Girl power

Women are making a run in the boardrooms of Russia, taking up many of the top executive positions. But in politics it's a different story. And the enemy within could be other women.

Tatyana Vitko, owner of gift shops

Tatyana says she has a gift for acting like a man. An owner of several gift shops, and a mother of four, she is firm, disciplined, and meticulous. And while most of her subordinates are women too, Tatyana says her business doesn’t have a gender.

“As far as business goes, I don’t think I differ from any male executives. I work with men, I learn from them, I play by their rules, I follow laws of business that were put forth by men. The only difference is that I smile more often,” says Tatiana.

Studies show women like Tatiana are becoming a new driving force in Russian business. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, about 40% of executive positions this year went to women – as opposed to 30 % last year.

‘Girl power’ is really taking hold of Russian business, but this trend is yet to be reflected in other spheres of life. In the Russian parliament, for example, only 14 percent of seats belong to women, while in the cabinet there are eight men for every woman. ‘Ladies first’ may be a useful expression for passing doorways, but it’s still to be introduced to Russian politics.

Tatyana Golikova, Labor and Social Development Minister

Young, smart, and pretty. With her tight skirts and ever-changing hair style, Tatiana Golikova has introduced a sense of fashion to the male-dominated Russian government. Being one of the three ladies in the cabinet, she is responsible for labor policies, but when it comes to her own subordinates, women are in the minority.

“I have a female deputy who is in charge of public health. All others are men. I think the question about the number of women in power is up to society and its leaders. And I don’t think any quotas or other special measures are required,” she says.

Svetlana Aivazova, sociologist

So why is the increasing number of women in business not translating into politics? Sociologists say it’s an issue of stereotypes and money management.

“For private business, the most important thing is profit. And their professional skills often outweigh stereotypes. But in the government, values still remain very traditional, and it is connections, not skills, that play a key role,” explains Svetlana.

Anna Ruban, a victim of female executive

Surprisingly, women themselves are not always excited about female leadership. Anna Ruban just quit her job because, she says, she couldn’t take her boss’s constant mood swings anymore. Her chief was pregnant and, according to Anna, that made any complaints irrelevant, because under the Russian labor code, pregnant women cannot be fired.

“I think men, on the whole, are better bosses than women. Men are more clear and concise. They define a goal and demand clear results. Women are less organized and more emotional. They want you to drink coffee, run their errands and do your job – all at the same time,” Anna said.

But this doesn’t stop Anna from wanting to be a director one day.