New statistics reveal that Czech women are under-represented in politics

Czech women are less ambitious than men in terms of getting into high office. This is one of the conclusions reached by the Czech Statistical Office, which has just published gender statistics from the 2001 census. And according to the European Union, the absence of women in positions of influence, means that major decisions taken in the Czech Republic tend to favor the male half of the population. The EU is not alone in believing Czech citizens need more information on gender equality.

The big floods last year damaged many documents from the 2001 census. But the Czech Statistical Office did manage to restore the data albeit with some delay has just published its findings on gender. One of the issues is the lack of women in high politics. The number of women in the Czech Parliament is less than 15%, only half the figure recommended by the European Union. This problem is one of the priorities of the Governmental Council for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. As MP and the Head of the Council, Anna Curdova says one of the problems is a strong public suspicion of anything that looks like feminism.

"It is a problem in the Czech Republic because feminism is not a popular issue and sometimes the discussion in society is very hard. There is a long way to go before we achieve equality in both politics and society."

In Czech society there is a strong focus on women's role in the family. Mrs. Curdova says that this very fact is a reason for engaging women in the political decision-making process.

"We are now discussing the future of our children and we must be involved in this discussion because it is about our future and this future is in the hands of our children."

Looking at data on the number of people with a university degree, the Czech Republic is still slightly behind the EU average, but the good news is that the number of university educated women is rising significantly, even in technical fields. On the other hand, the new statistics show that even with a degree, Czech women are often paid less than their male colleagues. Ironically, the Czech Statistical Office itself is a case in point, as the head of the office's gender statistics department Bohdana Hola told me:

"Seventy percent of employees at the Czech Statistical Office are women, because salaries there are so low. I think that men who have studied statistics work in the private sector."

But in the Czech Republic things are changing fast. Currently most people in positions of influence grew up, when ideas on the role of women were far more conservative. Anna Curdova reckons that today's emancipated generation of young women, who - unlike their parents - are able to travel freely abroad, will not put up with the situation for ever.

"It's about the new generation because they have gained information and experience abroad. It's a completely new life for them and the old generation doesn't understand this. Once more: it's about information, information, information."