Gender is a social aspect which has a grate impact on international business life in many different ways. Each culture handles gender roles more or less differently. The equality in political, private and business issues are dependent on a country’s jurisdiction. The first time in Europe/World when females got the right to vote was in the beginning of the 19th century in Finland. The development has reached nowadays nearly equal rights between males and females. In comparison China’s first law protecting women workers dates only from 1988.
Nowadays in China women are playing an increasingly important role but they are still far away from having achieved equal rights. They are still mainly responsible for caring for family and house. But they convert steadily towards western orientated concepts of individuality, independence and personal responsibility to achieve an own career. Women in China work hard but they can’t reach/don’t get positions which would be adequate for their knowledge and level of education. There is an obvious problem when working in a Chinese company that men don’t report to women about business matters. It is unacceptable in China that women take managerial positions or have a higher status in jobs than their male colleagues. There is a slight tendency towards western orientated understanding of equality. But it is rare and will need many more years of development towards treating male and female equal.
In comparison western cultures vary just in small ranges concerning gender roles in business life. As already mentioned Finland has a concrete sense of equality. Managerial and other leading positions taken by men and women. For instance the next Finish president will be a women. Women in Finland regard having their own job and money as self-evident. They couldn’t work if their children wouldn’t have good day-care services. Finish women have in general jobs and financial independence. But still they don’t get treated fully equally. The majority who has power in business and politics are still men but the extent is smaller in comparison to other countries. Traditionally women have the same education standard as men or nowadays even a higher level.
When dealing with Finland it can easily happen to have a woman as a business partner which is good in general but may cause problems with ”old fashioned”, traditional countries like Arabia or China. In those countries it is recommended to have a male person with a higher position through whom the female manager can act. The unequal treatment is just visible for externals in form of the hierarchy but the relation is equal in view of the home head office and can be rewarded with a higher salary.
In France women are ”equal” treated just in certain fields of professions like law and finance. But there are restrictions against women working in industry sectors. In private life men expect women to be different from each other which is well demonstrated in TV commercials which focus on the individuality of women in French society.
German men in contrast show a more chauvinism attitude towards women. A very high degree of German males have a traditional picture of the role of women in society. They should care for house and children but rather not working in a company. For females it is much harder to raise in positions in business life than for their male counterparts. They have to achieve better and higher qualifications and work harder to get into leading positions. When dealing with German female managers they are tough and can be also hard in negotiations but they are also sensible depending on the situation specific matters.
The younger generation is different and have a more equality view of the role of women in society. This responds to many other countries which are more open to develop a good sense of equality understanding. Gender is a universal issue. It impacts on personal identity and on power-values which are cultural determined. But one must be considered and kept in mind – cultural differences can’t be seen only from one or a western perspective.