2014, the year of the blue horse, started with good news about powerful women being appointed for significant positions at the Prosecution, banking industry, and other parts of our society that used to be dominated by men. The news isn't just about these women's individual success story; it shows how the glass ceiling over our society is gradually beginning to break at last. Experts said that putting more women in important positions is what our time calls for, as women today are the most likely force to mend many cracks in our society. In 2014, the experts added, we'll see more women serving as heads of various organizations, especially as we have regional election scheduled this year.
In 2013, many women were newly appointed as leaders in different sectors across our society, thanks largely to their relentless effort to break the glass ceiling. Cho Hee-jin, the first female Deputy chief prosecutor at Seoul High Prosecutor's Office in the 65-year long history of the Prosecution, Kwon Seon-ju, the first IBK employee who began as a teller and made the president of the bank, and Rha Seon-hwa, the new head of Cultural Heritage Administration after it came under fire for the controversy over the quality of Soongryemoon restoration, all determined to become better leaders through active communication, are just some of them.
The reason behind such change, welcomed both by the ruling and opposition parties, might lie in our society's long for peace and unity. Many experts suggest that tapping into the potential of many competent women could be a solution to various issues plaguing our society. The conflict and controversies in our society are unlikely to be gone anytime soon. Life has been and will continue to be tough for many people due to the bad economy, high unemployment, and rising rent. The labor-government conflict is growing worse due to the prolonged railway strike, the gap between the ruling and opposition parties is widening, and class conflict still remains as a serious issue. Amid these circumstances, women, generally perceived to be better at promoting communication and harmony, are being seen as the new leader material.
Among the successful candidates of the bar exam, the Public Administration Exam, and the Foreign Affairs Exam in 2012, 41.7%, 43.8%, and 53.1% were women, respectively. However, only few of those women make it all the way to the top. Only 1.9% of Korea's leading conglomerates' executives are women. The same goes for the banking industry, where about 48% of the regular jobs at the big 4 banks are held by women but only 4.8% of the executive positions are held by women at the same time. We need to better harness the talent in the female workforce. According to the OECD's gender gap report, Korea's GDP per capita growth rate will depend hugely on whether we close the gender gap in our labor market. While Korea's GDP growth rate is projected to rise to 3.4% by 2030 if the issue is solved, if we fail, the rate would linger around 2.5% per year on average.
Some experts point out that women have an innate ability to mediate different opinions. In other words, women are excellent at peacemaking, communication, and striking balance. Prof. Kim Min-jeong of international relations dept. at the Univ. of Seoul said, "The examples of great female leaders like Angela Merkel and Tarja Halonen who successfully managed the left-right conflict is worth noting. When facing a crisis, a society must seek for a different type of leader. Many women executives and high ranking officials who'd been appointed during the past decade or so did a very satisfying job, and welcoming more women to the higher positions might be an answer to the current problems we're having in our society."
Director Min Moo-suk at Korean Women's Development Institute said, "one of the driving forces behind the success of many advanced nations was to have more women in key positions. Korea will be able to make a remarkable leap forward when we're truly ready to let women unleash their full potential."
According to the former Minister of Gender Equality and Family Kim Geum-rae, many competent women are where they are today after so much struggle since when hiring women was not allowed by law. For some time in the past, we didn't have much women talents in our society to put in key positions, but now that is not even a problem. All it takes to improve the situation is for the policymakers to be a little more open and attentive to the gender issues." We all sent a warm welcome to the new female leaders in different sectors and were glad to hear the sound of glass ceiling beginning to crack. We all hope those women will contribute in making 2014 a more peaceful year than the last one.