Source Linkedin|.com | Renata George, Managing Director at Zenmen venture fund
Recent Microsoft study of 11,500 girls and young women across Europe discovered that their interest in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – drops dramatically at 15. Gender stereotypes, few female role models, peer pressure and a lack of encouragement from parents and teachers largely to blame. Not so in Russia. Diversity means different cultural experience too, so there is definitely something to learn from Slavic culture.
More than 40% of executive business positions in Russia are held by women, according to Grant Thornton’s International Business Report. According to Unesco, 29% of people in scientific research worldwide are women, compared with 41% in Russia. In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia. What is so special about Slavic women? (Russia is not only Moscow, and the traits I’ll be talking further about are common among most of the Slavic women.)
Slavic women do not need favors from men and consider men an obstacle not greater than rain. They are unstoppable if they want something hard enough! That attitude can be learned, however.
A couple of years ago, I contributed to the book “Dear Female Founder” – a collection of 66 letters with first-hand advice from 66 female entrepreneurs and investors who have generated $1 billion in revenue. Having lived in Russia for quite a long time, but also having traveled around the world, I tried to distill the character traits that help Slavic women climb that high, considering the fact that Russia has mostly been a patriarchy since inception.
To understand the origin of these traits better, keep in mind that East European womanhood is a mindset coming from Slavic history and culture. They lived through centuries of monarchy, when a man was a strong and sole ruler, had absolute and unlimited power. That was not only the political structure, but also a frame for commercial and family relationships. Slavic women always worked and always held up their men, whatever happened. Even today, among Russian female Millennials the imperial mindset still exists. They have only one pattern – where a man is the head and his woman is behind him. This is all they have known, historically and culturally.
When the monarchy was overthrown, Slavic women stepped into the era of wars. Just compare: US losses through its whole history of wars amounted to 1,320,000 (Source: U.S. Army Military History Institute; iCasualities; Wikipedia), while Russians lost 16,000,000 militaries in World War II alone, and that doesn’t include killed civilians. So imagine: when a girl’s grandfather, dad and elder brother leave the house for a war, does she have a choice of a lifestyle? Those years were the time of the real natural selection for women — there were very few men around. Women were bred to be strong and self-sufficient, but they were always waiting for a man to come back home and preserved his throne for him.
That is all you need to know in brief to answer the «Why?» question. Let’s jump to «How?». What lessons Slavic women have learned to be visible in business, while not dominating men? What helps Slavic women feel secure enough to be half a step behind men, but be able to easily prove their power if challenged?