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WORK

PINK AND BLUE PROFESSIONS

The belief that reproductive roles of women and men predetermine their ability in all areas persists even today. The division of men’s and women’s work, according to this logic, also applies at home and taking care of children, as well as in paid jobs. Even historically, the division of paid/men’s jobs outside the household and unpaid/women’s jobs at home is limited to a certain type of middle-class suburban family living. Even though workplaces and professions are going through enormous transformations to recognize the uniqueness of every individual and provide them equity, it’s still possible to find attitudes throughout many workplaces. 

Although the equality of men and women was fixed by law in the former Czechoslovakia, including during socialism, women earned less and were more burdened by unpaid work at home and by childcare. We used to speak about a double or even triple burden (managing a paid job, childcare, household maintenance). At the same time, women would pursue higher education, even in traditionally “men’s” professions. The contradictions between a law and reality were present back then and are still present today due to, among other things, the often very strong influence of gender stereotyping.

It was not so long ago when women did not work outside of their households. As Hillary Clinton recalls, when she was growing up, she knew just one woman doctor and could not even imagine a woman being an engineer. In 1960s, women had to ask for a husband’s written permission when they wanted to start a paid job in Switzerland. And it was in 1966 when the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the male-only admittance policy of the Virginia Military Institute. 

The US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an equality advocate, studied at Harvard University in 1950s with only 9 women and 500 men in her year. It wasn’t until Harvard’s 200th anniversary, in 2015, when 50% of the graduates were women. In the movie RBG (2018), the justice recalls how a University employee denied her from entering the library because she was a woman, and how the dean invited new female students for dinner, asked them to stand up, one by one, and answer why they were taking places that could have been taken by men.

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After graduating, Ruth Bader Ginsburg could not find a job anywhere in New York City because prestigious law firms did not employ women. Later, after finding work, she won five trials at the US Supreme Court. Among them was a case from 1975 in which she defended a man's right for parental allowance which, back then, was only paid out to women. She proved to the nine men on the Supreme Court that sex-biased discrimination hurts everyone. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in 2020. She is still considered to be one of the most exceptional juridical authorities in the USA who was able to change American law in favor of equal treatment.

EVEN TODAY, CHORES ARE DIVIDED STEREOTYPICALLY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

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Is it really so hard to hammer a nail? Or are we just not used to a picture of a woman holding a hammer or a drill?

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If you internalize gender stereotypes, it means you accept them subconsciously, they will subconsciously limit you and you will be controlled by them. You’ll limit yourself without anyone having to stop you. After such internalization, women may feel guilty for not doing chores which are stereotypically women’s, such as ironing, cooking, or folding laundry. The same applies to men who may feel disgust towards these same chores since they feel weaker when they do them. In the end, it is not good for either men or women.

Horizontal segregation (division) exists because there are more men than women at certain jobs or fields.  For example, there are many female teachers but only a few female chemists or engineers. There are a lot of well-paid IT workers or CEOs among men but fewer teachers or nurses.

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This division based solely on the argument “it should be this way” is nonsensical and harmful. Stereotypically “women’s” jobs are fundamentally valued worse than “men’s” because the skills needed for these professions are considered typically “women’s” – like care, kindness, or neatness. These attributes are historically connected with a woman working at home, unpaid. Since a “man’s” job was to provide and bring home money, “men’s” jobs are considered more respected and more valuable. 

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Professions with higher male representation are e.g. CEOs of private companies, car mechanics, builders, financial advisers, web developers, programmers, and scientists in natural sciences.

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Everyone wants to be proud of a job well-done. It does not matter if it is a well-built wardrobe, a fantastic lunch cooked, organized drawers, or an exceptional project conclusion. We all want some recognition for our work. This need is common for men and women so don’t worry about any stereotypical expectations and focus on how to develop some unique skills and talents.

 

In the end, what is wrong with successful female judges or chemists and caring male nurses and husbands on paternity leave? Especially if they also like their work?
 

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Both partners are responsible for running their household. Often, however, women continue to work after work as managers, even at home, where they control who should do what and when, and only then it gets done. This psychic burden is well illustrated by comics in the Guardian.

GLASS CEILING

Glass Ceiling describes a certain barrier within a hierarchy where the unjust system limits women from getting better job positions even when they have sufficient education and skills. A male colleague with equal skills has a greater chance of being promoted than his female colleague based only on his being a man.

