Retail chain wins equal opportunities award

For the first time, a retail cosmetics and toiletries chain, DM Drogerie Markt, was among the recently announced winners of the Czech Republic’s ‘Company of the Year: Equal Opportunities Award 2011’. In first and third places were the bankers Česká spořitelna and IBM Czech Republic, less surprising winners since the banking and IT sectors are known for supporting female employees. The awards highlight the country’s most successful equal opportunities policies.


The Company of the Year: Equal Opportunities Award contest has been organised since 2004 by Gender Studies, a Czech not-for-profit organisation. Gender Studies is a significant stakeholder in the civic sector, and is engaged in raising public awareness of equal opportunities and promoting them in various arenas, for example in institutions, the labour market and in politics. The project is financed by the European Social Fund and the Prague City Hall.

Award-winning companies and their policies

While the majority of companies winning this contest have for some time come from sectors like banking, insurance services and information technology (IT), it is exceptional to see a company from the retail sector singled out for praise for its good equal opportunities practices.

The winning companies’ policies (summarised in the table) concentrate mainly on increasing the participation of women in managerial positions, retaining the work potential of employees on maternal or parental leave and coping with negative phenomena like mobbing or harassment.

Award-winning companies in 2011 and their policies

Česká spořitelna

DM Drogerie Markt

IBM Czech Republic



Retail sale of cosmetics and toiletries

Information technology

Foreign ownership

Member of Austrian banking group Erste Group

Subsidiary of Austrian DM Drogerie Markt

Subsidiary of American and multinational corporation IBM

Number of employees

10,274 (as of 30 September 2011)

1,910 (October 2011)

More than 3,000

Previous award in the contest



2004–2007, 2009

  • Anti-discrimination clause
  • Posts dedicated to support non-discriminatory policies, manager for ethics and company ombudsman
  • Enforcement of equal opportunities is one of the performance criteria of senior management
  • ‘Diversitas project’ focusing on equality issues in the company
  • Women’s academy ‘Minerva’ for talented female employees
  • Mentoring programme ‘Satori’ for talented female employees
  • ‘ČÁP programme’ supporting employees on maternity/ parental leave; motivating them to return early
  • Wide range of flexible work arrangements offered
  • ‘Sova programme’ for employees of 50+ and ‘Transitions programme’ being prepared for workers with disabilities
  • Sophisticated system of financial remuneration and benefits that ensure fairness
  • Information related to wage levels and benefits is published internally on company intranet
  • Guidelines for resolving mobbing and harassment issues and assistance dealing with these problems
  • Gender audit completed in 2010, now taking steps to implement audit recommendations
  • Programme supporting talented women – ‘Taking the stage’
  • Women’s Leadership Council – informal association promoting female employees via education and exchange of experience
  • Concerns and Appeal Programme to resolve mobbing and sexual harassment issues at work
  • Parental Leave and Return Programme focusing on maintaining contact with employees and their qualifications and motivation for early return
  • Wide range of flexible work arrangements (such as flexible office programme allowing home working)

Source: Company of the Year: Equal Opportunities Award 2011 website and websites of the winning companies

Trade unions and policymaking

Companies competing in the contest are asked, among other things, how their trade unions pay attention to equal opportunities.

Competition organisers say most of the companies in the contest give very little information about this, or say a trade union is not present. This is the case for both DM Drogerie Markt and IBM CZ, in which no trade unions operate. It could therefore be inferred that in Czech companies the policymaking and implementation of policies promoting equal opportunities are in the hands of employers.

However, a successful example of close cooperation among social partners can be found in Česká spořitelna, where a trade union was one of the initiators of its equal opportunities policy. This topic is a high priority for the company’s trade unions and they have required continuous output from the company’s Diversitas project, promoting it and making efforts to take part in it. Regular reporting is on the agenda of a company union committee at which the chairs of union organisations are present and information is published on the intranet and union websites.

Česká spořitelna is the only bank within the Austrian Erste Group that has a systematic programme for promoting equal opportunities. The company is also in contact with the Austrian union organisation and represents good practice for the whole group.

Hana Geissler, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (RILSA)

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