Woman Plus...
  N 3, 2002

Russian women today: active woman - is a happy woman
(a review of analytical report)

prepared by Natalia Babich

The whole text about the research, illustrated with tables and diagrams, is in the Internet at the informational portal "Woman and society", site address: http://www.owl.ru/win/research/doclad.htm

The analytical report "Woman of new Russia: what is she like? Where does she live? What does she strive for?" was prepared by the Institute of Complex Social Researches of Russian Academy of Science (ICSR RAS) and Russian Independent Institute of Social and National Problems on the base of the research, made in January of 2002, thanks to support of the representatives of Frederic Abert Fund in Russian Federation. The report was prepared by the author's group of ICSR RAS, headed by of M.K.Gorshkov, Doctor of Philosophy, and N.E.Tikhonova, Doctor of Sociology.

In the Preface of the report there are words: "a women question, women problems in modern society, conditions and mechanisms of involving women in all the spheres of public life are today one of the most important aspects in comprehension of the quality of vital activity of civilized communities". May be, it is a good explanation why the research in question was supported by a Western fund, but not by a Russian one.

The research was made in January of 2002 in 12 territorial economic regions of Russian Federation (according to regional division of the State Statistics Committee of RF), and as well in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. The total number of respondents amounted to 1406 people, representing women of five age groups: 17-20 years old, 21-25 years old, 26-30 years old, 31-40 years old, 41-50 years old. The researchers tried to determine both characteristic and distinctive features, peculiar to different groups of Russian women, which helped to define the field of the research: the main life objects to achieve; real problems of everyday life; the rate of satisfaction with life and work conditions; relations with men and a husband; preferable models of a family and family relations; role and place of children in Russian women life; leisure interests and the ways of their realization; the problems of family and outside family violence; the main forms of discrimination; level of involving in political process; need of Russian women in women social organizations. Each part of the research is a separate theme for discussion and publication. But in view of limited possibilities of our edition, we list only the most interesting facts and conclusions from different sections.

The range of life values of Russian women is extremely wide. The overwhelming majority of Russian women (95% of the respondents) bind their life goals with reliable friends, respect of surrounding people, real love, honest life, happy family, having a separate flat, doing favorite work, bringing up good children. And the goals, connected with private aspects of life (friends, ownership of flat, interesting work), even prevailed over the goals, connected with family roles. An average Russian woman is characterized by diversity of interests, among which family and children are of great but not overwhelming importance. Every thirteenth representative of the young age group (17-20 years old) doesn't strive for creating a happy family, and every tenth doesn't aim at bringing up good children. Moreover, almost every twelfth girl of this group doesn't seek after a real love. However, with due regard of all above, girls, who want to have reliable friends, to get an interesting and prestige work, amount to 98.4%. The research helped not only to reveal different life goals of Russian women, to follow the development of these goals depending on age, but to define four main types of Russian women, which differ according to their life aspirations. These types may be called: "home women", "workers", "careerists" and "hopeless", - and they are characterized not by opposite life goals but by less or more variety of goals. The type "home women" amount to 41%; they are eager to bring up good children, to have good friends, to live honestly and to be respected by people. "Workers" total to 36% and along with the same goals, also would like to have interesting and prestige work, opportunity to do their favorite work, good education. "Careerists" make up 16% (the researchers stress that this definition doesn't have any negative meaning and is connected only with the longing of these women to make a career), have the widest range of life goals. This type includes women, who in addition to the life goals of the previous types, are sure that they can have in future or already have private business, are eager to make a career, to visit different countries. "Hopeless" women amount to 7% and are very close to "home women" in their aspirations but think that they cannot realize the goals peculiar to this type, and first of all, are unable to create a happy family, to bring up good children and so on.

And popular stereotype, that women striving for work and career, are less interested in creating a family, proved to be a mistake. Women of all types turned to consider a family a very important part of their life. Women who strive for career, but as well look forward to creating a happy family, total to 95%.

