Women in the Macho-Land: Or How Russia Made That Far

From Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In foundation to Emma Watson’s gaining more and more popularity HeForShe campaign, business women have actively started to speak up. They share their work experiences and fight much harder to get recognized in the male-dominant business world. But how far up have they actually moved for the last decade with their passion to become one step closer to the benchmark set by male?

The stats are not aspiring. The recent updates in the FT Women in Business, which is as a part of an international business report tracking women in leadership roles since 2004 , state that for the last ten years female senior management has climed up to only 22 per cent globally. Only 3 per cent higher since 2004! Ahead there’s a long way to go to reach that perfect 50/50 work force balance.

Surprisingly, female management in the Western leading economies, where they actively nurture and encourage women in business environments, is far behind Asia-Pacific (the Philippines 37 per cent, Thailand 36 per cent) and almost at the same level as China (25 per cent) and India (15 per cent).

Europe is as conservative as it could be. In spite of having powerful Angela Merkel supporting women in the government sector, Germany didn’t do any better than France (21 per cent) or Spain (14 per cent), but does aim high and has ambitions to increase the number of women in management to 30 per cent by 2016.

Meanwhile the North America (21 per cent) doesn’t show any vivid shift and remains pretty low from what we would have expected, taking into consideration all the female leadership efforts taken there.

And who could have thought that Russia would show such an outstanding result in comparison with the Western largest economies — 40 per cent of women in senior management, the world’s highest number.

So why the equality of men and women at work place in Russia is so close to a perfect balance?

I find it extremely important to turn to a country’s history when we discuss gender issues. As the FT rightly observes it dates back to the Soviet times. After the 1917 revolution, were highly encouraged to go to work and try themselves in different fields. But it was the II World War that dramatically changed the work force situation in the country.

Firstly, there was a shortage in men. The total number of male war dead according to different sourses varies between 30 and 40 million people. Almost 1/4 of the Soviet population was destroyed (The Soviet Census in 1939 showed a population figure of 170.6 million people). Millions of women were left without husbands, fathers, brothers, sons. The war put them in devastating position. To survive and move forward women had to work and earn money themselves.

Secondly, the country was in need of restoration. Everyone was put to work: men, women, the young and the old. Everyone had to unite and help wipe the ashes off the ground, bring the country in order, and prepare the foundation to a thriving future. Women learnt to be strong, independent, and equal to men in order to build a better future for their children.

Thirdly, Russia lacks men. Bad times. Newsweek reports that recently, Rosstat (the Russian Federation Statistics Service) published another unpromising survey: there are 10.5 million more women living in Russia today than men.(Newsweek)

And finally, the percentage of educated women in Russia in much higher than men. Even in the tough 90s the number of male students rose only by 25 per cent (here we also have to consider the 90s war in the Chechen Republic that took away lives of thousands of student-age men), while the number of female- by 50 per cent. According to a 2010 report into gender research by Rosstat, in 2002, there were 10.76 million women who had studied at universities compared with 8.61 million men. (Russia Beyond the Headlines) Striking, isn’t it?

Taking all these factors together explains pretty vividly the landscape of the current work force in Russia. But times are changing in the country super fast. As Russia shifts farther from the employment tendencies of the Soviet Union era, it is more open to accept Western business standards. It will be curious to see work force change down the road as the new generation enters the country’s work force.