BPW Cyprus makes its mark at The XXIX BPW International Congress in Cairo, Egypt, on 23-27 October 2017

BPW Cyprus makes its mark at the XXIX BPW International Congress in Cairo, Egypt, on 23-27 October 2017

BPW Cyprus participated in the 29th BPW International Congress which was held in Cairo, Egypt, on 23-27 October 2017.

The Cyprus delegation consisted of Mary Papadopoulou (President of BPW Cyprus), Elena Theodorou Koz (President of BPW Nicosia), Soula Hadjikyriakou (Member of BPW Kyrenia, and Andri Prodromou (Member of BPW).

BPW International took this occasion to present BPW Cyprus with the prestigious ‘Power to Make a Difference through Advocacy’ Award (2nd place worldwide).

BPW Cyprus presents its approach to Effective Advocacy Strategies for Women at the International Congress in Cairo

During the Congress, BPW Cyprus President Mary Papadopoulou presented the Cyprus Federation’s approach to effective advocacy for women, which earned BPW Cyprus the prestigious ‘Power to Make a Difference through Advocacy’ Award (2nd place worldwide).

Text of the complete presentation

Madame President, Fellow BPW members and colleagues,
Thank you for inviting me to share with you the fruits of our efforts to improve the conditions of women in Cyprus, both on a professional and personal level. In particular, I will focus on the successful advocacy campaigns that led to our most recent award – the ‘Power to Make a Difference through Advocacy’ award.
It was indeed a great honour for us, for Cyprus, to receive this international award, which encourages us to continue our work with the same, if not more, commitment to the cause and values of BPW International.
They key campaign that earned us this award was our Gender Equality campaign. From Day One, BPW Cyprus has been fighting for gender equality in an environment that was not always supportive. Initially, women themselves were not aware of the gender pay gap and low representation of women on boards and in decision-making or leadership positions. Although different efforts were made on various occasions, concrete and targeted action was taken in 2016, based on the following four-step strategy:
1. Research to collect the facts
2. Reporting of results to raise awareness
3. Lobbying for relevant legislation, and
4. Promotion of good practices.

How did we collect the facts?
BPW Cyprus commissioned an islandwide study of women’s roles, their degree of participation in business at a decision-making level, their advancement opportunities and to examine whether equal pay and other good practices were being implemented in local businesses.
The study allowed BPW to continue its efforts on the basis of hard facts:

  • Although 50,2% of working women in Cyprus hold high academic qualifications (graduate, post-graduate and doctoral degrees), their participation in corporate leadership positions is disproportionately low, at 27,5% compared to 72% for men. Only 4% of the board members interviewed were women.
  • The percentage of women in Cyprus with graduate, post-graduate or doctoral degrees is the second highest in the world, after Canada.
  • The percentage of employed women who report to only one superior in their company is 66,7% (of which 12,6% report to a women, and 54,1% report to a man).
  • 13,4% still believe that gender should be taken into account in the evaluation process, and 6,4% are undecided.
  • In terms of distribution between men and women in the workplace, from the 56 participants who stated that they were board members, 43 were men and 13 were women. That amounts to 76.8% men and 23.2% women. At the managerial level, the distribution was similar, with 174 men – that is 79.8% -and 44 women, or 20.2%.

These are only three of the key conclusions drawn from the study.

With the facts in hand, we focused on raising awareness.
In a press conference we shared the conclusion of the study and emphasized the need for society as a whole to embrace gender equality as a matter of principle.
Valuable as it may be, a study that does not trigger action will never be more than a compilation of words, figures and graphs printed on paper. This study has provided all the data we need to recognize, evaluate, examine and design the solution to gender inequality. With a desire for positive change, we can, and we will, work towards and achieve greater equality in our society.

The next step was to lobby for relevant legislation.
After meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and sharing the results of our survey with the Legislature, the Executive Authority, Organized Bodies and other Federations and Organizations, we submitted a bill concerning the participation of women on the boards of public companies. A message calling for the participation of capable women on the boards of semi-governmental organizations was conveyed to the President of the Republic of Cyprus.

