Annika Elias tal i Essen

Annika Elias

Annika Elias, ordförande Ledarna och CEC-president, höll i juni 2013 ett tal vid eventet ”Fuhrung von morgen. Erfolgreich in gemischten teams” som arrangerades av ”ULA Die Fuhrungskräfte”, och ägde rum på Evonik Industries i Essen. Läs Annika Elias tal här!

Leadership/management in Europe


Gender, Age and Ethnic differences continue to change the face and composition of the cities and the workforce that we all navigate in. Globalization has reached all societies and one of the key challenges today’s is to how to successfully maneuver in today’s increasingly diverse society. This makes requirements on a modern diversed leadership.


Today I have been given the opportunity to talk about Leadership in the 21st century. Managers play a key role on the labor market. In order to achieve the crucial transition from a Europe in a severe economic crisis with high unemployment rates to a Europe with more people working and competitive companies, we need to acknowledge the importance of managers.

I will focus my speech on the necessity to develop our attitudes and values concerning leadership when it comes to the gender issue and on the demographic situation, whereas such factors as ethnic background also will be more important in the future.

The managers do not only have the responsibility to run profitable businesses. A truly thriving organization needs an insightful culture of leadership; it needs managers who succeed in motivating co-workers and create means for people to perform to the best of their abilities.

By providing an atmosphere where every individual is allowed to develop their skills and competencies, the managers will make the companies more profitable and make it possible for more people to be included in the workforce.

Europe has an aging group of inhabitants in the position of leaders and managers. This group consists mainly of middle-aged men from Europe. Europe will within the next years face a lack of managers that can be addressed only if we challenge our attitudes towards who is fit to lead.

Gender equality

Equality between women and men is one of the European Union´s founding values. Although inequalities exist, the EU has made significant progress over the last decades. This is mainly due to equal treatment legislation, gender mainstreaming and specific measures for the advancement of women.

Women make up 60 % of university graduates in the EU. The proportion of women in work has risen steadily, but the pace of change remains slow. There are still many challenges to tackle, most of all when it comes to women working as managers and especially women in top positions.

Europe is today squandering the intelligence of women. Warnings of a European brain-drain have sounded for a long time but many women acquire a university education that is not drawn on. Increased gender equality is an absolute necessity if Europe is to deal with the raging debt crisis and global competition.

In fact, some say that more working women may be the most important part of the solution to Europe's economic and demographic problems. Research (from Umeå University) shows that if women's participation rates (62 per cent work) were the same as men's (76 per cent), the EU's GDP could climb by 27 per cent.

Almost one third of women but only five percent of men having a young child worked part-time in 2011. Figures show that the moment men become fathers they start working longer hours. When women become mothers they either stop working for longer periods of time or work part time, often involuntarily. The minister for EU affairs in Sweden, Birgitta Ohlsson, often says “Europe has the world´s best educated housewives”.

This means that a large number of competent individuals are not contributing to the economy of EU. Efforts to move out of the economic crisis must go hand in hand with efforts to create a gender-equal Europe.


Demographic change poses policy and practical challenges, as well as opportunities. We need to consider the consequences of accommodating to a mature rather than to a youthful population – and workforce.

By 2040, each of the EU member states will have aged so that those aged less than 15 years will comprise a smaller proportion of the total population and those aged over 65 years will comprise a larger proportion. This ageing is - as I am sure you are all aware of – particularly dramatic in Germany, where the proportion of the population aged over 65 years will increase from 20.6 per cent in 2010 to 31.7 per cent in 2040.

Ethnical background

Added to the gender and the demographic issue, there is also the fact that Europe today is not making the most of the possibilities that an increased immigration offers. People from countries outside Europe, and perhaps the US and Canada, often experience big difficulties in getting jobs, let alone managers positions. And sadly enough, regardless of education and competence.

So what are the challenges we have to tackle in order to get a leadership that can take Europe out of the crisis?

