The coronavirus does not discriminate, but as seen in a report by the Korea Development Institute (KDI), the employment rate of women aged 25 to 54 plummeted by 541,000, which was about 1.7 times that of men. This is largely due to the decline in the employment rate of married women, who were vulnerable to the increase in the unemployed and economically inactive population during the early COVID-19 crisis.
Ewha Voice interviewed an Ewha alumna who is helping women get through these hard times. Ahn Hye-yeon is the third president of the Korea Center for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (WIEST). The center not only provides and implements programs to foster female scientists and engineers, but also strives to figure out problems. Furthermore, it plans businesses, thereby contributing to increasing the number of women in the fields of science and engineering.
When asked what it was like to be one of the few women in the group, Ahn said she did not feel left out of any part of her work.
“I have personally never experienced any discrimination as a woman,” she said. “I guess it depends on how you think, rather than considering my shortcomings as being due to my gender, I accepted them as my personality. There were very few women at my workplace, so I felt like I received more attention. Although some found it awkward, it was simply a process of change.”
After working at a major corporation, Ahn decided to move to a venture company. As an employee at a large company, her work and experience was confined to what was assigned to her. In contrast, in venture companies, she could be in charge of a wide range of areas and achieve results. In other words, it was an environment open to experiences. Knowing this, she found it unfortunate that women think large companies provide a better work environment.
“I understand that because there are so many kinds of venture companies, there is a higher possibility for women to have difficulty,” she noted.“Nevertheless, it depends on the characteristic of the company itself. There are rather more merits of venture companies, and I recommend that people experience them.”
As a mother of two children, she had to take breaks during her studies and work. Looking back, she did not spend time worrying about how to bring her children up but simply made changes to her plans. Ahn wants women to know that men do not have the same worries and that these concerns are just something that women have made themselves. Both giving birth and continuing one’s career are part of women’s lives, so they should be the ones to make decisions.
When asked whether she broke the glass ceiling, Ahn said it wasn’t the one that others made that she broke. “Throughout my life, I have continued to overcome the limitations that I set for myself,” she explained. “Rather than trying to meet the standards that other have set, I tried to reflect on my capabilities and develop them, going beyond my limitations.”
Finally, she concluded with some remarks about the career prospects of the IT industry.
“The IT industry is very prospective as it is expected to influence every part of our daily lives,” she said. “We are and will be continuing to be living in a digitalized world. Therefore, I encourage Ewha students, regardless of their major, to take a strategic approach when planning their future.”