Are the countries we live in shape who we are?

(Written on October 2009)

Yesterday, I was reading about the Nobel prize awards and I was really happy to see that two of the winners are women. I then searched for their background, research and books and what I found interesting was that both winners had spent time in Eastern Europe. Elinor Ostrom born in the USA and awarded the Nobel in Economics spent some years on an exchange program in Poland and Herta Muller awarded the Nobel in Literature was born in Romania and escaped to Germany during communism.

When reading this I remembered that some years ago I wrote an article about Gender Egalitarianism.The purpose of the article was to compare which countries had the highest scores on gender equality. Back then, when doing my research I found with great surprise, that according to the GLOBE Study (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness), the countries that ranked the best for gender equality were Hungary and Poland.

I could have expected that the Scandinavian countries would have been the least gender differentiated countries because of their well known state gender policies and because of their international reputation for gender equality. However, in the GLOBE Study, Poland and Hungary were the countries that scored highest in the cultural dimension of least gender differentiation. Then the obvious question popped into my mind. Why Poland and Hungary are considered themselves to be least gender differentiated countries than Sweden, Norway or Denmark?

I remember ending my article mentioning that one explanation to my question was the history of these countries. Both Poland and Hungary were part of the communist region and experienced the born and death of the communist ideology, which idealized equality between all classes and social groups. In specific women were seen as essential in communist societies and equal to men. Sometimes they even had a more important role in society than man. The portray of a woman in the communist societies was of a woman running her own country farm, a woman raising a loyal, communist family, and a woman working professionally. Women were viewed as essential to the communist society not only because of the work force but also because of their maternal role.

However, if we look at our history and despite all the efforts of many countries to reduce the gap between genders, no country in the world has yet managed to eliminate the gap. According to one article in the Science Daily, in the US., the Bureau of Labour Statistics cites that women working more than 60 hours per week earn only 78.3% of what men in the same time category earn. The same article also highlights the fact that this gap has remain because of what the author called “gender fatigue” that is the cause for workers not acknowledging the bias against women and that prohibits productive discussion regarding inequalities between men and women, making the bias difficult to address. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091008113306.htm).

It would be interesting to research, how exactly living in a former communist country influence so much a personality, build confidence and give women tools to become a Nobel Price?