Women; The Same Around the World

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Subin Jung

Subin Jung  stood in the doorway watching her mother, grabbing the binder and papers she needed for the day. They were embarking for China, a new business opportunity unfolding. Her mother, a very successful business women, is always imagining how to become more prosperous. Jung admires her mother’s ability to juggle her family, along with the whirlwind of her work life.

Jung, currently a senior at Thornton is from South Korea and is proud that her family is rewriting her country’s gender roles, future and past. “Around my grandmother’s generation we had a Korean War and the Women rights were really low,” she said, “Most women back then just stay home and do some housework, but women do not have fame or social [opportunity] they stay and help the husbands.” Women in South Korea were a mirror image of American women in the early 1900’s.

Jung says for too long, women in South Korea have been expected to accept the fact that men were higher than them. Their duties were to serve the husband. According to the 2014 Global Gender Gap, South Korea is 125th out of 149 countries in terms of women’s rights. Although their president is now a woman, only 49 of 300 members of their government are female.

Jung paints a different picture of gender roles within her own family. Her mother started her own hair product company over the summer of 2016; she worked with business associates in China and South Korea to ensure her success. This type of empowerment does not happen overnight. Jung’s mother’s success is in part a result of the previous generation’s determination and sacrifice. After the Korean War, South Korea welcomed women into the rebuilding of their economy, “My Grandmother didn’t want her daughter to have the low (women’s) rights so she gave education to my mother,” Jung stated, “Most of my mother’s generation graduated from college.”

Although it is not uncommon for a woman in America to start their own business, they are rarely supported. Many people argue this is changing quickly but of the 29 new Fortune 500 companies making the 2016 list, only one CEO was female.

W.A.G.E.R. (Women and Gender Equal Rights club) advocates against these policies that challenge certain genders to reach their potential. Their goal is to make students aware of gender labels and inequalities within the community and around the world, along with providing leadership training in gender equality.

Advisor of the W.A.G.E.R. club, AdriAnne Curtis, relays her views on the fortune 500 company CEOs, ¨Only 22 CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies are women…women make up less than 5% of the very top jobs in these companies. As of 2015, 20% of the US Congress was made up of women and Google was 30% female, which looks better, but it’s still not equal.¨

Curtis goes on to say, ¨Many people would argue that women just aren’t interested in these jobs, but the problem is that women, even when they are qualified and interested, just aren’t hired at the rate as men for positions of power.”

National Public Radio (NPR) went in-depth, understanding the thought process behind the “phenomenon” in their podcast Hidden Brain. The podcast reveals unconscious patterns that drive human behavior.

If men and women had an equal shot at the White House, the odds of this happening just by chance are about 1 in 18 trillion.” reporter Shankar Vedantam stated. Even an African-American female went into the senate expecting a race issue but was boldly confronted with a stormy gender issue instead.

NPR also interviewed Debra Meta, a listener who came forward about her struggle entering the business world. “A professor during a class mentioned that I do that, that I raise my pitch at the end of a sentence.” The problem being that she wasn’t strong enough or manager material just by the sound of her voice.

In South Korea, Jung reveals another sensitive area, pregnancy. “If a woman gets a job in a company and they get married or get pregnant, some people think maybe they cannot work anymore, so they don’t really want to hire the women because of pregnancy,” she says, “We still have months (maternity leave) women can take with the baby but they might not get rehired.” Jung says women do not want to get pregnant because of this problem. Even with a female president the maternity leave and rehiring is still a problem.

41% of women in South Korea quit their jobs because of marriage while another 22% quit because of pregnancy. Without dependable child care, women are forced to quit their jobs. Wages are also considerably lower than men’s which gives women less incentive to return to work.

In America, it´s just the same, ¨Many companies hesitate to hire women because they assume that women will miss work to care for their children or be less dedicated to advancing in their careers,¨ Curtis states. She explains the societal thinking behind men and women´s careers in the workforce, ¨The same companies won’t hesitate to hire a man who has children because our society still has the outdated idea that women should be more involved in caring for their children than men.¨

Along with this outdated idea are outdated policies. Rita Rubin of Forbes.com says the United States and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries that do not require paid maternity leave. Curtis makes an interesting comparison,

To put things in perspective, Afghanistan requires women to receive 13 weeks paid leave.”

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Department of Labor graph 1948-2015 men and women’s wages.

The United States department of labor reports women in the labor force from 1948 to 2015. In 1948, there were 43,286 men working and 17,335 women working. In 2015 the department reported 83,620 men working and 73,510 women. The United States has shown a great increase in women in the workforce, but still not equal, and their pay lags substantially behind.

The department of labor last recorded the wage gap in America in 2014. Men, on average, were making $50,383 and women were making $39,621.

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Department of Labor graph 1960-2015 wage gap between men and women.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the wage gap in 2013 was 15.464%.

Shankar Vedantam of NPR says the situation for women in the world is a “catch 22”. When a woman is trying to become a powerful leader and work her way up she can be seen as soft by only the sound of her voice. And on the other hand men will describe women in power as “dangerous”.

Subin remembers leaning against the doorway, watching her mom with a sly smile. She was proud and inspired. If her mother could do it, so could she. Subin’s goal is to be as determined and curious as her mother continues to be. She hopes to keep chipping away at South Korea’s gender roles and change the world’s view of women at the same time.

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