A tendency to meet not only a partner in life but a loved and a worthy man, is included in priority interests of the majority of Russian women. And every second Russian woman (50.1%) thinks that she has fulfilled her plan in this regard. More often women oriented on a career succeeded in meeting her real love. The highest rate of women, who don't strive for it, is among "home women" and especially "hopeless" women. The number of those, who wanted to find real love but didn't succeed, is great among these women. Partly this difference may be explained thus: "careerists" and "workers" are in the age groups of women before 30, while "home women" and "hopeless" women are mainly in the groups of women, older than 30. But even taking into account this amendment concerning women, interested in career and interesting work, their dream of real love prevails over all other ambitions.

A probability of achieving one or another life goal with Russian women is notably lower than a level of their initial hopes, which they had in the youth. At the same time, this possibility strongly depends on the life type the woman belongs to. For example, "careerists", in spite of the fact that they are mainly in younger age groups, have achieved the results, comparable or even exceeding the results of "home women", as far as most life goals are concerned, though the latter have greater life experience. Thus, a quarter of "careerists" and only 1.2% of "home women" have prestige work, 18.7% and 1.7% of them, respectively, have their own business; 17.3% and 0.7% have already made a successful career; 40.2% and 13.7% do their favorite work; 11.6% and 3.1% have visited different foreign countries; 39.6% and 14.9% have interesting work; 41.6% and 9.3% have already joined the desired sections of society; 44.5% and 17.0% have life conditions "not worse than others".

The research discovered, that one of the most important factors, defining the success in achieving life goals of Russian women, is a level of their education: higher education for women is not only the most important supposition of successful self-realization in professional sphere or condition of career growth, but is their admission to the other, more rich and vivid life, to the other social sphere, where relations between men and women, between husband and wife, between friends are different, and chances to have many-sided and happy life greatly increase.

Russian women estimation of their lives in the whole is rather optimistic than pessimistic. According to the opinion of 25.5% of the questioned women, their lives go on "well" and according to 62.9% - "satisfactory". And women who consider that their lives go on "badly" amount to only 11.6%. An average income per one family member, according to estimation of the women themselves, amounted to 2076 rubles at the beginning of 2002, i.e. it was lower than $70, which is rather close to the statistics. It means that an average family of 3 persons had a monthly budget of about $200. At the same time, the income of the "rich" social group is 25 times higher than the income of the "poor" one (in men groups this figure is 18 times). Average income really hides a significant social differentiation. The lowest income per one person is in the families of women working in industry, at the building sites and in transport sphere - it comes to 1600 rubles, and in budget sphere - to 1810 rubles. This figure isn't mush higher for State employees - it is 2005 rubles and 2145 rubles - for workers of trade and service. Employees of financial sphere stated that their average income was 2630 rubles per person, engineers - 2770 rubles, entrepreneurs - 4160 rubles.

Women, who have serious reasons, impeding them to consider their lives normal, amount to 80%. And even among women, who consider their lives normal (17.9%), there are women who have certain problems: 7.1% of them, said that they had problems with their own health or the health of their family members; 6.7% mentioned the lack of social guaranties; 6.2% confessed of financial problems; 6.0% cannot spend their free time as they want; 4.8% have problems, connected with lodging, etc. But the acuteness of these problems isn't probably strong enough to prevent them from considering their life normal. The problem of lack of social guaranties more often worries those, who are "over 40" (43.8%), as well as the problems, connected with health (33.2%) or with the lack of possibility to get qualified medical assistance, to buy necessary medicines. However, even in view of the age, of tense perception of different problems, their acuteness even more depends on the type of women life goals. Thus, material position more troubles "home" and "hopeless" women (two thirds of women belonging to these groups consider it as one of their main life problems). Lodging problem, which is usually solved as far as a woman becomes older, is also very acute in these groups (it was mentioned by more than one third of the women). Approximately one third of women, belonging to these groups, worries about problems, connected with work and lack of social guaranties. As a result, women, who consider their lives "normal", make up 38.1% among "careerists", 21.5% among "workers" consider their lives "normal", 7.5% among "home women" and only 2.8% among "hopeless" consider their lives "normal".

