By Ariane Hegewisch
This past fall, IWPR staff had two opportunities to meet with representatives from Europe who visited IWPR to learn more about our research work. In August, IWPR received visitors from Poland who were in the country under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. The Polish women who visited were two members of the Polish Parliament, the Deputy Voivode—or lieutenant governor—of Lower Silesia, and the president of a women’s rights foundation. They were eager to hear about the experience of being part of a women’s policy organization in the United States and sought information on how to fund and sustain such an organization, how to communicate policy messages, and how not to become frustrated by gender blindness in politics. The second visit came from an all-female delegation of shop stewards and union officials from 3F, the largest Danish trade union which represents mainly low-skilled workers, accompanied by Britta Thomsen, a member of the European Parliament and coordinator of the Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. This group focused on the issue of female perspectives in workplace and business leadership. They are hoping that Denmark can follow Norway’s model of requiring that all publicly traded and public limited corporations have 40 percent female directors on their boards, but are unsure about levels of support for such a quota in Denmark. The women commented that this rule was controversial when first adopted in Norway, but quickly seemed to be accepted as simply the way business was done. They see change at the top as being important to help women at all levels. The delegation was in the United States to investigate the impact of the country’s affirmative action programs on increasing women’s share of non-traditional jobs for women, including leadership in unions and top tier positions in business.