Women in the Czech Republic have traditionally been confined to “female spheres” such as healthcare and social work. They were also not interested in politics after communism, according to Jirina Siklova, an elderly sociologist in Prague, because it was not a prestigious occupation for them to be involved in. These and other communist-era ideas of women’s work contribute heavily to which professions women seek out and, consequently the wage gap between genders.
More women reach higher levels of education in the Czech Republic than men, according to Jitka Hausenblasova, a team member at the Gender Institute in Prague, but only 6 percent of the jobs in science and technology are comprised of women.
The Gender Studies institute is a non-profit organization which seeks to promote women’s rights and advancement in the Czech Republic through legal counseling, seminars for women trying to advance in their workplace, and programs such as Girls Day, a “bring your daughter to work” initiative that included 100 girls in 2015.
The lack of women in fields which are traditionally considered a man’s realm reaches into the sphere of politics as well, where, as you look further up in the levels of government, Hausenblasova said, fewer women are found. At the municipal level, about 20 percent of government employees are females, she said. Even those women who have achieved higher statuses in the government don’t see it as their obligation to promote women in government.
“Some of the women, when they get into [higher ranks of government] they don’t care about the topics, or they simply follow the mainstream,” Hausenblasova stated, “this is a big problem because some of them, they don’t see the reason to support other women because they think, ‘if we got here and didn’t need extra support why should the others get it?’”
In fact, the general population of women in the Czech Republic and specifically in Prague, the major metropolitan city in the country, don’t see the issue. Instead, “womens issues are seen as a personal, sometimes a community-level problem,” stated Hausenblasova, adding that this makes solidarity and organized promotion of rights and opportunities for women difficult to achieve.
She also said the the parental leave policy of the Czech Republic contributes to the difficulty that women find in achieving professional success after starting a family. According to a study by the European Parliament in 2015, the Czech Republic is among the top 3 countries in the European Union with the highest unemployment rates for women who have children under 12 years old. The concept that mothers are better caretakers fosters the age-old ideas of a woman’s realm versus a man’s, and as women try to achieve success professionally, years of parental leave can ruin their careers. In the course of three years, technology changes, businesses adjust their policies and procedures, constantly evolving. A woman who has been away for several years cannot easily jump back into the flow of her previous career, and although employers are required to give a mother returning from leave her same job back, they can delete the position, and create a new one, meaning there is no getting the same job back. Even if a women does go back to work before the three-year leave is over, childcare centers that accept children under three are difficult to find, as Elizabeth Haas wrote for an expat website in 2012, adding that only about a dozen such centers exist.
In a country that was run by communists until the last several decades, a modern democratic lifestyle is replacing much of the past. But perceptions of women’s spheres, opportunities for the advancement of women in the workplace and compensation to match that of a man’s are still a work in progress.