Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Czech Glass Ceiling

The 8th of March was known as International Women’s Day in the communist world. The 8th of March 2006 is now known as the day that a high-profile lawsuit was finally brought to draw attention to the problem of gender discrimination in the Czech Republic.

In the Czech Republic, women make 25% less than men in comparable jobs and women hold only 14% of top management positions in large corporations.

Marie Čauševiç has filed a suit against her employer, Pražská teplárenská (Prague Heating), for denying her a promotion. Čauševiç is an economic adviser at Pražská teplárenská and in May 2005 she applied for the position of financial director. After the first round of interviews, Čauševiç was told that she was the strongest of the five candidates, but after the second round of interviews, the job was offered to a man.

In September 2005, Čauševiç received a letter from the chairman of the board of the personnel agency that had been engaged to fill the position. The letter said she would “always come second because of information asymmetry.”

No one involved in the case can figure out what “information asymmetry” actually means, but all of the understandable signs point to the problem of a very real (although metaphorical) glass ceiling.

While Čauševiç is convinced that she was passed over for the position because she is a woman, we will probably have to wait a very long time to find out what the court thinks of the situation. The long wait is another problem – that of the Czech judicial system, which is in desperate need of reform. The important aspect of the case for now is simply that it is getting media attention and has brought the problem of a glass ceiling to light.

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