Woman Plus...
  N 2, 2002


Svetlana Aivazova

        Svetlana Aivazova, historian, political scientist, author of numerous articles and books on history of women movement, initiator of establishing and chairman of the first Russian club of the feminism researchers "F-1". The meetings of this club were attended by famous scientists -philosophers, scientists in the sphere of culture, psychologists, writers, journalists - from different regions and countries.
    Hereafter we publish an extract from Svetlana's book "Gender equality in the context of human rights".

In the period from the end of eightieth till the beginning of ninetieth political and economic reforming in Russia broke out, connected with changes in the forms of property and transition from Soviet commanding administrative social order to lawful, democratic state. At least in that way the official documents and officials determined the object of this reforming.

Reforms changed position of women in the society, in something having increased and in the other things having decreased their chances to live a valuable life as citizens of their native country. Russia set about new state construction, in many respects turning down the former socialist past. Line on liberalization of social economic life significantly cut down the opportunities to keep the system of the state treatment of women with the policy of specific "benefits" and "privileges". The state had neither economic possibilities nor political motives for it. But on the other hand, officially the state adhere to succession in this field. Moreover, a step forward is made: since multi-party system and civil initiatives are welcomed, multitude of women public unions of different types spring up and they set about pressing for not formally legal but real gender equality.

Collision of such different tendencies cannot but lead to strengthening of asymmetry of social positions and living chances of women and men. In what way did this asymmetry show itself?

Line on construction in Russia of a lawful democratic state in principle presumed that women, as full members of the society, would be granted full set of human rights. From objective point of view this line enlarged opportunities of legal securing of women social status. Besides, it gave to the women organizations an opportunity to demand new state approach in this sphere: to seek after refusal from the former paternalism towards women in favor of equal rights, liberties and equal opportunities for women and men. In ideal, the new line should guarantee not only formal legal equality of chances for women and men but the real equality. Equality without former specified designation of women roles, without typical Soviet phraseology about her mission to be a good "mother" and a good "worker" at the same time.

Due to persistency of women organizations the appropriate legal norm was included into the text of Constitution, approved in 1993. It is fixed in Article 19 (part 3), which (and it is very significant) is an integral part of the general issue "Human rights". This norm reads as follows: "Men and women have equal rights and liberties and equal opportunities for realization of them".

In development of this norm in ninetieth a whole series of other legal documents came into the world. They included President Decrees "On priority objectives of the state policy towards women" (1993), "On rise of the role of women in the system of Federal state power organs and in the organs of the state power of the Subjects of the Russian Federation" (1996). The series as well comprised Government Decision "On approval of National Action Plan on improvement of women position and rise of their role in the society in the period up to 2000", where one of the items stipulated the commitment to enlarge the women representation in the organs of the state power.

Its share in providing realization of principle of equal opportunities for men and women was contributed in ninetieth by the legislative power. Legislative power most important acts were ratification of Convention # 156 of International Labor Organization (ILO) "On equal approach to and equal opportunities for men and women: workers with family obligations" and approval of "Concept of law drafting activity on providing of equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women".

Besides, participation of Russia in a number of international agreements, which were signed under initiative of United Nations Organization, International Labor Organization etc., lay on Russian state powers additional commitments to provide gender equality. The most important of them include: UN Convention on liquidation of any forms of discrimination towards women (approved in 1979); ILO Convention # 156 on workers with family obligations; concluding documents of World Conference on human rights (Vienna, 1993); concluding documents of the World Meeting in interests of social development (Copenhagen, 1995); the same of the World Conference on position of women (Beijing, 1995) and others.

Did all these legislative acts, decrees, decisions solve the problem of overcoming gender asymmetry? No. In the first place, because all these documents were of declarative character - they did not stipulate any financial or organizational resources to provide the obligations, which the state assumed. In the second place, unfortunately, the Russian executive power still did not learn to observe not only laws, approved by the parliament, but even to realize its own decrees and decisions.

The real life of Russian women is far away from the ideals of equality. Mostly distinctly the inequality of chances between men and women is seen in two spheres: sphere of labor and employment and sphere of policy and of government over the state and society.

Let us dwell on the most evident examples of gender asymmetry in the sphere of labor and employment.

