Interview: feminists on the need to abolish the lists of professions prohibited for women

10.03.2020
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The most absurd thing about the ban on certain professional occupations for women is the waste of resources on education and training. I recall the case of Svetlana Medvedeva, who could not receive the position of a navigator/helmsman/motorist in spite of the fact that she had relevant professional training. Only years later did she manage to partially achieve justice in her employment.

Existing legal norms are a violation of basic human rights at minimum, while the existing institutions only mimic gender equality: we are told that we all have access to education, and that the necessary social elevators were created. We are not talking about some privileges here: women do not even have the opportunity to start professionally competing with men in particular occupations. In addition, the very formulation of “harmful” or “dangerous” fields of work activity is striking: there is a restriction on the freedom of female corporeality (because, according to the legislators, certain professional occupations harm reproductive functions of women). I believe that immediate legislative reforms are necessary here – there already exist competent female employees for various fields.

In Russia women are disadvantaged also de jure, while patriarchal discourse is present in almost all, especially professional, spheres of life. We should not forget about the problem of gender-based violence at work (one can recall the case of Slutsky, a Russian MP). And we are not talking about some total formalization of human relations, which everyone is so afraid of.

It may take years for the situation to change in some natural fashion. However, as Oksana Pushkina, a Russian MP said, about the need to solve the problem of gender inequality, “it’s better to start doing it now.”

Maya Schmidt, producer and director of documentary films



Why do you consider it important to abolish prohibitions of certain professional occupations for women? How do labor restrictions affect women and what do they lead to?

The right to work in Russia is guaranteed by the constitution: as it is stated there that “everyone has the right to freely dispose of one’s abilities to work, to choose one’s occupation and profession.” However, de facto this rule applies to men only, while women are restricted in their rights and do not have the right to really freely choose their professional occupations. Therefore, it is in the interests of equality and the possibility of professional self-realization for all, that the list of professional occupations prohibited for women is completely abolished.

On average women in Russia earn less than men because of the existence of “glass ceiling”, because they are being pushed into lesser-paid professional spheres, and because of the existence of the list of professions prohibited for them, some of which are well-paid, but are unavailable to women in principle. Women are being forced to support their families by accepting much lesser-paid jobs. And instead of allowing people to independently decide in which professional area they would like to fulfill themselves, instead of improving the economic situation in the country through the use of their talents in various areas, we restrict women in their access to work where they could really fulfill themselves. This is usually explained by the special burden of hard work and the harm for the female reproductive system, while this deprives women of their own choice in how critical something really is for them. In addition, women are constantly engaged in some physically demanding work, i.e. working at home without holidays and weekends, taking care of children and or elderly relatives. But when such hard work is not paid, nobody seems to be bother about its harm. So, there really exist double standards for women, who in fact are not really forbidden to do the hard work, but they are forbidden to being compensated for it.

Tatyana Nikonova, feminist, actress of nikonova.online blog



Modern women are able to work at any jobs, and the idea of ​​prohibiting certain professional occupations for women as a “weaker gender” is a violation of basic human rights. The very idea that there are certain “male” professions that women cannot cope with is a myth, which has been repeatedly refuted by various social researchers, and most importantly, by women themselves, who, despite all the obstacles that exist, continue to prove that the list of “female” professional occupations should not be shorter than the list of all existing professions.

The political sphere is considered to be “male”, and talking about political news and government decisions is the realm and a favorite occupation of “real men”. Women in Russia are excluded from public politics at all levels, starting with a Sunday conversation in the kitchen or at a bar with friends, in which men dominate and interrupt others with their “expert opinions” and judgments, and ending with the realm of highest political authority. The higher the political position, the less likely we are to see a woman occupying it. I believe that one of the important tasks for feminists should be to fight against the stereotype that politics is a completely male affair. There is nothing more feminist than politics, that is, the practice of managing one’s own life for yourself.

Anastasia Kalk, feminist activist, philosopher, political writer (USA, Russia), t.me/nyphilosophy



Men have occupied leading positions for millennia now. All modern culture and existing social norms of behavior, in fact, have been created by men. Men decided when and how a woman could be married, what she should do and where “her place” is. In the XIXth century it was believed that a woman had no right to study, could not work in many fields and could not vote. It’s true that even in the second half of the XXth century such absurd prohibitions persisted, for example, women could not participate in marathons. Professional prohibitions in Russia are part of the same “good old” gender discrimination, which the UN has repeatedly spoken out about. If a certain profession is considered hazardous or difficult, certain recommendations can be made, but it should not be prohibited altogether. Prohibitions in labor sphere are direct evidence of the patriarchal nature of the Russian society and, most importantly, they support the well-known gender stereotypes concerning the “strong” and the “weaker” sexes.

It is extremely difficult to get rid of stereotypes. Moreover, they act in both directions: men are required to restrict their emotions and demonstrate “strength”, while women are all about constantly demonstrating their emotions and weakness. However, there are much more stereotypes concerning women than these ones. So, a recent Harvard Business Review article confirmed: it turns out that beautiful women are not trusted. Allegedly, if a beautiful woman becomes a manager, then the level of trust in her actually decreases, because women supposedly use their beauty in order to achieve results in business. How do you like this? It is quite unexpected, in my opinion. But unfortunately, such cases are not rare at all.

And as a result, the millennia of discrimination, of the existence of numerous stereotypes and the belief that women are the “weaker sex” established the working conditions, which are far from comfortable. I work in finance, where a lot of money seems to turn. Firstly, the difference in income between men and women is about 32% on average (in my opinion, this is a very big difference). Secondly, the disproportion in the number of working men and women is simply colossal. For example, in the field of institutional investment, only 10% of employees are female. But, of course, for these 10% of women it is usually extremely difficult to get promoted.

I remember that in one of the companies, where I worked, one of the portfolio managers1responsible for managing client assets in a mixed fund, which was formed by pooling the capital of various investors was a woman. It was necessary to promote this fund, and the marketing department thought about showing this woman. I was sitting in the office with two male colleagues, who discussed that it was impossible to film this lady, because she was “ugly”, that she did not take proper care about her looks and that her hair was not properly combed. By the way, that woman has recently become a mother. This demonstrates, that as a woman you are expected to be a mega-successful portfolio manager and beautiful lady at once, while also being still able to find enough time for your child.

Discrimination continues to exist in developed countries, too. It will take decades to achieve complete equality. However, we must continue to fight for this and strive to achieve it, starting with removing professional prohibitions based on gender.

Lesya N., digital marketing specialist, UBS, t.me/Le_shares