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Who’s working, who’s managing and how can we change that?

Why are so few of us on the job market then? Why do we continue to have to struggle for our positions in companies and prove at every step that we are as good as our male colleagues? Why do less than 7% of us occupy managerial positions? Will we ever achieve equality in the professional sphere? The discrimination of women is an undeniable fact. Research confirms that it is not merely a feminist invention. Over half of women have experienced discrimination at work. Despite the fact that women work longer hours than men, their average pay is lower than men’s; they have more problems with receiving promotions and difficulty getting employed in certain professions. It is women that more often lose jobs and have more difficulty finding new ones.

Some of these phenomena result from the gender differentiation of the structure of employment. Women work more often in sectors such as education, state administration and health care, that is, in the lowest paid sectors that do not produce, and depend on state or local administration budgets. It would seem therefore that we are still stuck in an epoch when there existed a clear division between the male and female roles: men were responsible for earning money and supporting the family, while women had to bear and raise children, clean the house, and cook meals. With time, women were allowed to work as governesses, teachers, nurses and, after the industrial revolution, also in factories, but still their work was paid less and had lower social prestige than the work of men.

Today we live in a different reality, but we are still subject to the same stereotypes. I know from my own experience how easy it is to get involved in work and fight for the company’s interest and how difficult it is to make oneself fight for one’s own interest within the company. Have you who are reading this article ever thought that it is not you who should be asking for a promotion or a raise, but your employer who should recognize your skills and offer you a better salary and the opportunity for professional growth? But how long are we supposed to wait and why shouldn’t this initiative come from us? What are we to be ashamed of and why waste our time?

Sadly, women are still less optimistic than men when it comes to salaries and promotions. In one of the studies, asked whether they expect that in a given year their salary will be smaller, bigger or will remain the same, 56 percent of the women responded that they expect a raise, while among men that percentage was 63. More women than men expressed the opinion that their salaries will be lower. We are more pessimistic judges of the possibility of the development of our own careers.

Clearly the lives of women who have ambitions other than caring for the family and the home are not easy. The question remains: does it have to be that way? Legal guarantees of equal rights are necessary but not sufficient. What is more important and more difficult to achieve is the change in social attitudes to women’s professional activity and in the attitudes of women themselves toward their own professional careers.

A huge role is played here by education and economic changes, which in the era of computers and the Internet modify the character of human work. Studies show that women who have higher education are more aware of professional segregation than are women of elementary or vocational education. Luckily, more and more women go to college and education plays an increasingly important role in their lives. It is the economic situation in our country that forces women (as well as men) to continue education. A relatively high unemployment rate requires well qualified specialists, so that anybody who wants to have a job has to go to school. The fact that more emphasis is placed today on education and the social skills of the employees, for example on an ability to work in a group, may improve the situation of women on the job market. Today women are perceived differently in the role of managers, because women in managerial positions more often than men reject gender stereotypes and are more decisive and more easily establish and maintain good relations with clients. Companies which take full advantage of women’s talents are perceived today as more innovative and more easily adaptable to market demands. Today human resources’ specialists declare that the women’s style of management reflects contemporary tendencies in institutional administration.

“Women have ideology and the conviction that they are in the right. The revolution belongs to them. Men, on the other hand, are left with the role of demoralized, musty dictators who have to go, because there is no spirit left in them,” says Wojciech Eichelberger in one interview. One could hardly disagree.

Małgorzata Rusewicz
lawyer, director of the Department of Social Dialogue and Labor Relations at the Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan (PKPP Lewiatan). Expert on the job market and insurance law. Member of the Supervisory Board of the Dublin Foundation and of expert groups at the European Commission and BUSINESSEUROPE. Until 2007 worked at the Institute of Labor and Social Studies and the ZUS national social insurance agency. In April 2008 appointed member of the Supervisory Employment Council. Author of numerous publications on labor relations and insurance law.


Added: 27 października 2011 Category: General
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