To promote good practices,
we published a manual, which is now inspiring companies, bodies, organizations and the government to introduce and promote measures leading to gender equality in their operation. The practices compiled in the manual focus on achieving the following:

  • Reconciliation of family life and work for both mothers and fathers
  • Equal pay for equal work, with maximum transparency
  • Women’s access to leadership positions
  • Women’s advancement opportunities
  • Elimination of occupational segregation

After all, gender equality does not only apply to working women. It applies to 50% of a country’s workforce.
In a memo to the Accountant General of the Republic of Cyprus we called for a government directive to reward companies that have been certified for the practical implementation of good practices regarding gender equality in the workplace, by granting them preference when they participate in public tenders. Such a valuable and measurable advantage during the public procurement process serves as a powerful incentive.
Our determination and persistent efforts in this area delivered impressive results. On 30 June, the Accountant General of the Republic of Cyprus issued a circular announcing the implementation of the proposal submitted by BPW Cyprus.
This is a major achievement, a milestone in the history of our Federation, and one that signals a new era in Cyprus.
To further promote good practices of gender equality, our annual Equal Pay Day has consistently been a key event on the calendar of BPW Cyprus. Every year we come one step closer to our goal, by having serious discussions with all political party leaders, the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Employers and Industrialists Federation. We persistently urge them to join us in our mission to implement the existing legislation in everyday practice, not only in the public sector but also in the private sector. This year, a strong social media campaign accompanied our efforts, which were broadly covered by the press and the media.
In additions, and to highlight the achievements of women in business, BPW Cyprus launched the annual ‘Eriphyle, Women of Excellence’ awards in 2016. The purpose of the awards is to recognize the important strategic role of women and their contribution to the development of today’s economy, in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship, in line with standards of global competitiveness.
The Eriphyle awards not only recognize the achievement of selected women in the business community, but also aim to inspire and nurture the next generation of woman entrepreneurs by empowering, encouraging and supporting a new generation of women who will dare to take initiative, build strategies and partnerships; women who will be role models for others; women who are real agents of change.
While we still have a long way to go, our four-step strategy has taken our local society to a new stage on the uphill road to gender equality.
Another area which is inseparable from BPW Cyprus is our Women’s Health advocacy, more specifically, our Cervical Cancer Prevention Campaign.
It is driven by the shocking statistics showing that every year more than 60.000 women in Europe develop cervical cancer. Every 18 minutes, one woman in Europe dies from cervical cancer. That translates into 80 women per day.
Under the banner of ‘Prevention through Awareness’, we organize events to communicate information that will help women and adolescents understand the facts, and in particular the value of pre-symptomatic testing. Our campaign extended across urban and mainly rural areas and has already reached 104 municipalities, institutions of higher education, and private companies.
Our intensive annual awareness campaign during the European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is always a great success that exceeds our expectations by far. This year’s campaign included a series of TV appearances and radio talk shows, as well as lectures at universities and large companies. In terms of publicity, we distributed 18.000 informative leaflets, along with eye-catching T-shirts, pins and fridge magnets. We ran strong social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube, and produced powerful TV commercials and radio spots.
Four years ago, and with the support of the Ministry of Health, we expanded our program and started a pilot program to offer free Pap tests for women in rural areas. We decided to address rural areas first, as this is where a previously commissioned study revealed the greatest needs. A total of 2029 free Pap tests were conducted and 19 cases of pre-cancer or advanced lesions were detected. In other words, 19 lives were saved.
It is extremely gratifying to know that we have been able to offer the women of Cyprus such a valuable community service.
The impact of our annual cervical cancer prevention campaigns is remarkable, and BPW Cyprus is determined to continue its efforts to increase awareness levels and early diagnoses rates, until we bring down the number of fatalities from 80 a day to zero.
BPW Sisters,
We need to support each other.
We must work together, with vision, inspiration, responsibility, strength, commitment, integrity and transparency.
For the sake of a better tomorrow, we need to take action, without restrictions.
Slaves of habit are merely living a slow death.
Those who never rock the boat, never step out their comfort zone,
never take a chance in the pursuit of goals and dreams,
they all are living a slow death.
And those who resist change at all costs are also living a slow death.
But we at BPW take our destiny into our own hands.
We know that with our own actions we can break new ground.

BPW Cyprus accepts the ‘Power to Make a Difference through Advocacy’ award

On behalf of BPW Cyprus, Mary Papadopoulou proudly accepted the award with the following words:

“Thank you Madame President for this special award which means so much to BPW Cyprus, and to our country. This is the time to thank the Central Committee and all the members of BPW Cyprus for their indispensable contributions to the efforts that led to this award.Receiving the Power to make a Difference Award is certainly a great honor. It is an acknowledgment that energizes our commitment to the principles of BPW International. But honor goes hand in hand with responsibility. This award sets a precedent, a high standard that I, as the President of BPW Cyprus, have a responsibility to maintain. I accept that responsibility with pride, and promise that BPW Cyprus will aim even higher, to make an even greater difference for business and professional women in Cyprus and beyond.”
BPW Cyprus’s international achievement was widely covered in the Cyprus media:


Mary Papadopoulou dedicated the award to all BPW Cyprus members.