SKY IS THE LIMIT

We say that this ceiling is made of glass because it lets everyone see the “sky” – better professional opportunities. However, they are unavailable for some women for no other reason than their being born as women.

The glass ceiling is the main cause of so-called vertical segregation in the labor market. It means more men are occupying managerial posts than women who are still restricted from advancing in their careers.

"SO WHY DON‘T WOMEN JUST ASK FOR A PROMOTION?

1. Many women do not even realize the existence of this immaterial barrier. The glass ceiling is a complex of several particular abstract barriers at a workplace.

Assertiveness, ambition, and enthusiasm are often perceived mostly as negative when displayed by women. It comes from the learned stereotypes many young women and girls adapt to. They are often told that their strength comes out of their tenderness, submissiveness, care, and perceptiveness. On the other hand, the ability to manage, think creatively, and organize is a “man’s” thing.

If a woman raises her voice at a meeting, she is automatically considered hysterical. If a man does the same thing he is “dedicated to the mission”. A self-confident and successful woman is seen as “bossy” and less pleasant while men with the same behaviour are praised.

Women are more likely to be evaluated for their aesthetic qualities (being pretty, neat, and affable) rather than their performance and work results. This does not apply to men. 
Surveys say that the subordinate employees of women managers expect their bosses to be caring and motherly to them all. If they have a male manager, the image of a “good father” does not even cross their minds.

These are just a few examples of the dissimilar attitude towards women and men in the workplace. Only when more and more people start to realize this unjust difference, perceive it, point at it, can things can get better.

2.  Sexual harassment is a frequent occurrence in the workplace. 

Senior workers often realize their power and consider satisfying their sexual needs as a condition for giving a woman a higher position or promotion. Sexual harassment almost never ends in punishing the offender; at most, the issue is resolved with an admonition to the older employee that does not result in any concrete changes. That is the reason why women almost never report physical or sexual attacks.

3. Another barrier in the workplace that is becoming more common as one approaches higher positions is the existence of the “men’s clubs”. 

 

Men often promote other men with whom they go out for a beer after work, their former schoolmates, or others who are friends and they simply get along better together than with women. And they usually go out for a beer when women go home to take care of their kids. 

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GLASS WALL

The glass wall restricts women in career advancement by disallowing them to try and get to know various departments of a company, making them less experienced for management positions.

GLASS ESCALATOR

Only a few men look for jobs with a majority of women employees. And they are practically not interested in professions where caring is a central role – male nurses, social workers, or teachers. They have smaller wages and thus smaller social status in these positions. 

However, while men who work in professions dominated by women face the usual speculations about typical men’s and women’s jobs, it does not affect them financially. They get higher pay, are promoted much faster, and get more recognition than their female colleagues. This phenomenon is known as the glass escalator. The imaginary stairs which take a man higher, and get him there much faster.

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GLASS CLIFF

The last of the “glass” concepts is the glass cliff, which is in an interesting contrast to the glass escalator. 

You may have heard about a situation when women are promoted to managing positions when it comes to an emergency situation in society (politics) or in a company (when it’s in the red) and it is necessary to “clean” someone’s mess. 

In this situation, a woman is promoted to the highest managing structures because if the company wants to change their image, the natural contrast to a man is a woman. It means that there is a higher chance of her failing. That is where it gets the name – cliff.

For instance, in the analyses of one French parliamentary election, it was shown that conservative parties put women or minority members in prominent positions in situations when public polls shown a low chance for success, letting them take a reputation-damaging loss for the team. 

Many women have fallen from this imaginary corporate cliff: Jill Abramson in 2014 as the first executive editor of the New York magazine. There is Ellen Pao in Reddit, Sheri McCoy in Avon, and Carly Fiorina in HP. Nevertheless, there are opposite examples such as Anne Mulcahy who worked as the general director for the Xerox company between 2001 and 2009. Anne was promoted at a time when the company found itself at the brink of bankruptcy and despite that, she managed to get the company back into profitability and pulled it to the top again.

This is just a single case of many where the practice showed that considering women at managing positions useless is a harmful myth. Do we really need to wait for a crisis to give women equal chances to be promoted as men?

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