[VIEWPOINT]Give women a gift －－ more helpA woman manager who works with our company told me recently that she had filed for divorce. Although the process for a divorce can be painful and difficult, she said that she had decided to go through with it because she didn't see a bright future with her husband. The woman, in her early 30s, has two young children. She said that she could no longer bear her husband's authoritative attitude and his lack of support doing household tasks.
In Korea, people expect career women to be super women. Regardless of income or rank on the job, working couples should share the responsibilities, including household chores, rearing of children and taking care of parents. However, in most cases I see in Korea it is the wife's responsibility to take care of the home, the children and the parents, with the husband helping out only occasionally. This is not typical of younger couples, but it is true that Korea is still a male-oriented society. It will be especially difficult for men who are older to give up the male-oriented system, which they have enjoyed for a long time.
In order for a wife to be more proactive at work and to develop her career, a husband must first change. How many husbands take the day off to take care of a sick child, or even take that child to the hospital? How many fathers go to a child's school to serve lunch instead of leaving that role to a child's mother －－ even when it's the father's turn? How many fathers feel comfortable about cooking and cleaning up in the kitchen when friends or relatives visit? I have lived in Korea for seven years and have been to many Korean homes, but I haven't seen many men do either of those tasks.
Parents-in-law must also change. Korean parents generally want a daughter-in-law to earn money and to be successful at what she does, but they also want her to treat their son extremely well at home. Women in Korea are expected to work long hours in the kitchen to prepare for a family's holiday functions and to fulfill their daughter-in-law duties. Women here have been educated to sacrifice themselves to promote harmony within the family, and society demands it. But from the point of a Westerner, it is unfair to demand sacrifice from only one side.
Men must also change how they treat female colleagues at work. Men must not be discriminatory when it comes to women, and men should treat women as competitive equals. Nor should men stereotype female colleagues. It's likely that in the future a man will have to work with female boss who is younger than he is. In an era of unlimited competition, age or gender will no longer matter, and companies that realize this and adapt quickly will come out ahead.
The only sensible way to increase the labor force in Korea in the 21st century －－ and thus bolster the national wealth －－ is to include women in the national work force. And to do so, we must guarantee them equal opportunity.
The writer is the CEO of the Allianz Life Insurance Co.
by Michel Campeanu