Woman in red

Do you know what in common do have rosé champagne, periscope for submarines, circular saw, chocolate cookies, a bulletproof vest, and a beer? All these things were invented by women. Yes, the idea women had invented a lot of things without which we can’t imagine our modern life.

Canned meat, snowplows, and dishwashers, a bra, a coffee filter, a car muffler, an invisible glass, a programming language, the idea of sweepstakes, a globe, a fire ladder, a medical syringe – these are also women’s inventions. We could go on and on with this list.

I’m sure many of you don’t even know these facts. Why?

Here’s an example for you. Out of 132 314 biographical articles in Ukrainian Wikipedia, only 13 percent are about women. And this imbalance is still unchanged.

A couple of years ago, in the domestic segment of Wikipedia, they’ve initiated a month devoted to writing articles about women. It was named as in English-speaking Wikipedia – Woman in red. In Wikipedia, links to articles that don’t exist are highlighted with red color.

It is important to write about women’s successes in order to make their achievements visible. To make those who grow up and discover this world less dependent on gender stereotypes.

She was elected in a democratic election, the first woman president in the history of the world – the Icelander, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, after making visits all around the country and meetings with children, she said that kids believe that only a woman can be a president of the country. We reflect what we see. Vigdís herself called it the “power of the mirror”.

In our parliament, we have 11.8 percent of women. And in Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from riding a bike, there is 13.5 percent of women present in parliament.

In Ukraine, there is a quota for representation of women in elected bodies of state and local authorities and it is set at 30 percent. Of course, it’s not respected.

According to the results of local elections on October 25, 2015, the average representation of women in regional councils is 15.1 percent.  In the previous election, women received 12 percent of seats in regional councils. Trends are obvious. With such a pace, we can talk about equality in 100 years.

Why is it important to increase the representation of women in public life?

The first. Research of political systems indicates a direct proportionality between the number of women in politics at the national level and the number of those who are interested in political activities at local levels.

The second. Women in the leadership are becoming role models for girls, a good example for imitation. Well, it’s not only cover girls and the wives of the oligarchs whose example they can follow!

The third. Women in the leadership normalize the policy for mature women who need only a slight push to become more active and to become involved in social life.

The fourth. Examples of other women who have succeeded not in the so-called traditional spheres determined by society, such as education or medicine, but have become known in cinematography, computer technology, management, etc. – inspires to follow the example and not to restrict yourself.

The fifth. There is a direct connection between the quality of decisions made by the authorities and sufficient representation of women in the office. For example, one-third of women in the government can fundamentally change the situation of children in the country.

In the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, our country was ranked 61st out of 144.

This rating takes into account several parameters: availability of education, economic opportunities, quality of health care, access to participation in politics.

The best situation we have is the access to education. The worst of all is participation in politics.

Sociologists have published the results of the research, which indicates that every tenth Ukrainian opposes the fact of women holding the influential posts in the government.

It may seem not too many. But, I think you can agree that there’s not a few of them either.

And this happens despite the fact that Ukraine is in third place in the world by the ratio of the female population to the male!

The situation is much better in Europe. In Sweden, the things are going the best way; there is 45 percent of female parliamentarians there.

As for business, the situation is almost the same as ours.  Just look: only 7 out of the 415 CEOs of the largest companies across Europe are women (Egon Zehnder International Report). Only in Norway, 42 percent of women are engaged in the management of enterprises.

And this happens when in the world there is 60 percent of female graduates. Out of all employed in the world, only 40 percent are women.  Among the CEO’s of companies that are part of the S&P 500 index, women’s share is only 5 percent.

Only last year we’ve canceled more than 450 occupations prohibited for women. And here the issue is not in protection from hard or dangerous work. The issue is in equal access – it’s me, who has to decide what is important to me, and what is not, what is acceptable, and what is harmful. You don’t have to decide it for me.  Why could a woman drive a bus with 14 passengers, but she was not allowed to drive a bus where were 17 of them?

There is no scientific evidence that the installation on the ground for women is not harmful, and at a height it is. You can work on a crane on the ground, but you can’t work on platforms in the sea. A woman can drive trams, but the subway train – God forbids.

It’s good that this gibberish was removed.

You likely remember an emergency with an American plane of Southwest Airlines, which occurred in April this year. Back then one of the engines exploded during the flight. The plane’s emergency landing was performed by a female pilot, the commander of the plane Tammy Jo Shults. Prior to that, she had been a fight pilot for 10 years and served in the US Navy.

After landing, Tammy Jo spoke personally to all the passengers. And she didn’t look excited or hysterical ☺.

Due to the changes made to American law, 24 years ago women got wider access to military specialties. Now they represent 15 percent of the American troops, and more than 90 percent of the military posts are open to women. There are only a few restrictions on participation in combat.

In the Armed Forces of Ukraine, about 25 thousand women are serving on the contract basis; 3 thousand of them are officers. Women make up almost 23 percent of the total number of servicemen. By the way, our ratio is higher than the American one. But it’s only in percents, not in absolute numbers.

Now the list of military positions for women has been expanded, nowadays they can be not only doctors, cooks, and accountants.

However, at the same time, only 70 women hold colonel positions, and there are no female generals in our army and it is a question of whether they will be.

Recently I’ve read how women take active action, defending their rights. German media journalists, for example, are struggling for a share of 30 percent of women in leadership positions. In Germany, only 2 percent of newspaper editors are women. The Women’s Initiative “For the Quota”, which started with 350 journalists, received support from 1700 activists a week after its creation.

The scientific leader of the Women’s Studies and Gender Research in Hessen, Germany, Margit Getert, argues that “wherever the power, money, and influence are involved, quotas can be rational. It’s not that there are no skilled women; they simply can’t “get up”.

Gender equality is not about women. It’s about the quality of life and comfort in the country, taking into account truly equal rights, opportunities, and responsibilities for men, and for women in all, without exception, spheres of life – from public administration to the upbringing of children.

And finally, a quote from my beloved politician, Iceland’s presidents, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, “There is no glass ceiling for women. In fact, what we call “glass ceiling” are dense ranks of men.”

So, maybe we should break these dense ranks of men? Otherwise, we will be waiting for social changes in Ukraine for a long time. And we remain to be women in red – bright but invisible.

Zoya Kazanzhy

*   facts and data from open sources were used in this material

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