“The glass ceiling will be shattered only when we bump into it,” said Choi Eunjoo, the first female executive who joined POSCO through open recruitment. Choi candidly talked about her experiences of gender bias and provided some great tips.
The event was prepared by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family which invited 12 leaders who were the 'First woman' in their respective fields. They include Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) CEO Kwon Seonjoo, Seogang University Law School Chair-Professor Kim Youngran, Korean Baseball Association Vice President Kim Eunyoung, National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) Executive Director of Managing Park Kyoungsoon, Bank of Korea Deputy Governor Suh Youngkyung, Gyeonggi Philharmonic Chief Conductor Sung Shiyeon, Prudential Life Insurance Company of Korea President and CEO Sohn Byoungok, Samsung Electronics Executive Yang Hyangja, GS E&C Executive Lee Kyungsook, North Gyeongsang Province Vice Governor for Political Affairs Lee Insun, Seoul High Prosecutors’ Court Deputy Prosecutor General Cho Heejin, and POSCO A&C Executive Choi Eunjoo.
All of them shared their experiences and exchanged extensive ideas on what policies are needed to break the glass ceiling.
IBK CEO Kwon recalled “In 1936 when I first joined IBK, women employees were called ‘Yeo-hang-won,’ literally a female bank teller in Korean. Back then, the word ‘Hang-won’ was used to refer to a male bank clerk only. That was because in the eyes of many people, bank teller’s job was categorized as men’s work. Also, women were trapped in menial jobs that do not require great skills. Not only that, while men were offered many opportunities to participate in training sessions, women were not. As a result, it was nothing unusual for women to lag behind their male counterparts. Nevertheless, I believed that some day women and their talent would be highly appreciated. With that in mind, I made steady efforts. It is such hard work that made me the person I am today. So my advice is to keep up the momentum and never give up.“
“In the past, there were very few women holding high-ranking titles in both the public and private sectors. Undoubtedly, it was very tough for working mothers to balance work and family life. To help working moms, the government should take the initiative to raise public awareness that fathers and the government itself have an important role to play in child care and housework. For instance, the government should implement effective policies and improve labor conditions for child care teachers,” emphasized Samsung Electronics Executive Yang, the first woman executive who is a commercial high school graduate.
The first woman Chief Prosecutor Cho noted the importance of policies. She said “To produce more women in top positions, we need more competent female middle managers. To that end, a greater number of female employees should be appointed as managers and be provided with chances to build up their ability in organization management and crisis management, present their own visions, and demonstrate leadership.”
Most participants agreed that women’s hard work should be accompanied by support from the government and society as a whole in order to promote the representation of women on company and government boards.
NHIS Executive Director of Managing Park mentioned that the implementation of policies devoted to women gradually brought about positive changes in society. “Such changes paved the way to my career success. The private sector should bear the burden and become more socially responsible so that women can fully reach their potential and become more engaged in our society.”
Park added that the government should strengthen policy support to relieve women’s burden of child care and help them continue to develop their career so that more women candidates would be available for high-ranking positions. Among others, she underlined the importance of using the contingent workforce when a female employee is on maternity leave, expanding child care facilities in the workplace, setting up community nurseries for moms working for small businesses, increasing the number of quality hourly and part-time jobs, and implementing policies to train female talents and boost women’s representation
Minister Cho Yoonsun of Gender Equality and Family commented “The sturdy glass ceiling will not fall apart because of one or two cracks. However, when numerous fissures occur simultaneously, the ceiling would be smashed. The government will do its utmost to carry out measures to lay the groundwork for women to earn high-ranking professional titles. Some of these methods include executing policies to increase the number of female managers with a ranking of four or above in the government. Also, regarding a high-raking position in the government, we want to ensure that women are part of a candidate list, usually three times the vacancy number."