Invited piece by blogger Afortnightaway
I am a law student at a Swiss university and although I have some years left until I receive my Master’s Degree, I already gave some thoughts to my future and what it may hold for me. I belong to those women who are quite eager to achieve a good job and maybe even a successful career.
When I reflect on my childhood, I remember that I was always a child who did not really fit the typical image of a girl. I was the one who played with the boys. I never re-enacted -- like the other girls at my age -- a family scene with dolls or puppets. I enjoyed being in the wild. Whenever our school organized a play, I used to play one of the male parts. I did not consider myself a tomboy, but rather as someone who is fed up with that prejudice about women being the weaker sex. Playing a male part on stage allowed me to portray a strong and independent character. I am of those who think that those two attributes are definitely not exclusively male ones -- just like being sensitive and showing emotions are not solely female attributes.
In Switzerland, we are trying to establish Gender Equality in business, politics and schools. As a Law student, I am dealing with legislative texts every day. Our Swiss federal constitution states (Article 8 Paragraph 3):
Men and women have equal rights. The law shall ensure their equality, both in law and in practice, most particularly in the family, in education, and in the workplace. Men and women have the right to equal pay for work of equal value.
When I first read this, I thought: “Amazing how Switzerland is a highly developed and advanced country!” Wait a moment… There is unfortunately a discrepancy between the written law and reality. In order to reduce this gap, our politicians came up with an idea: the so-called "women’s quota". The core concept behind this quota system is to recruit women into business positions, management boards or into political positions to guarantee women the opportunity to better participate in those predominantly masculine domains. For example, a management board must include a minimum of 30% of women. In Germany, they already passed a law that requires the very same proportion.
Obviously, this would be a quick and easy way to achieve Equality. But do we want something like that? Women will then only be chosen for a job because they are female — and then companies will need them to comply with the quota.
I definitely want to he hired in my future job because I have the required qualifications and stand out with my experience and education! Being selected only based on my gender would feel disrespectful and above all discriminating: society may then see women as persons with less power and who are dependent on a stupid quota and are only able to achieve something through that quota system. It would be a typical case of positive discrimination — or in other words "affirmative action", namely a policy where advantages are given to those groups in society that are often treated unfairly because of their race or sex.
Do we want that? I say no! And when the time comes and the Swiss population has to vote about the establishment of women's quota, I will fill out my ballot paper with a big NO.
We women have much more to offer and we do not have to be reduced to our gender. Yet, this attitude is a discrimination against our sex. We have to see ourselves as strong, independent and powerful human beings. We deserve that, and we are capable of reaching the same position as men in society without a law telling companies to introduce a women’s quota. It is a long way, but I am confident that we women will be able to achieve this goal.
This last paragraph probably made me sound like an extremist feminist. Well yes, I see myself as a feminist. But, just to make things clear, feminists are not man-haters. It is not about disrespecting men or even derogating them. It is about establishing Equal Rights — therefore, there is also nothing wrong with being a feminist.
So where should we start?
Well, start in those areas that are most important to you. You can get involved in politics and be an advocate for Equal Rights for women. Even if you are not yet very involved in those things, it may change, in the future. I have always been interested in politics but I never imagined I'd become an active member in a party. But lo and behold! I am now a member of a political party and I really enjoy getting involved.
And now, what about my personal aims for equality among women and men?
First of all, equivalent work = equivalent wages — as stated in our federal constitution... I do not understand why women earn less than their male colleagues when they have equal qualifications and do the same job. But sadly, this is what happens, particularly in higher positions — which makes even less sense to me. How could we change that? As far as I can see, our society needs this sensitive topic to be no longer taboo. A lot of people are unaware of the big imbalance regarding wages. It is crucial that we address this topic in order to make people aware of this inequality.
Arising awareness is a very important step — posting something about this issue on your blog, or making it a topic to discuss with your friends and family. I bet you that a lot of people, at least here in Switzerland, are unaware of this unfair reality. And we all know that ignorance can be dangerous as it oft leads to denial.
My second and — for now, in this article — last goal would be that our business world gets more open to a modern family concept, in which both parents work, maybe part-time, and stay home the rest of the time to look after their children. I would like to have a career, but at some point of my life I'd like to have a family too. Years ago, this was impossible. But it is more likely nowadays. If you have a supporting male spouse at your side who is willing to split up the domestic work and accepts to work part-time, then this could probably work well. However, companies need to accept the fact that not all men aim for a career, and should start offering part-time jobs to them as well.
So I encourage you to broach the issue of Gender Equality, because We Women are able to achieve it — without a quota.
Law Student, Blogger.
This was Post #6 of the Equal Rights Week on Carrie Speaking.