Realizing gender parityYesterday, the world celebrated the centennial anniversary of International Women’s Day, which was created to recognize the achievements and continuing struggles of women around the globe. Over the last century, women worldwide have achieved equality in elections, education and the workplace and made great strides in enhancing their rights.
But in many cases women still endure abuse and discrimination at the hands of laws or customs. Gender-specific atrocities against women and girls are still rampant in totalitarian societies. In China and India, millions of baby girls die, are abandoned or go missing every year. In some of these countries there are 120 males for every 100 females. In other parts of the world, males account for a much smaller portion of the population.
In Korea’s case, the ranks of women are growing. A decade ago, there were 110 males for every 100 females. Today it’s closer to 106 males for every 100 females. Parents nowadays aren’t as concerned about whether they have a son or daughter. They also do not discriminate in educating their children on the basis of gender. As a result, more female students enrolled in universities here than male students last year.
But that’s where their upper hand ends. In the business community, women largely remain marginalized. Among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korean female college graduates fared worse in finding a job than their male counterparts. In 2007, only 60.9 percent of women with college or graduate degrees were employed in Korea, compared with an average of 79.9 percent among the 30 OECD member nations. The pay gap between men and women workers is also wide. The New York Times recently ran a story about how many women are flocking to public service professions, tying it in part to the fact that they have limited opportunities in the corporate sector.
It is a huge loss for the country as society continues to turn away our daughters and strips them of any chance to develop their skills. The solution to the plummeting birthrate and our rapidly aging society lies in the active employment of women. Fixing the laws and the system is not enough. Discriminating elements of our society must be eliminated. The change may take a long time. But it is well worth the effort, as we have all have a stake in the future of our daughters.