Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Women in the Korean Workplace: An Update

On my list of frequent questions asked by woman participants of BC training programs, gender in the Korean workplace always surfaces. Most often westerners see lots of male Korean team overseas team members. Never seeing women overseas team members or management creates an impression or perception that very few women work for global Korean business. For those of us who watch and study the Korean workplace, we recognize a huge generational change is occurring. The perception that women were temporary workers, who quit after marriage for child-rearing still lingers, but many women are breaking away from old norms and seek careers. Nevertheless, some issues still are firmly rooted. This Korea Times article points out new government agency mandates regarding discrimination based on physical appearance.

What about losing some weight after entering the company?

How old are you? It is good for a woman to look younger than her real age.

These are examples of questions that women sometimes encounter during job interviews.

The government yesterday [December 26] announced a set of measures to guard against the practice of attaching importance to womens appearance in hiring.

Many companies and even government agencies prefer hiring young, pretty women. It is discrimination against women, and such practices hinder quality female workers from getting jobs and consequently hamper the nation from effectively using its workforce, an official of the Presidential Committee on Social Inclusion said.

According to the committee‚s recent survey, 92.2 percent of respondents, 78 percent of those in charge of personnel affairs and 94.2 percent of unemployed women who responded thought there exists a practice in hiring to value women‚s appearance.

About 80 percent of public agencies and 85.4 percent of private companies required job applicants to submit a photo and personal information _ including their height and weight.

The committee and related ministries will first revise public servants recruitment regulations, which include appearance as a standard in interviews. They will set up detailed guidelines about sexual discrimination.

Female interviewers will also be present during interviews at public agencies.

To counter discrimination in recruitment by private companies, the authorities will provide samples of recruitment forms and procedures and recommend that companies use them. The new forms will not require applicants to enter their height, weight, age or submit a photo and will have them write more about their career and capabilities.

We will also make efforts to change peopleƃ‚?s basic attitude toward women. Patriarchal stereotypes and the widespread _lookism_ aggravated by the mass media are the major reasons for the discriminatory recruitment practice, the official said.

The government said it would launch a campaign to discourage discrimination by appearance and age.

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