Along with problems, which turn everyday life of Russian women in a constant struggle for surviving, different phobias and fears make their contribution to worsening of women psychological state. First of all, these are: fear of health problems and of staying without means of existence, fear of numerous acts of terrorism and of breaking war, fear of possible drug addiction of their children, fears of lack of perspectives for their children, of unemployment, fear of impossibility of getting a good education by herself or by her children, fear of considerable growth of housing payments, fear of vagueness of the future perspectives. 20% of women shared the other fears and phobias, including traditional "women" fears as a fear of loneliness, of husband infidelity, fear of old age. Against a background of dangers and problems, that fill our life today, Russian women don't have time to think about that part of their life, which is connected with intimate emotional sphere or relations between men and women - first of all they have to provide physical surviving of their family and protect children, provide them at least with the slightest chances to have normal future. As far as psychological condition is concerned, about one third of Russian women are "at the breaking point", and only about one forth of them has rather comfortable psychological state. And though women, understanding their responsibility for their family and children, try to "stand firm" and keep optimism, many of them are close to be exhausted. Almost half of Russian women notice the injustice of the surrounding world and about one third of them think that, though it is impossible to live like this any more, they cannot influence the existent events.

Russian women very neatly differentiate the concepts of an ideal husband and an ideal man. Unconditionally they prefer such men qualities as an advanced wit, intellect (this quality was mentioned by 36.7% of women), physical strength and health (36.0%), an ability to provide a good income for their family (34.1%); while in a husband they first of all prefer ability to provide for their family (58.4%), love of children (44%) and fidelity (42%). According to the received data, Russian women consider rather unimportant such men quality as sexuality. In a list of qualities which Russian women wanted to see in a man, sexuality occupies the 8th place (from 14 qualities, proposed for an estimation). Even a sense of humor turned out to be more important for women. Moreover, sexuality in a husband is estimated as little as two times in comparison with sexuality of an ideal man (17.0% and 7.5% respectively). Such "de-sexualization" of an ideal man is peculiar both to married and single women. An ideal man for a woman is, first of all, a man who is able to provide a protection from the surrounding world.

An ideal woman, in the opinion of the majority of Russian women, is also deprived of sexuality as a priority-driven quality - women who called it one of the main qualities amount to 18.7%. The main components of an ideal woman image turned to be: attractive appearance, love of children, thrift and practicality, kindness, fidelity in love and self-reliance.

Children for Russian women are not only an essential part of a woman life but a necessary "connecting-link" of relations between man and woman in a family. Three forth of Russian women stick to a traditional reproductive model, considering, that giving birth and bringing up as much as two children, is a perfect variant for them (in case they are not limited in money). Most of them (54.7%) would be content with two children, and each fifth Russian woman (21.0%), if she had appropriate living conditions, would be ready to have three or more children. A model of procreation, supposing only one child, suits only 13.5% of women. But real strategies of Russian women, very closely connected with the today social economical situation in the country, are quite far from an ideal scheme of their family stereotypes. Only two women of three are going to bring into life their ideal model of a family. At the same time, one child becomes a real life strategy of 31.8% of Russian women, which is almost twice as much as their ideals.

A good family is the most important condition of a valuable life for most Russian women. Women who have succeeded in creating such a family, make up 40%, and those, who think that they have good relations in their families and consider their life good, amount to 38.2%.

What family is considered by women as happy ones? A happy family is a family based on love (87.3% of women who considered their family happy, were sure that they had already met their real love). Women of this group, who think that a love-match is stronger than a marriage for money, amount to 75.8%. The next necessary component of a happy family is children. Their number is not as important as just their availability. The third peculiarity of happy families is an officiously registered marriage. A happy family is a family where a woman feels "married" and even if not "behind a stone wall" but at least behind somebody's back and where a husband provides a basis of material well-being. In any case, in 56.5% of the families, where women considered, that they succeeded in creating a happy family, the family material well-being was mainly formed by a husband, which is much more than in other families. It's very important to mention that though a man is the main "bread-winner" in happy families, a woman takes an active part in disposing of the money - in 91.0% of cases, she uses the money either by herself or together with her husband.

