Women stand at the forefront of reviving Ukraine’s economy and tackling pressing social challenges. Yet, to truly make strides, we need to address the gender wage gap, ensure equitable employment opportunities, advance education, and foster an environment conducive to female-led enterprises and the growth of socially driven businesses.

Even before Russia’s aggressive intrusion, Ukraine’s demographic trajectory was giving cause for concern. The aftermath of the war, coupled with the exodus of millions of Ukrainians and the enlistment of hundreds of thousands of men in defense roles, has amplified this challenge to near-crisis levels.

Data from the Ukrainian Institute of the Future reveals a stark picture: come May 2023, Ukraine's resident population hovers around 29 million. Of these, a mere nine million are gainfully employed. Taking out the public sector from the equation, we’re looking at a workforce of six–seven million. This group shoulders the weight of supporting the majority of the population – approximately 22-23 million people, encompassing retirees, kids, students, jobless individuals, and, yes, those in public services.

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And here’s the kicker: the Ministry of Economy estimates that for Ukraine to get back on its economic feet, we need to infuse the job market with an additional four and a half million workers within the next decade. It’s a tall order. Without transformative shifts in our employment landscape and championing the pivotal role of women, meeting this goal might remain a distant dream.

300 Years of Attempted Genocide
Other Topics of Interest

300 Years of Attempted Genocide

In Vladimir Putin’s perverse view, Ukraine is not a valid, sovereign nation. And with Russia’s targeting of civilians, including women and children, it seeks to destroy Ukraine’s very lifeblood.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that women will play a massive role in rebuilding post-war Ukraine.

Who Will Step Up If Not Us?

Right now, it’s the women of Ukraine who are shouldering the brunt of the work, stepping into roles traditionally held by their husbands, brothers, and sons. When the large-scale invasion began, Ukrainian women didn’t miss a beat, quickly stepping up.

From humanitarian and military volunteers to wives managing businesses in industries as varied as farming and logistics, they’ve taken charge. Notably, medical professionals among them have either joined the military ranks or have been regularly working in frontline towns.

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This trend isn’t just a fleeting one. In just the initial months of 2023, half of the new private businesses in Ukraine were started by women. Out of the 36,892 businesses that popped up, 18,776 were spearheaded by women.

This is especially significant when you consider that back in 2020, fewer Ukrainian women were employed compared to men, with the numbers standing at 50.7  percent versus 61.9 percent, according to Ukraine’s official statistics.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that women will play a massive role in rebuilding post-war Ukraine. However, to harness this potential fully, we need to tackle long-standing gender biases. It's an open secret that Ukrainian women, despite their contributions, continue to earn less than men. Data from 2021 revealed that women in Ukraine made just 79.3 percent of what men did, essentially meaning they worked for free every fifth day. It’s also hard to ignore the gender disparity in STEM fields, such as math, engineering, construction, agriculture, and IT.

And let’s not forget that mothers often prioritize their children’s needs, taking unpaid leave and investing their resources in their kids rather than themselves. Offering comprehensive educational and after-school programs for children has never been more essential—it not only benefits the children but also paves the way for women to further pursue their growth.

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The future of business is not just about chasing profits, but about creating genuine value for our communities and addressing pressing societal challenges.

What’s the Next Step?

We need to carve out a path forward by developing a supportive infrastructure, backed by both our national government and international partners. This foundation should ensure every woman in Ukraine has a clear shot at quality education, skill upgradation, and job retraining. It's about leveling the playing field in the job sector and championing women’s foray into social entrepreneurship.

Our women have already stamped their mark on the socio-economic landscape. Since the previous year]s upheaval, we've seen countless women-led ventures stepping up, not only offering products or essential aids but also creating vital employment avenues. And as Ukraine gets back on its feet, with communities gaining a louder voice in decision-making, the influence of these ventures is poised to amplify.

The future of business is not just about chasing profits, but about creating genuine value for our communities and addressing pressing societal challenges. Here, women, armed with their innate soft skills like empathy, adaptability, accountability, and the knack for juggling multiple tasks and fostering partnerships, have an edge.

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But, to truly tap into this potential, we need the right knowledge base. Bridging the expertise of our global allies with the zeal and efficiency of our women-led community groups will lay the groundwork for a dynamic social entrepreneurship environment. This could be our best bet to address the economic challenges looming over Ukraine.

When women step up, great things happen!

Who’s Leading the Education and For What Purpose?

The Impact Force initiative presents the Dream and Achieve online academy tailored for women. Collaborating with UN Women and bolstered by our Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, it's a beacon for displaced Ukrainian women, guiding them towards newfound opportunities and stability in these tumultuous times.

What’s it all about? The heart of the matter is threefold: digital proficiency, financial autonomy, and economic resilience for Ukrainian women and their households. Armed with essential skills in entrepreneurship and digital tech, these women are set to start their businesses, secure job placements, or broaden their career horizons.

It’s worth highlighting that Ukrainian women currently have an array of educational avenues to explore. Several of these are pioneered by international bodies, all with the backing of our national government.

From where I stand, it seems every year Ukraine sees a surge in such invaluable educational platforms. These are more than just opportunities; they’re springboards for our women to elevate their professional and financial standing, all while turbocharging our economy and syncing with the broader democratic ethos of the West.

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Women are not just on a personal growth trajectory; they’re creating nurturing networks, mentoring peers. This collective growth doesn’t just buoy businesses or social enterprises; it's the bedrock of national progress.

The more such communal initiatives we see, the brighter our collective future. And with women at the helm, I’m all optimism. Because when women step up, great things happen!

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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