These days, a TV show called ‘With my Love’ has coined the phrase ‘Gamojang’. In this show, two comedians, Yoon Jeong-soo and Kim Sook, play an unconventional married couple in Korea, where their traditional gender roles are reversed. Kim Sook, who plays the wife, is the main breadwinner and Yoon Jeong-soo, who plays the husband, keeps house. This arrangement, known as ‘Gamojang’, is unusual in Korea society. It is the literal opposite of a patriarchy, known as a matriarchy, where the woman is the head of household and controls the property.
This situation reflects a progressive gender role change in our society. In fact in reality, the entry of women into public affairs is on the rise. According to the Office of National Statistics, the accession rate difference between women and men decreased by 1.7% between 2000 and 2009. In addition, the employment rate of 22-25 year old women increased by 15.9 percent in 2013 from 2010.
However, the problems women face in the workplace continue at the higher levels as they remain victims to an invisible glass ceiling. A glass ceiling is an unseen and unbreakable barrier, which prevents women from rising to top executive positions. In other words, although women are qualified to fill higher level positions, they cannot earn a promotion to the top tier jobs due to the negative perception of their qualifications. A glass ceiling index illustrates the social position of women. A recent study of OECD nations revealed that Korean women suffered from the greatest income discrepancy of all participating countries. Korea obtained a grade of 25, which was less than half the average grade of 56 in the measured study. The glass ceiling index is estimated by measuring the disparity between the earnings of men and women with higher education, and the percentage of congresswomen and women executives. This study revealed that the advancement of women in our society has been minimal . According to data from 93 listed corporations, there were a total of 78 female executives, representing only 1.5% of total number of executives.
Gender diversity is not just a moral issue, it also reflects a nation’s competitiveness. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, said that the key to the fourth industrial revolution is gender diversity. For example, the higher the gender equality index is, the more corporations obtain management results, among major corporations in Europe, according to the McKinsey Report. In fact, in Europe, the government actively intervenes in breaking glass ceiling.
Women’s advancement in society is limited in Korea because there is no suitable system for addressing childbirth and infant care. In reality, the employment rate of single women and men in their 20s is similar, but the difference between married women and men is more than 35% due to childbirth and infant care. What this means is that programs supporting households and family-friendly policies are needed.
The social status of women has improved, but there is still a lot that needs to be done. Both the government and corporations need to make an effort to produce practical ways to deal with the seemingly impenetrable glass ceiling. They have to address the issue, debate and discuss possible solutions, and finally make appropriate and effective decisions. It will not be an easy process, but it is both necessary and long overdue.