An equality of rights in a family proved to be the most important condition, necessary for a woman to consider her family a happy one. For women an equality of rights with a man is more important than a supremacy in a family and possession of more rights - women form happy families, who thought that they had equal rights with men amounted to 70.2%, while women, who thought they had more rights, made up only 9.6%.

There are a lot of women having happy families in the two quite polar groups - among housekeepers (63.0%) and business women (59.0%). Such situation must be connected with peculiarities of the life goals of these women - the first group is oriented mostly on a family and women have an opportunity to devote themselves to it; and the others are oriented not only on a family but on a career as well, and life gives them an opportunity to realize all their goals. Husbands accept and love them as they are, which makes almost absolute harmony in the family possible. It's no wonder that conflicts occur often only in 7.7% of business women families.

Officiously married women, who consider their family happy, amount to 69.0%. While civil married women, considering their family happy, amount only to 40.2%, and availability of constant partner wasn't considered a family at all - women of this group, who thought their family was happy, made up as few as 5.3%. Almost 80% of these women hope to have a happy family in future. Almost 40% of civil married women had the same hope.

The question "Have you ever suffered from violence?" was answered in the affirmative by 13.4% of the questioned women. Outdoor violence is more widely spread (8.3%), but women, who suffered from violence in the family, made up 4.3% and those, who were exposed to violence on the part of representatives of government bodies, came to 1.1%. More often women of the middle age groups (26-40 years old) suffer from domestic violence, and younger women (17-25 years old) more suffer from violence in the streets. Women, who called a fear of criminality as one of the five greatest fears of their life, amount to 15.4% and those, who called fear of violence on the part of their family members among such fears, make up 3.2%. The research revealed, that divorced women more often inform of the acts of violence on the part of their former husbands, than married women. 5.8% of the questioned women said that they didn't remember, whether they were exposed to violence, though it's difficult to forget about it. Almost one third of women (31.7%) from families, where conflicts occurred rather often, suffered from violence. For comparison - in the families, where conflicts occurred seldom or almost never, only 9.2% of women declared about domestic violence. Alcohol, a traditional source of difficulties and consequently of violence in Russian families, which in the recent years was closely followed by drug addiction, occupies the first place among the reasons, increasing a risk of violence. The next place is taken by such a factor of possible violence as success of women in comparison with men and connected with it difference between intellectual and cultural level of husband and wife. Since today a very serious problem in Russia is not only the domestic violence itself, but also the fact, that many women don't see an opportunity to hamper it. Thus, 76.8% of the questioned women consider themselves unprotected as far as their rights are concerned, while only one forth of the questioned women think they are protected. Women, who consider themselves unprotected and have suffered from domestic violence, make up 41.7%. Women, who have suffered from street violence and share this point of view, amount to 37.9%.

On the one hand, 45.8% of the questioned women against 29.3% consider that for the last ten years the opportunities for women to realize themselves in business, public work, politics have greatly increased. On the other hand, almost the same number of the questioned people (52.7% against 24.9%) note, that men still have more rights and opportunities for active political activity, than women. This contradiction is explained by the fact, that recognition of increased opportunities doesn't mean, that they are automatically realized. It is true, most women consider, that today there are no serious legal restrictions in social and political life of women and, accordingly, there is no gender discrimination. But at the same time women point out so many problems they have to face in everyday life, that participation in politics and social work for them is of minor importance. For almost half of the questioned women (44.0%) political and social careers are not included in the list of vitally important plans either now or in future. Women, who declare that they have succeeded in making a career in this field, amount to only 5.5%. A group of "active" women makes up less than one third of the questioned women. 47,4% consider, that men and women have equal opportunities for participation in social life, and only 27.3% think, that men have more rights there. Women don't agree with the point of view, that taking into account the burden they have at work and at home, they'd better avoid taking part in social and political life: it is agreed upon only by 30.3% of all questioned women, while 41.6% strongly objects it.

