Page 52

36

Economic Opportunities for Women in the East Asia and Pacific Region

the logo on their recruitment advertisements, and competitors within industries have followed each other in acquiring the citation (Greater London Authority 2007). In organizations that have failed to treat men and women equally, individual employees who believe they have been subject to sex discrimination may file an official complaint with the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).5 Whereas initiatives such as EOWA’s can play a significant role in advancing women-friendly workplace policies, tackling cultural barriers is much trickier. Such normative barriers to women at work can restrict the extent to which commitments, such as ILO 100, are met in actual business and employment practices. Even in the developed Republic of Korea, for example, being a woman in business and in the labor force is not easy, as the female entrepreneur profiled in box 2.2 attests.

Box 2.2

Case Study Excerpt Republic of Korea: Sung-Joo Kim CEO, SungJoo Group & MCM Group In the Republic of Korea, rapid economic growth has not always translated into equal “rules-of-the-game” for women entrepreneurs, who comprise only 19 percent of all Korean business owners and have a low labor force participation rate of only 39 percent. Although Sung-Joo recognized the business potential of high-end fashion in Asia early on, establishing her business was hampered by difficult business start-up procedures and traditional notions of a woman’s place in Korean society. Upon completing her studies in the United States, Sung-Joo returned to the Republic of Korea to start her business. However, Sung-Joo had not bargained on the difficulties she would encounter as a woman entrepreneur in Korea’s male-dominated business world. Despite years of increases in women’s education, patriarchal notions have remained prevalent in Korean society, according to which men are expected to dominate the public and women the domestic sphere. Gender discrimination proved to be a particular obstacle for Sung-Joo when she first embarked on her business career. Securing start-up capital was an early stumbling block. As she remarks, “loan managers were interested in supporting the business plan on paper, but turned (continued)

Economic Opportunities for Women in the East Asia and Pacific Region  

The East Asia and Pacific region has made great progress, relative to other regions, with regard to both economic development and, specifica...