As fingernails around boardrooms are chewed and brows furrowed at the prospect of dissolving the Eurozone, a startlingly simple remedy seems to have been overlooked. Women have the power, both economically and politically, to save the Europe from the balkanized abyss it’s teetering upon.
Two diplomats, both attending the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society last week, shared their thoughts on how women can revitalize the Eurozone.
For Dr. Antonyia Parvanova, a member of the European Parliament, the origin of the Eurocrisis is clear. “There was too much testosterone in the banking system, which led us to this crisis,” she explained.
Dr. Parvanova believes that a dramatic shift in leadership strategies, in both the public and private sectors, is required for Europe to survive. New visions and visionaries, however, are often stifled in favor of slight variations on the status quo. “Europe has [a] complete lack of ideas that have real impact and real outcomes in terms of getting out of the crisis,” she laments.
“The major question we have to discuss now, and I think women are having brilliant, very pragmatic and responsible ideas, is growth or development,” she continued. “Not just producing growth, and not just encouraging the consumer potential of the society, but encouraging development and development policies for… a better life.”
This unadulterated push for Growth, at any cost, is the root of the current European crisis, Dr. Parvanova believes. A new, holistic model focusing on long-term gains must be implemented.
Women, an un- or under-tapped resource in European leadership, are particularly well positioned to offer new solutions to this problem. “Women could contribute significantly to this lost man’s world,” Dr. Parvanova said flatly.
Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, espouses a different approach. “One of the things the data shows us is that if we want to grow economies, we’ve got to grow SMEs; we’ve got to grow the missing middle.”
Women, so long excluded from top corporate positions, still represent a significant portion of SMEs in Europe, as in the rest of the world. “Women-run run small and medium sized businesses are accelerators of GDP,” Ambassador Verveer explained.
“Women in the SME sphere face specific kinds of hurdles. They face hurdles to training, to mentors, to the kind of networks that enable them to make the connections to grow their businesses,” she said. “And this goes for Africa as much as it goes for Europe.”
While the developed world has long preached the importance of female entrepreneurship to developing nations, this credo has not been adequately implemented internally.
Framing women’s employment solely as a human rights issue is part of the problem. With the best intentions, we tend to talk more about the crafts cooperative in Kenya than the struggling Polish salon owner, when in reality they face very similar institutional issues (on admittedly different scales). Both are vital to their national and regional economies.
Reintegrating the message of women’s economic potential into mainstream (not just developmental) growth models can, Ambassador Verveer claims, make a marked difference in places like Europe where old paradigms are showing fatal flaws.
The fate of Europe is as yet undetermined. By harnessing women’s leadership perspectives and entrepreneurial power, however, there is real hope the Eurozone will recover.