Gender equality

Gender equality is not a ´women´s issue”. It is a business issue. (Viviane Reding Comissioner Justice)

The CEC Managers organisation regrets that the skills of many women are not being used to their full potential. Even though the situation is improving in some countries the pace of change in Europe remains slow.

Laws for parenthood, marital leave, childcare and possibilities for men to take parental leave take time to achieve. Changing of the attitudes are often the worst obstacles to overcome. The situation today makes it difficult for women to combine motherhood and a career as a manager.

Another issue to tackle is the gender pay gap – the average income differences between female and male employees across the entire European economy is 18 %, if you compare full time employment.

Possible solutions

Gender equality

Family politics - What´s good for mothers is good for fathers and is good for society.

  • Increased access to childcare. Good childcare should not be a privilege but available to all parents. Even after you have had children, it must pay to work. Childcare should therefore be subsidised or made tax deductible.
  • Better elderly care. Today, daughters often take responsibility for caring for their parents without pay. No one should have to rely on having children for security in their old age.
  • A more gender-equal use of parental leave is a prerequisite in shrinking the gap between women and men in the labor market.

This is a start, basic requirements for making it possible to work and raise a family. But the companies also have an important role to play to make managers positions available and interesting for both men and women.

To be able to take a role as a manager and also be able to be a parent of young children it is fundamental to have flexible work hour. This is eased by using all technical opportunities we now have access to. Leaving work at four and pick up your children at daycare, spend time together in the afternoon, and then work in your home a couple of hours when the children have gone to bed is a possible solution for some years. Perhaps not all will choose that, but companies must be more willing to accept the demands from the individual manager in order to attract the best.

Another factor in getting the most suitable employees to take on managerial positions is having structured training programs and a recruitment process which will focus on competence and not be burdened by oldfashioned attitudes.

The CEC believes that the advantage of women in positions of responsibility would strengthen the competitiveness of Europe. Once again: it is not a womens issue but a business issue.

In these times of crisis, we should not ignore the fact that women are perhaps the greatest, unused asset at Europe's disposal. The World Economic Forum's latest Global Gender Gap Report reveals a distinct positive correlation between gender equality and competitiveness, per capita GDP and economic and social development. Reducing the gaps between the sexes is, in other words, associated with a stronger economy.

An enabling environment must allow women to have access to positions of responsibility in companies. Thus, the implementation of concrete and predictable policies would also allow undertaking actions to address the gender imbalance in companies’ boards.

People in Europe clearly agree that this situation should be changed: 88% of Europeans believe given equal competences women should be equally represented in the top jobs in business. 75% of those asked are in favor of legislation on gender balance in company boards. European Commission reports in 2012 that in countries that have introduced gender quotas, progress advances a lot faster. Norway decided for five years ago about legislation on quotation to company boards. When quotation was introduced only six percent of Norwegian company board members were women. Today forty percent of the board members are women. Some results are: the boards now have wider network, female board members tend to have higher education which leads to a higher formal competence in the boards. And finally, women on the boards are younger which has led to a lower average age on the board.

Which brings me to the other aspect of our challenge to have the best leaders and managers: The demographic challenge.



Young people in Europe have been hit particularly hard by the recession regarding their employment prospects. In a period when their newly acquired skills and competences from university should be further developed in the companies and prepare them for taking on managerial positions, they are often faced with unemployment for several years.

In the coming years the number of qualified managers will decrease and this will have an impact on business. In Germany alone, the total managerial and professional workforce is predicted to shrink by almost 25% in the coming 30 years.

In Europe there is an overall resistance to hire young persons as leaders. We don´t give young persons the chance to become leaders, and we don´t give them the proper conditions.

Parallel, lots of older managers retire much too early. It is important for both companies and the public sector to enable managers to continue in order to pass on their knowledge to a younger generation. To be a manager is a demanding occupation, no matter what level of management you operate on. It is important that the conditions for the older managers are addressed and acted upon.