Woman, engaged in public production process, is a norm of Russian life in the course of the XX-th century. Today almost 90% of the Russian women in the age from 35 till 49 either work or look for a job. The overwhelming majority of working women - 96.3% - belongs to employees. Only 3.7% of women belong to those, who don't work for a wage, including 0.9% of employers. Due to development of market relations in our country, women, as all other Russian citizens, received opportunity to show initiative in business, to open their own business. But succeeded in this sphere only few of them.

What are characteristic features of women business in Russia? Women share among entrepreneurs amount to about 30%. Almost all of them are mainly engaged in the so-called small and medium business. In big business women are uncommon. Women business development is due to their own initiative but not as a result of special state programs. Irrespective of the fact that the state recently made so many declarations in favor of women business, it did not take concrete steps in support of the latter. Women business is oriented mainly on the traditional spheres of women activity - retail trade, health protection, culture, science. Sociologists insist that women develop their business more cautiously than men. They demonstrate big disposition towards compromise in their partner relations and they are inclined to follow moral principles and aesthetic norms.

What hinders them? The absence of good legislative basis for development of their business. The absence of smooth mechanism of cooperation, open and legal one, of business representatives with legislative and executive powers. But the main factor is instability of the general political and economic situation in Russia. But women- entrepreneurs come across not only these barriers, which in principle hamper the business development in the country. Their activity is also seriously affected by social psychological factors. In particular - it is a common habitual view on the role of women in the family and society, which prevailed in the mass consciousness during the years of reforming. Traditional stereotypes of the mass perception seriously limit competitive strength of women in business, and destroy their family relations as soon as they score a first big success.

But I repeat that women-entrepreneurs constitute a very small portion of the working women in Russia. Majority of women are occupied in the budget sphere of economy, where the state is the employer. This employer obviously underestimates women's labor in comparison with the men's one. For a concrete example: in Russia educational level of working women is higher than the same of men. Among all the employees, engaged in economy, 22% of women and only 18% of men have the higher professional education. Nevertheless, women have much less chances to make a career than men. Professional and appointment status of women practically in all branches of economy is lower than that of men. Portion of women, heading the enterprises and organizations, does not exceed 6-9% depending on the branch of economy. Starting from the ninetieth, tendency to exclusion of women from these positions only strengthens from year to year.

In general the position of men on the labor market all these years was more stable. Decrease in demand of labor under influence of such macro economical factors as structural reforming of economy, decrease in production, inflation told upon, first of all, working women. Particular difficult position of women on the labor market was on the initial stage of reforms, when mass exclusion of women from public production took place. In 1990 38.1 million women were engaged in economy of Russia, in 1997 - only 30.7 million. Thus the number of employed women decreased by 7.4 million: in 1990 women constitute 51% of employed personnel, nowadays - 47%.

Up to the middle of ninetieth women were the majority among the officially registered unemployed - about 2/3 of the total, which allowed to describe unemployment in Russia as the one "with woman face". Nowadays the situation changed. Level of unemployment among women practically does not differ from the same of men. But to find a new job for a woman is still more difficult than for a man. In 1998 42% of unemployed women and only 39% of unemployed men looked for a new job. The most difficult position on the labor market is occupied by girls, who have no working record or seniority, and by women of pre-pension age - 50 years old and more.

The next objective index of women position on the labor market is the average women wage, paid in the country. In general, women wage is much lower than the same of men: according to official data it amounts to 2/3 of the men one, and according to experts data - only about 50%. During the ninetieth the gap between payment of men and women labor widened. First of all due to inter-industry differentiation of labor payment. The very branches of industry, where women prevail in employment, - such as textile industry, clothing industry, etc.,- turned out to be in the most unfavorable position. The same applies to the social sphere - health protection, education, culture, social insurance, - where women are the principle workers (about 80% of the total employment). The average wage there amounts to 40-60% of the average wage in the economy. Its growth rate is seriously behind the same in industry. For example, in 1998 wages in education and culture increased by 5-7%, and in industry - by 32%.

Gender difference in remuneration of labour is connected not only with industrial peculiarities of women employment, but as well with direct infringement of the principle of equal payment for equal work. For example, in 1997 salaries of women-doctors were 20% lower than the same of their men-colleagues. It is not play of chance, but an element of general policy: almost in all branches of economy women occupy low paid posts.

