"Having five or six female middle managers is more meaningful than having one female executive,” said Park Jeong-rim. Park has made headlines as the woman who broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first female Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of KB Securities. Instead of bringing attention to herself, she sheds light in the interview on how there are just a few women involved in core business work. Decades have passed since women started to work in men-only offices; however, as seen in Park’s case where the first female CEO showed up only in 2018, the glass ceiling has yet to be broken.
During the interview with Yonhap News on January 11, Park spoke strongly about how important it is to have more female middle managers in the finance industry. She also further emphasized that breaking the glass wall is more important than breaking the glass ceiling. The former expression is referred to when there is an obstacle that stops women or minorities from laterally moving across in a business. The point she made, tells how incredibly difficult and frustrating it was for her to earn her current position. Moreover, this shows how many women are not working in, but working around the company’s main businesses.
Women’s role in Korean society is increasing as a whole; however, their position within a single industry is often neglected. Corporations still lack female workers when it comes to making significant decisions. Although on the surface Korean women are allowed and welcomed to build their career, they are also silently pressured to fulfill their traditional role as a woman, which often includes being someone’s mother or wife. According to a survey from HuffPost, women from Korea and Japan have scored top two on where they think gaining age is a misfortune. This age pressure is what drives many women to choose their ingrained conventional duty as a wife or mother over their career.
Park’s crack on the glass ceiling has received a lot of positive responses that Korea is reaching gender equality in the workplace. However, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics on the gender wage gap in 2017, Korea still scored the highest. Park being the first female CEO of KB Securities should be taken more than as a mere surprise or celebration. Her exceptional success should be followed by a thorough examination on why Korea is the slowest on closing the gender gap in the workplace. While much research and many statistics have proven that work ability does not differ between two genders, the reality is that their efforts get paid differently.
The most influential factor in stopping women from climbing the hierarchy ladder in a company is due to marriage and childbirth. According to the JoongAng Ilbo, Korea’s female employment significantly drops after women give birth, and its decreased level is serious among other countries. Therefore, their salary drops when they come back to their job or they are forced to choose between work and family. Although Korea has a developing infrastructure on this issue, a faster improvement will diminish gender inequality and enhance the economy with more women who are competent pursuing their career.
Park’s inauguration should serve as a self-examination on how veiled Korea has been on gender issues. Within the country, it has certainly improved on making a better environment for women to work. But, when in comparison to the rest of the world, it still needs more improvement. The frog in the well knows nothing of the great ocean; it is time that Korea steps out of its own well of standards on gender equality to see the greater side of the ocean on true equality.