Czech Republic still struggling with gender equality issues

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Equality report which reflects the changing patterns of gender equality around the world has seen the Czech Republic slip to 96th place on a ladder of 142 countries. Its present ranking, below countries such as Russia and Uganda, has raised concern and highlighted the fact that progress on gender equality issues has be slow and inadequate. I asked Nina Bosničová of Gender Studies to outline the major problems.

Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio
“The most serious discrimination of women takes place on the labour market. Women are discriminated against when looking for a job and if they have small children they tend to be the first to be laid off. But the biggest and most visible type of discrimination that women face in the Czech Republic is called pay discrimination as can be seen in the gender pay gap. Women in the same or similar positions as men earn less money than their male colleagues and the higher we go in the company hierarchy the bigger the difference. A woman in a managerial position for instance can earn just 50 percent of what her male colleague would earn.”

And there are fewer women in politics, I should add. Why is it so hard to make progress in this area?

“Well, because in the Czech Republic both the business and political spheres tend to rely on what they call “natural development”, meaning that if we let Nature take its course eventually more and more women will end up in politics and more and more women will end up in top managerial positions. But it doesn’t work that way, or to be precise, it works but it is a very, very, very slow process. If we waited for such a natural development it would take another 100 or 150 years to achieve greater gender equality both in politics and business. That is why we need some kind of affirmative action to take place which would speed up the process. And in this country, neither companies nor politicians, are very fond of quotas or any other affirmative action because they think it limits their freedoms, they think it is offensive to women and so on. This in part has to do with gender stereotypes and gender prejudices that all of us have in our heads but also with the fact that a lot of people who decide about whether there is going to be affirmative action or not do not quite understand how affirmative action should work and therefore would not be able to manage the affirmative action or quota system sensitively and effectively enough.”

Nina Bosničová,  photo: Facebook profile of Czech Women's Lobby
Do you feel that women should be more active in defending their own interests, by taking their case to court for instance?

“Definitely women should be pro-active, or at least those women who are interested in getting managerial positions or in entering national politics, not just local politics. We as women cannot depend on the outer world to just arrange it for us that we will get more opportunities. If we want to be given a chance we have to fight for it and we have to make our desire visible. Of course some women are not interested in having big careers, with the power and responsibility involved and that is fine. But those who want a career, who want the power that goes with it and the big financial rewards –they definitely should be able to fight for themselves and take an interest in what their rights and responsibilities on the labour market are. “