Employment Discrimination Impacts Female College Graduates

June 6, 2014
By Qiu YueEditor: Tracy Zhu
Employment Discrimination Impacts Female College Graduates
Recently, a survey conducted by Guangzhou Women's Federation showed that more than 70 percent of female university students surveyed said they themselves, their friends or relatives had experienced gender discrimination during job-seeking. [banyuetan.org]

"I have sent out more than 50 job application letters. But I haven't received any replies yet," said young female postgraduate Jian Lin, from Anhui University, in east China's Anhui Province. While she was still optimistic about eventually finding employment, Jian readied herself for disappointment when she first started to look for a job, even going so far as to lower her career expectations, feeling willing to "settle" for a position that wasn't perfect for her. Even with these lowered-expectations in place, she has still found her job search to be a frustrating experience. As Jian explains, "My requirements for finding a job are not high. I just want to find a job which is suitable for my major, which is human resource management."

After attending several job fairs, Jian discovered there was a big gap between reality and what she had dreamed of. Jian said "Although there are no specific words on the requirement of job-seekers' gender in job advertisements, I could still sense that most of the companies I applied to preferred not to recruit female postgraduates. As to why I haven't received any responses yet, besides the fact that maybe postgraduates usually have a higher expectation of their salary and benefits, the main reason seemed to be that these companies are worried female postgraduates like me will soon have to deal with the rather demanding life issues of getting married and giving birth to children after we begin to work for them. For the above reasons, undergraduates are seemingly favored by many enterprises over postgraduates. Several of my female classmates also haven't found a suitable job."

It seems that Jian's experience of falling victim to gender discrimination while seeking a job is not exceptional. Then how serious is gender discrimination in China's job-seeking market?

Recently, a survey on this question was conducted by the Media and Gender Institute of the Communication University of China. The survey indicated that the gender discrimination faced by China's university graduates is serious and shouldn't be neglected. More than 60 percent of the 1,000 job-seeking, female graduates from Beijing surveyed thought they had been declined by companies during interviews simply because they are women.

In addition, a report based on a survey of female university students from south China's Guangzhou Province recently issued by Guangzhou Women's Federation, also showed that more than 70 percent of female university students surveyed said they themselves, their friends or relatives had experienced gender discrimination during job-seeking. Only 7.3 percent said they had never experienced such discrimination. Among the people surveyed, 76.9 percent thought the State should solve the problem of gender discrimination against women in employment through strengthening relevant legislation work.

On this issue, Sun Jin, associate professor of the Law School of Wuhan University, in Central China's Hubei Province, noted that gender discrimination in the labor market has been a common experience found among China's female university students' while job-seeking. Sometimes, it even becomes more serious when some employers require the prohibition of female graduates' birth-giving in the following years after they start working for them.

Sun added that,"For example, some employers require female job-seekers to affirm that 'they won't get married and give birth within the first five years. Otherwise, they will be fired automatically.' So the job-seeking opportunities are unfair for male and female graduates."

A Good Solution?

Ke Min, a senior female student of Shanghai's Fudan University, who has been guaranteed a place in the university as a postgraduate student, and plans to start her three-year postgraduate studies this September, has made a delicately prepared plan that she will get married in the first year's postgraduate study and then give birth during the second year.

Ke explained she made such a plan because she had often heard of many implicit gender discrimination cases in which unmarried female university graduates were declined by employers when seeking jobs, just because they haven't been married and haven't given birth. If female postgraduates are to get married and give birth only after they graduate, this is sure to leave them disadvantaged while seeking jobs. So, Ke said: "That's why I think it is a wiser choice to finish these important things in a person's life while still studying in university and then I can be more competitive than others when seeking jobs three years later."

Ke is not the only exception in the university who chooses to finish these important life moments before or during their postgraduate education to enhance their competitiveness in job-seeking.

Ke's can't be blamed for making this choice, since it is of course her personal right to choose to marry and give birth or not. However, such important life choices shouldn't be limited or dictated by discrimination. It is sad that Ke has to bend her life plans to the capricious prejudices of potential employers.

Experts' Opinions

Zhang Jingjie, an expert from the Media and Gender Institute of the Communication University of China noted the superficial reasons for gender discrimination include the imbalance between supply and demand in China's labor market and the fact that the employment situation is severe in general. Second is that the industrial structure is not reasonable and there haven't been fully developed industries in which women can take advantage of their talents. At the same time, the implementation of the policies on anti-gender discrimination has been far from satisfactory. But the deep-rooted reason is that there has been a long-time 'gender segregation' in employees' career development environments and also the sexist concept that 'males are stronger than females.'

Zhang added that 80 percent of those surveyed thought it impossible for the anti-gender discrimination policies to be well implemented. A further 48 percent said if they experience gender discrimination in the labor market, they are not sure whether they will choose to expose these cases or take legal measures to protect their rights. Interestingly, the percentage is higher for the group who have a higher level of education.

Associate professor Sun from the Law School of Wuhan University said: "Since there haven't been well-prescribed protection measures in China's laws or relevant regulations, there are no specific requirements on employers and university graduates' rights and obligations. So the lack of supervisions won't ensure female graduates equal rights on employment opportunities."

On how to ensure female graduates' rights in employment, the experts also shared their suggestions.

Zhang said: "Women's equal employment doesn't mean the same standard should be implied for all jobs." Zhang noted that in some areas there should be policies more favorable to women. For example, in some higher-level management positions, more favorable policies should be implemented for women since there is the phenomenon of the 'glass ceiling' in the promotion of women and in the recruitment of women.

Zhang further suggested: "As to female employees, I think they should on the one hand improve their self-confidence and not be scared to compete with men for higher-level positions, and on the other hand, they should enhance their consciousness on rights protection and not be reconciled with the phenomena of gender segregation and gender discrimination."

Yuan Hang, editor-in-chief of 800hr.com, China's first employment information website with classification of employment information based on different industries, noted: "It has been a long-time problem for female graduates' employment, especially for female graduates who majored in science and technology." Yuan also noted the reason that some employers' favor males is not due to their gender discrimination against women, but for the special needs of the working positions. For example, the positions in some construction enterprises require the employees to stay on the construction sites which are not suitable for women (Yang didn't elaborate further on this). For this kind of situation, female graduates should try to avoid applying for positions which have these special working requirements. Although it is uncertain how many female university graduates are applying for work as laborers on construction sites.

While on the creation of a good employment environment for female university graduates, almost all the experts agreed on the idea that the whole of society should firstly get rid of their out-of-date concepts and try to build up a social and cultural environment with equality between different genders and fair employment opportunities.

(Source: banyuetan.org/ Translated and edited by Women of China)

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