All these years clear regularity on the labor market could be traced: men displaced women not from heavy-work or harmful manufactures, but from perspective, well paid posts. The best example - banking business, where mostly women were engaged before the reforms. As soon as this branch became prestigious and well paid, men occupied banks and women had to give place to them, to recede into the background.

Evident inequality of women and men positions on the labor market resulted in feminization of poverty - the sharpest social problem, which the government was not ready to solve. Income level of almost one third of women in our country is equal to the living minimum. Women make up the majority in the most economically vulnerable groups of population: among pensioners, among the unemployed, among persons on unpaid leave, which was initiated by the company management, among employees of the budget sector of economy. Women are at the head of the overwhelming majority of incomplete families.

You cannot say that the authorities do not realize that this problem is available. Ministry of labor and social development of Russia works out different programs, directed towards its overcoming. In particular, programs of professional education and retrain. According to statistics, among those, who were professionally retrained, there were 62% of women. Nevertheless, the problem of improvement of women competitive abilities on the labor market is still very acute.

Still more evident gender asymmetry shows up in the sphere of policy and of government over the state.

In the system of civil service women prevail on the post, which do not suppose taking responsible decisions. They total 56% of the civil service employees of the Federal level, but occupy only 9% of executive positions and only 1.3% of the so-called "top posts".

606 women, or 72% of the total civil servicemen, work in the organs of judicial authority of the Federal level - Constitutional, Supreme, Supreme Arbitration Courts of Russia. But only 3 women (14% of the total civil servicemen of this category) occupy the posts of secretariat executives, assistants of chief justice, their deputies and judges.

Only one woman - Valentina Matvienko - is a member of the acting Government of Russia.

Among deputies of the lower house of the parliament - of the State Duma of Russia - representation rate of women steadily decreases. In the State Duma of the first convocation (1993-1995) there were 13.6% of women-deputies. In the State Duma of the second convocation (1995-1999) they amounted to 10%. In the State Duma of the third convocation, elected in December 1999, there were only 7.7% of women-deputies. In the Federation Council, when governors and chairmen of regional legislative assemblies sat on there, sometimes a lonely woman figure appeared. By the time when this assembly of "fathers of the regions" transformed into the organ of their "proteges", there were no women at all in it. Today the names of 6 women are among 178 senators.

In different periods of the ninetieth deputies of the legislative assemblies of the Subjects of Russia comprised from 7% up to 10% of women. To some of these legislative assemblies, for example, to the same of the Koursk province, women were never elected. In other regions, for example, in Kourganskaya province, women occupy up to 30% of the deputies' places (data of 1999).

On the 1-st of January, 1999 there were registered 141 public unions, 6 among them - women ones. In 17 organizations women were at the head. But practically, there is no women among leaders of big political parties of the country. The only exception is Irina Khakamada, one of the three leaders of "Union of the right forces". Political parties and unions practically do not bother themselves with equalization of women and men opportunities in the policy. During election campaigns they violate with impunity the constitutional principle of equal rights and opportunities for men and women - they violate it both when they form the list of candidates for deputies' elections from their organizations and when they nominate candidates from the so-called single-mandate election districts. For example, during the last parliament elections (1999) there were only 10% of women in the list of candidates of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF); in the list of union "Unity" - 10%; in the list of union "Apple" - 11%; in the list of block "Fatherland - All Russia" - 12%; in the list of "Union of the right forces" - 17%. Among those, who were staked on by these unions in the so-called single-mandate election districts, there were 10-12% of women. But at the same time all political parties gladly used women as tellers, supervisors, members of election committees.

What does this data tell about? It tells us about quite "male" profile of Russian power. This power is unbalanced, it can take into account neither social interests of women in Russia nor their specific social experience. What is going to be with our country, what course shall be chosen for its development - everything is decided mainly by men. Badness or inaccuracy of these decisions negatively influence everyday life of Russian women.

In present conditions, when representatives of political world, top-level state leaders are not inclined to pay whatsoever attention for the questions of gender equality, the work with organs of executive and legislative powers, establishment of social partnership between them and women organizations become one of the most important directions of activity of women organizations. Without particular pressure on the part of those, who are interested in broadening of women rights in Russia, the problem of equality of rights can be buried as socially insignificant.