The overwhelming majority of Russian women (68.0% against 10.5%) insist on redistribution of the family roles so, that all those, who wish, could combine cares for house and family with full-fledged participation in social and political life.

Majority of Russian women skeptically regard an opportunity of election of a woman president in Russia. Only 36.8% of the questioned women regard this opportunity as a desirable one, while 61.2% of women would prefer to see a man as a president of Russia. Local political level, connected with solving of different concrete social problems, is quite another matter: 51.8% of women would prefer to address for help in solving their private problems to a local female politician and administrator and 45.7% - to male politician. Most women regard politics of the country either as mutual activity or as predominantly male activity. The researches stress that "successful women" are more ready to render politic rights and responsibility to men. Thus, women, who succeeded in creating a happy family and would prefer the president to be a man or a woman amount to respectively 65.9% and 33.0%, while those, who "gave up for lost" the opportunities of creating a happy family, amount to 54.1% and 43.2% respectively. Almost the same picture can be observed as far as well-being is concerned: women from the groups with high income twice as often prefer to see a man as a president than a woman, while among poor women this gap is not so significant. 24.1% and 20.6% of the questioned women support respectively introducing of quotas, for example in the State Duma and RF Government, pro rata men and women parts of the country population, while more than 40% of women are sure, that such ratio doesn't mean a lot.

Many women are not inclined to see any principal differences in the interests of men and women and that is why, according to their opinion, it isn't so important, who protects them and represents in the center and local governmental bodies. On the other hand, approximately the same number of Russian women are sure that women themselves can better represent and protect women interests. First of all, women are interested in effectiveness of such kind of activity, and who will realize it - is less actual on this stage. But at the same time, according to their opinion, it is necessary in future to increase the influence of women organizations. However, the fact of existence and actual activity of social organizations is often beyond women attention. Thus, in spite of the growth of the number of NCO (non-commercial organizations) for the last ten years, 70.6% of Russian women don't know anything about their existence in their city, territory, region or republic. More than half of those, who know about their existence, think that they personally don't need them. And only 8.8% of the questioned regard their activity positively. Among them: 5.1% would like to take part in the work of such organizations; 2.5% addressed to such organizations for help to solve their problems; 1.2% personally take part in the work of some social women organization. Attitude of women from different social groups to such organizations noticeably differ. Women consider the following activity of women organizations to be of vital importance: 54.4% - psychological assistance to women in difficult life situations; 45.7% - help in employment; 42.3% protecting interests of children (starting from organizing a leisure for children to establishing committees of soldiers' mothers); 41.4% - rendering financial assistance to women who got into difficulties; 26.8% - struggle against drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, etc.; 24.0% - struggle against all forms of women discrimination; 18.3% - protection from domestic violence; 9.4% - assistance in establishing a private business; 8.0% - political struggle for women rights; 5.4% - organizing a leisure for women.

There are only several spheres where, according to the opinions of most women, they have equal rights with men or even more rights. That is: in opportunity to get professional education (72.7%), in a family (70.0%), in opportunity to have a rest during holidays (66.0%) and in their spare time (56.8%) and in opportunity to participate in social life (50.7%). Violation of equality of their rights with men women first of all see in the sphere of employment. Most women also see discrimination in their limited access to participation in political life, which, in contrast to participation in social life, means a real opportunity to use such major resource as power. It means that in the conditions of the increased competition, which is a specific feature of market relations, women are discriminated in professional and well paid work and in access to power. Was such state of affairs, in Russian women point of view, inherited form Soviet epoch or recent years reforms intensified the problems of their discrimination? Judging by the result of the research, most women are sure, that their position has notably taken a turn for the worse. Estimating their chances to realize themselves in business, politics, public work, women from more successful social classes look at the opportunity to realize themselves in these spheres much more optimistically than women from "social outsiders".