companies. In 2004 HBLF founded a special target group for women and last year the 2020 club was founded. This means that the aim is to have minimum 20 % women in company managements and boards by 2020.