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I want and I will: an engineer and a chocolatier about their dream job

When kids are asked to depict a pilot and a firefighter, 8 in 10 draw men. Does Ukraine still have a gender division of labour? Let us examine in this feature. 

From early childhood kids are brought up into some roles, which later on they obediently follow when making a career choice. For example: “You are a girl, thus, have to choose a job, which suits a girl”. Or: “This is not a men’s job”. Parents either deliberately or not, but impose such scenarios on their children. Then a game of “this is for boys, this is for girls” continues in a kindergarten and at one’s school. When time arrives to make a decision which university to choose, a child already has 17 years of instructions, provided by adults who assumingly know better. 

But who can claim that he/she knows better how the world will look like and which professions will be on demand in the future? First and foremost, there must be a human in the center of every activity, with her skills and capacity. An engineer Vira Kholodnyak and a chocolatier Anton Rishko are a live confirmation of that. 

Breaking stereotypes

When clients buy chocolate sweets made by Anton Rishko, most probably they are unaware that their creator is a former forensic investigator. 

As a kid, Anton dreamt of becoming a cook. Parents did not take this aspiration seriously though and advised their son to take up another job. Nevertheless, even after entering the department of forensic investigations, Anton did not stop to cook. Once he saw on Internet how to make chocolate instruments at home and decided to give it a try. This experiment led him eventually to ordering chocolate from Belgium and taking orders for all sorts of chocolate items. Then, when having a business plan for his chocolate production, Anton left the job at the Ministry of Interior. “Besides my work of a forensic expert, I constantly tried out different things. So, neither parents, nor colleagues were very surprised that I wanted to create something on my own,” Anton says. 

An engineer Vira Kholodnyak also had no doubts who to become once she grows up. Her mother worked as an engineer and was a role model for her daughter. “I saw how she worked at nights and wanted to do so as well,” Vira laughs. She grew up in Severodonetsk, where engineering is equally popular among women and men. Yet, according to her, it is complicated to move up the career ladder if you’re a woman. Vira Kholodnyak works with top organizations, but underlines that in the last 15 years has never seen women among top managers. Moreover, young female specialists are not well accepted for employment: either due to having little children or their potential future maternity leave. “If there is a choice: to take an unqualified man or a woman, they would rather employ the former. It is very difficult to prove that you, as a woman, are equally worthy,” the engineer says. 

In such situations UNFPA recommends companies to use positive discrimination. What does it mean? If there are two equally good candidates for one position, and the company has gender imbalance, they shall employ a woman. According to Nataliya Koshovska, UNFPA programme analyst, one should also take into account gender balance among interns. To achieve it, a special document called “Ukrainian Pact for youth: 2020” was signed with a number of the leading companies. 

124 years towards equality 

In the Ukrainian IT sector, for instance, only 20% of specialists are female. Innovations lose talents and disruptive ideas, in particular, because women are discouraged from STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). To change it, such international organizations as UNFPA actively promote technical jobs among girls. They do it by organizing hackathons, introductory visits to companies in the frame of Girls Day as well as establishing regional STEM offices, so that female teenagers could see how many opportunities they actually have. 

In the meanwhile, in creative industries there are not enough men. According to the recent research, published by the British Council, money is the main reason for such scarcity. Men are labeled as “breadwinners”, which means they cannot do what they like, but rather what brings a higher income. Moreover, it could also be a stress factor for a man to know that his female partner earns more than he does. 

Ukraine is not unique in its practice of gender division of labour. So called gender gaps exist throughout the world. As stated in the global Gender Gap Report 2018, currently the world’s average is at 32%. To close it in Eastern Europe, we'll need another 124 years. Interestingly enough, situation with gender parity has worsened in Ukraine. In the last 13 years our ranking dropped down from 48th to 65th. 

A study, conducted by UNFPA in Ukraine, shows that 8 in 10 men believe in existence of jobs «for men» and «for women». Such a notion impacts the way they bring up their children and how they support or not support their career choice. Yet, there is some good news as well. A young generation thinks differently about their role and opportunities. And the latter are immense in the modern world.