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Case study

Slovenia: the bigger picture

Slovenia reached gender parity in the top two tiers of its public service back in 2008 and has for some years held the number one spot in the EU ranking, with women accounting for 56.1% of officials across the two highest levels. Mojca Ramšak Pešec, state secretary at the country’s Ministry of Public Administration, reviews the long journey towards gender equality.

“The authorities in Slovenia have for many years had a positive and very favourable attitude towards women reaching the highest positions in the administration. I have held senior management positions for over 20 years, and have never felt that I’ve been treated differently to my male counterparts.

Until the formation of the independent state of Slovenia in 1991, however, Slovenia lacked the conditions to support work on gender equality. It was a very closed and traditional society that was led by men; a country in which women were housewives and men worked, providing for the family financially.

Things have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. We now have women in positions that were previously only occupied by men: the director general of police and chief of staff of the Slovenian armed forces, for example, are both women.

A gender-balanced management team is a great advantage in every organisation, as it creates the conditions for combining different approaches – those perceived as ‘feminine’ and as ‘masculine’ – to solving tasks. It is the same when it comes to age, combining the knowledge and experience of older people with young people’s willingness to take risks.

In getting to that point, though, I am opposed to forcing women through the system using quotas or other special conditions. Quotas mitigate against appointing people purely on the basis of their competence and abilities, and I see them as both unacceptable and offensive. I would never want to take a position knowing that I had been recruited to fulfil a quota rather than on the basis of my skills and knowledge.

Instead, we can create the conditions for women to progress on the basis of their merits: we have mechanisms in place, for example, to enable women to successfully combine family life with their careers.

We have made so much progress on gender equality in the public sector – but in the wider economy, women occupy a smaller proportion of senior roles. My goal and wish is to increase the share of women in management positions across society, in every field of the economy. I want Slovenia to remain a country that is open to diversity – and for it to be a guide to all.”