Atos and The Bulgarian Fund For Women Together For Gender Equality

Atos's ambition is to be an inclusive, diverse, and ethical employer of choice. We strive to create an environment in which difference and individuality are valued and celebrated, in order to realize our full potential. This year we joined forces together with the Bulgarian Fund For Women and supported their annual March 8th campaign to spread the message for equality and a non-gender biased world. We invited BFW Executive Director Nadejda Dermendjieva to talk about their cause and how the companies like Atos can help them.

This year Atos supported your annual March 8th campaign. Was it successful and how the campaign unfolded?

The 8 of March was celebrated this year with a series of 20 events and initiatives throughout the country, held with the support of the Bulgarian Fund for Women. We are very grateful to Atos because with your support we were able to invest in and promote all these initiatives. The other donors who provided support were the Embassies of the Netherlands and Switzerland. With your kind support at the moment, numerous events and online activities are implemented all over the country to celebrate women’s achievements. Among them is a funny handbook aimed at the development of young women’s entrepreneurship skills; support and social engagement of women with mental disabilities; promoting the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development and gender equality through a series of online quizzes for youths; empowerment activities within a support group for women victims of domestic violence; promotion of the place of women in science and STEM, and many others. This way we are celebrating the political, economic, scientific, and cultural achievements of women. The outreach of the initiatives is impressive!

What does the recent gender equality researches show about Bulgaria? Are we progressing in that field?

In March – Women’s History Month, it is important to recall that women in Bulgaria have been fighting for equality for more than a century. Thanks to this long tradition of struggle for equality, women today have the right to vote and participate in the government and in decision-making processes, study at a university, and work. Despite the progress we have made in recent decades, full gender equality is not yet a fact. The pay gap between men and women in Bulgaria is 13.5%. Only ¼ of the MPs in the Bulgarian Parliament are women. Every two weeks a Bulgarian woman is killed by her husband, partner, relative, or acquaintance. There are 360,000 single mothers in Bulgaria, 72% of whom live below the poverty line together with their children.

All this shows us that we still have a long way to go so that 52% of the population - women, feel equal, with equal opportunities for education and realization, protected from gender-based violence, able to make their own decisions for themselves, for their bodies and for their development. Only this way girls and women will develop their full potential, talents, and abilities. We believe that special attention needs to be paid to those who are in a vulnerable position - women from small villages and towns, those with disabilities, Roma girls and women, LGBTI people, elderly women, single mothers, etc. That’s why all these groups are the focus of the work of the Bulgarian Fund for Women.

Despite improvements, women in general still do not occupy many of the top influential decision-making posts of organizations. Why is that, do you think?

Less than 16% of the executives and directors of large companies in Bulgaria are women, according to Eurostat data. You are right, women are still much less represented in decision-making positions. At the same time, more and more studies show that women's participation in management positions leads to higher financial results for companies. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, companies that invest in women in leadership positions and in diversity, in general, have 15% better results than the average for the respective national industries. Among the other advantages that are reported are better decisions, enhanced knowledge of consumer attitudes and insights, better governance, and more successful cultivation of talents.

The business has always been a trendsetter. Companies like Atos are the pathfinders of change. We know that in Atos most of the managerial positions are occupied by women and you pay special attention to the policies for gender equality, inclusion, and diversity. We are confident that this brings many benefits to the company as a business entity and to the corporate climate as a whole, as indicated by the studies above. Talent development is the biggest investment any company can make and why deprive it of half the basis for finding that talent?

What can be done to encourage positive changes about women's low representation in managerial roles? How your organization supports that goal?

What needs to be done is both at the level of legislation and policies to support the promotion of equality, but also in changes of the public attitudes. And of course, incorporation of innovative business practices. The European Commission is making special efforts in this area and has a recent Resolution on the subject, all the more so as the crisis with the COVID pandemic intensifies inequalities throughout society. What we do at the Bulgarian Fund for Women is, on the one hand, to develop programs and to support organizations that stimulate the empowerment and leadership of girls and women; support their access to education and the labor market in sectors that are considered male, such as IT and STEM; develop women's entrepreneurship; access of vulnerable groups of women to resources and opportunities; programs to combat domestic violence, etc. The other thing we do is information campaigns to eliminate stereotypes, discrimination, and patriarchal thinking. We live in the 21st century and every woman and girl has the right to be and to express her true self. We deserve a chance to make our dreams come true, we deserve to have equal opportunities!

Companies like Atos are our allies in these long-term battles to change attitudes and values ​​and to change the practices and policies that drive our daily lives. Find out more about our work and how you can support us on our website.

If you have one piece of advice for women trying to ask for raise, negotiate something, etc. what would that be?

Believe in yourself but more important - take good care of yourself. My personal motto is “Dream big and multiply by two!”