Woman at Work in Russia: Is It a Man's World?

UnknownAnna-Stefaniya Chepik Head of Corporate/ HR practice Pepeliaev, Goltsblat and Partners
It is a fact that women have become increasingly active within the European labor force in recent years and there is no doubt that great strides have been made in the workplace over the last 50 years. Yet does this apply to Russia, or can it still be said that, for most Russian women, the workplace is very much a man's world?

To begin with, it is important to note that the significant developments in the female labor supply have attracted the attention of researchers all over the world. Participation in the work force by women has been studied in detail in many countries. But the main topics for discussion usually focus on the problems of discrimination, women's wages, unearned income, labor market conditions, number of children, years of education and age.

An eternal problem for almost all women is the dilemma between working in a business and domestic activities such as performing housework and caring for children. This is especially true if the decision to join the work force has been brought about by economic pressure. Especially in big cities, there has been a sharp rise in the number of single-parent families where the woman is the only breadwinner for an underage child.

The acute nature of this question was underlined in former President Vladimir Putin's annual message to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in 2006. He specified that women are frequently compelled to choose between giving birth to a child and being able to go out to work. The same problem applies regarding a woman's return to work after giving birth to a child.

On the one hand, Article 19 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation states that men and women shall enjoy equal rights and freedoms and have equal opportunities to exercise them. Yet nowadays, given the fierce job competition, employers prefer employees who are ready to do overtime, shoulder increased workloads and are flexible in emergencies.

Olga Popova
Junior Attorney
Pepeliaev, Goltsblat and Partners

It is important to mention that, today, the Russian legislative base includes adequate anti-discrimination rules. Article 3 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation states that everyone has equal opportunities to exercise their labor rights. "No one can be restricted in their labor rights and freedoms or obtain any advantages, irrespective of their sex, as well as other factors not relevant to the professional qualities of the employee." While some employers generally may prefer male workers and consider certain jobs to be more suitable for men, it is a fact that the labor market in Russia is rather complicated and the shortage of highly-skilled employees is keenly felt. The results of such employees' work do not depend on their sex. The demand for highly skilled specialists virtually compels employers to create special grants and additional guarantees for pregnant working women or women with children.

The Russian legislation provides a number of social privileges and guarantees for women. First, the Labor Code takes into account the trends secured in international documents concerning legal regulation of night work by women, which pregnant women are not supposed to perform. Overtime work from pregnant women is also not allowed. As the code says — "requesting overtime work from invalids and women who have children below the age of three is allowed only with their written consent." Second, a special procedure has been established with respect to holidays for pregnant women and women with children. One vital guarantee is that pregnant women cannot be dismissed except for cases of liquidation of the organization or termination of activities of individual entrepreneurs. By the way, the maximum maternity and birth allowance for a full calendar month is 24,000 rubles.

So few working women occupying top managerial positions are ready to leave work. Yet this situation practically pushes employers to create additional conditions for pregnant women, such as part-time work or work from home.

Consequently, it is important to mention that realization of such guarantees is a burden on employers.

On the one hand, the difficult situation on the labor market is influenced by the belief of employers and society that the woman's place is in the home. On the other hand, it is impossible to apply such a judgment to top managers and other senior or highly skilled staff.

In any case, highly skilled employees are will always be in demand, irrespective of their sex and other factors.