"Women aren't fit to work in sales," he told her. "You're a woman, why would you pursue a job in this industry?" The woman -- who requested anonym
“Women aren’t fit to work in sales,” he told her. “You’re a woman, why would you pursue a job in this industry?”
The woman — who requested anonymity because she fears career repercussions — was shocked, but not that surprised. She told CNN that during a group interview with a different South Korean company, she was asked about her plans for marriage and children, while two male applicants were only asked questions about the job.
“I felt humiliated (and) betrayed, like I got cut by shards of the glass ceiling,” she said.College student Kim So-jung knows this feeling well. She said that during an interview for a part-time clerical job, the manager doing the hiring told her “girls look much better without their glasses on,” asked if she was dating anyone, and said she should wear more makeup in order to look “professional.”When she asked what that had to do with the job, he complained that she was too “outspoken.” Kim ended up walking out on the interview.
As South Korea begins to push back against its entrenched patriarchal culture, more and more women are speaking out about discrimination they say they have faced in hiring and their careers — even as the legal system struggles to catch up and hold companies to account.
South Korea has one of the thickest glass ceilings in the world.In 2018, the country ranked 30 out of 36 OECD nations for women’s employment, even though it has the highest tertiary education rate of the group for women aged 25 to 34. In the World Economic Forum’s most recent report on the global gender gap, South Korea ranked 115 out of 149 countries, with major disparities in terms of wage equality and earned income for women.Politics is particularly unequal. Women hold just 17% of seats in South Korea’s parliament, according to the World Bank.During his New Year’s press conference, President Moon Jae-in described the gender gap as a “shameful reality” and pledged to address it.Park Kwi-cheon, a labor law professor at Ewha Law School in Seoul, said that “because South Korean women have a very low employment rate despite having high education levels, one can see that the hiring discrimination is still continuing in many ways.”She pointed to a number of recent legal cases against South Korean companies as evidence the issue was “prevalent in our society.
“Those legal cases have exposed shocking levels of discrimination within some of the country’s biggest businesses. Three of the largest South Korean banks — KB Kookmin Bank, KEB Hana Bank and Shinhan Bank — were found to have eliminated female applicants and manipulated the passing scores for applicants in order to exclude female job candidates and favor men. At Shinhan, the ratio of successful male to female candidates in 2016 was 3:1, prosecutors said.
All three banks declined to comment on the cases when asked by CNN.In another case which reached the country’s Supreme Court, the CEO of the Korea Gas Safety Corporation (KGS), Park Ki-dong, was found to have actively instructed managers to manipulate the scores of 31 applicants, while eight women with passing scores were disqualified and replaced with lower scoring men in 2015 and 2016.
“Park held a view that in the case of women, their competencies in the field work are significantly lower than those of men, and that they’re not suitable to be put into various types of work,” the Supreme Court said.A representative for KGS said the company reached out to all eight women who were unfairly eliminated and hired three of them who expressed a continuing desire to join the company.
KGS also said it had dismissed all managers involved in discriminatory hiring.
South Korean culture remains deeply patriarchal, with women and men expected to fulfill certain roles based on gender. This is especially the case with child rearing.
Park, the KGS executive, justified excluding women on the grounds they “may interrupt business continuity due to maternity leave,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling.
In a 2017 survey by recruitment firm Incruit, more than one in four women said they were asked about their plans for marriage or children during interviews.
Under Korean law, if a female employee is dismissed for getting married, pregnant or having a child, those responsible can face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $26,500.”Our society is dominated by stereotypes about gender roles.
Men are the breadwinners, and women are responsible for child-rearing and housework,” said Choi Mi-jin, president of the Women Labor Law Support Center.
“This is why gender discrimination in hiring is widely accepted and continues to be practiced.”Even when companies have been found guilty of discrimination, the punishments they face often do not go beyond a slap on the wrist.
When KB Kookmin Bank was found guilty of eliminating 112 female applicants, the court fined it just $4,500, according to Seoul Southern District Court.Park, the law professor, said the meager punishments encouraged companies to think, “I would rather pay (a small fine) and do whatever I want.”