Transferring knowledge among members of the same organization has become a core element in the management of complex structures, especially in times of high specialization. Knowledge transfer should not only be seen as a one-way process though, as it is not only older workers who pass on to younger ones what they know. Younger workers can help the older to adapt to new technologies, new theories and business methods, and can assist them in incorporating their new features in their working practice.

Among the possible measures to be taken, managers could focus on setting mixed-age working teams, in order to avoid the risk of creating “age-ghettos” in companies and ensure that the circulation of knowledge reaches all departments and is evenly spread among all internal sectors.

It is important for both companies and the public sector to enable managers to continue in order to pass on their knowledge to a younger generation. To be a manager is a demanding occupation. As well as for young people in the process of getting a family, it is also important for older managers to be allowed more flexible work hours.

Redesigning individual working tasks according to the strengths, needs and capabilities of older managers is crucial to secure the ability, wellbeing and productivity of the older managers. This could  for instance mean moving to a management area that is less stressful than other business sectors with sales targets and profitability goals.

Training and jobrelated education even when you just have a few years left are policies which will encourage older managers to stay on and support the new young managers to grow.

And finally, pensionplans that gives room for part-time retirement, makes it possible to continue working for many more years, and at the same time prepare for a gradual move from work to retirement.

Implementing active ageing measures in the labor market means allowing for a longer presence of older workers at their jobs. For the availability of managers in the near future, this is a necessary and crucial business strategy.

Ethnical background

Immigration has a valuable role to play in strengthening the EU´s competitiveness, addressing current and future demographic challenges and filling labor shortages. This is considered a problem since Europe does not take advantage of the skills and experiences of persons from different countries, skills, for instance good knowledge on different languages that we need in an increasingly global world.

The development and migration agenda should be broadened. 

Mentoring programs could represent an effective solution, both concerning young managers and managers with other ethnical background, as they would at the same time help improve mutual esteem between colleagues and strengthen personal relations in the working place.


What does the leadership in the 21st century look like?

The CEC strongly supports the general idea of diversity management. The quality of decision-making and the productivity of a company can significantly be improved if all groups of employees, coming from diverse backgrounds, can freely contribute their full potential.

It is desirable that the companies themselves see the interest in improving the balance between men and women, younger and older and between persons with different ethnical backgrounds and make use of the different competencies.

However it appears that corporate self-regulation does not solve the whole problem of imbalance between different groups of people. Thus, the will and the initiatives of companies solely, do not allow effective coordination of relevant policies or the establishment of a common calendar. Perhaps it is time to accept new kinds of leadership, divided leadership and decentralized leadership. If more women, young and older people and people with other ethnicities work as managers, Europe will gain a new set of skills, skills necessary for overcoming the contemporary crisis.

Balanced diversity brings richness. It brings together the differences in approaches; it can bring together different sensibilities, different qualities of listening, discussion, consensus building and different methods of decision making and exercise of power steering. It is decisive for good team work and the development of a business culture in which everyone feels valued.

Thank you for listening!


  • The impact of demographic Change on the Future Availability of Managers and Professionals in Europe, Leeson, George W, CEC, University of Oxford, 2012
  • The European Comission´s New Gender Equality Strategy: Towards Quotas for Women in the boardroom, Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner, 2011
  • Almost a third of women and 5% of men having a young child worked part-time in 2011, Eurostat Newsrelease, 2013
  • In 2012, for every person aged 65 or older, there were 4 people of working age in the EU27, Eurostat Newsrelease, 2013
  • Maximising the Development Impact of Migration, The EU contribution for the UN High-level Dialogue and next steps towards broadening the development-migration nexus, European Comission, Brussels, 21.5.2013, COM(2013) 292 final
  • Women in economic decision-making in the EU: Progress report, A Europe 2020 initiative, European Commission, 2012

Uppdaterat: 2013-06-28


Jag vill bli medlem i Ledarna!

Bli medlem