Women run Latvia. The Baltic country with 2 million inhabitants is the only EU member state where women occupy the majority of management posts in different enterprises, according to data from Eurostat. Of the 54,540 Latvians classified as managers, 28,778 are women. The fact that women are chief executives, managing directors, sales and marketing managers is not new. Back in 2006, almost 43% of managers in Latvia were female, the highest proportion in the EU. Many of Latvia’s top government jobs have also been held by women, including the country’s highest office: Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga served as the first female president of Latvia from 1999-2007.
“Latvia’s economy consists of many micro-enterprises, most dominated by women,” Dr. Raita Karnīte explained to Muftah. Karnīte, an economist at the Latvian Academy of Sciences, also pointed out that more women are employed than men (421,900 men, 428,300 women between the ages of 15-64).
British management expert Dr. Gloria Moss has argued that the number of female managers in Latvia has changed the business environment and allowed women to break through the glass ceiling. Professor Moss is the editor of Profiting from Diversity: The Business Advantages and the Obstacles to Achieving Diversity, which includes a chapter on Latvia. “A major factor holding women back are job criteria rooted in male-typical rather than female-typical behaviors,” write Moss and her co-authors David Farnham and Caryn Cook. In Latvia, however, there is an acceptance of people-focused styles that create fewer barriers for women’s success.
Moss and her co-authors claim that Latvia offers a “rare glimpse of how women manage when freed of the constraints of being a minority.” The authors point out that Latvia boasts “a legacy of strong women” with folklore punctuated by powerful women, and “families in which men were not at the apex.” “This is … indicative of a pervasive culture in Latvian business,” Dr. Moss told The Independent. “With women approaching parity in the Latvian workforce, transformational relationships are lived and practised almost unconsciously… This influences selection criteria and unconsciously becomes a self-replicating mindset that fosters female success.”
Even though Latvian women may have broken through the glass ceiling, they still earn less than their male counterparts. According to Eurostat, the gender pay gap in Latvia is 17.6 % — which is about the same as in Slovenia (12.4%), Belgium (13.6%), Bulgaria (15%), Ireland (15.9%), Cyprus (16%), Spain (16.2%), Sweden (16.3%) and Lithuania (18.8%).
Nevertheless, women in Latvia are making incredible strides and setting a standard for women in Eastern Europe and around the world.