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Poland has few prominent women in politics or business.
Voters are often unfamiliar with the names of the people running, so those placed in the top couple of spots on the list tend to win, because voters usually check off the first names they see of the party they want to support. Even if a third or half of places on the list were reserved for women, it would have little impact if the women were located far down the roll, a decision made by party bosses.
There is also a dearth of women in the most senior posts of government. Tusk’s cabinet does have women, but the most powerful roles, such as finance, economy and defense, are all held by men. There are also no women candidates running for president in this autumn’s elections.
The woman to try most recently for the country’s top job was Henryka Bochniarz, the head of Lewiatan, the Polish employers federation, who ran in 2005 and gained an embarrassing 1.26 percent.
Bochniarz is now on the board of Boeing International, where she was the first woman to hold a post of that seniority. She says that the situation for women in business is even more difficult than in politics.
In a survey of the country’s top companies last year, the Rzeczpospolita newspaper found only 16 women and 257 men on the boards of the 60 largest companies listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.
The situation has improved slightly since then, following the naming of Alicja Kornasiewicz as the new CEO of Bank Pekao, Poland’s second-largest bank; she is the only female CEO of a large listed Polish company.
As well as a more traditional attitude toward a woman’s proper place, Polish women also have trouble getting ahead because the daycare system is much less developed than in western Europe, where it is much easier for women to arrange for childcare and continue their business and political careers.
“Woman have a hard time in the corporate world, and when they do reach powerful positions, they have to work twice as hard to stay there,” said Andrew Atter, an executive coach.