International Women’s Day

事業線 Career Line

International Women’s Day is marked on the 8th of March every year. The first observance of the Women’s Day was in 1909 in New York as a remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, but evolved through later years into a day marking protests for equal rights, specifically women’s right to vote in elections and hold public office. In 1949 the People’s Republic of China declared March 8 an official holiday; in 1977 the United Nations declared March 8 to be the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

The Women’s Federation in Hong Kong launched a new ad campaign to tackle casual sexism in the workplace.  Despite Hong Kong’s veneer of modernity, sexism prevails unchecked in the workplace and media.  The phrase 事業線 (career line) is just one form of casual sexism found in everyday language and media that legitimizes the objectification of women. The phrase has nothing to do with a woman’s career accomplishments but is used to refer to a woman’s cleavage.

The Women’s Foundation first created a website and an online campaign promoting a fictitious plastic surgery clinic called Career Line. They then set up a pop-up booth outside Hong Kong University for three days to promote the clinic, offering the services of experienced surgeons to enhance a woman’s cleavage and help her stand out in a competitive job market.

They chose today to reveal that the plastic surgery clinic was a stunt at a press conference and the spoof website switched to a real website for the #MyRealCareerLine campaign.  Female icons from media, entertainment, business and sports supported the #MyRealCareerLine campaign by sharing the story behind their ‘real career line’ in a short film directed for TWF and JWT by celebrated TVC director, writer and blogger Bud Ming.

The video includes Olympic swimmer Stephanie Au, Freshfields Partner and China Chairman Teresa Ko, model Janet Ma, World Snooker Champion On-yee Ng, Founder of JupYeah Ren Wan and YouTuber and singer Hana Tam, entrepreneur Kayla Wong, science student Daisy Ngai and illustrator Stella So. After sharing their stories, the film shows the women ripping up a poster of a stylised cleavage underscoring their support for the campaign.

You can view the video calling for people to take a stand against workplace sexism here:  https://youtu.be/yXgpFeHgJic

The foundation’s chief executive Su-Mei Thompson urged employers to reduce sexism in the workplace.

“We hope employers will play their part by working harder to ensure they are using objective criteria when assessing female candidates for job openings or promotions.”

Recent pay surveys make for depressing reading as the gender pay gap has not improved but got worse.  In general men earn a monthly salary of HK$15,000 which is HK$2500 more than that of women.  The only area of employment where gender pay equality is achieved is within the government

Societal changes need to be made, take the backlash against Miss Hong Kong Crystal Fung Ying-Ying when netizens dug up some old social media posts.  Hong Kongers were appalled that she had an opinion other than World Peace and found it most un-ladylike that she criticised the Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying.  Turned out she supported the Occupy Protests and wrote some angry posts with swear words, which according to some warranted disqualification from holding the Miss Hong Kong title.  Can a beautiful woman not have an opinion or do men feel threatened by a beautiful woman who is not just an object to be ogled at?

Even populist politicians do not set a good example to encourage more women into politics, or respect the fact that they are equals.  For example, during the elections a rival of Yau Wai-Ching accused her of being too cute for politics.

Daily TV ads tell women in Hong Kong that success and fulfilment as a woman is to look beautiful, marry a handsome and most importantly a wealthy man. A career is not necessary if you are a successful woman, as that is measured by the size of your husband’s wallet.  If a woman is passed thirty years old, she is labelled a “Leftover Woman” she has failed and there is a degree of shame for the parents that their daughter has not found a husband.

Such persuasive ideas that a “successful woman” doesn’t need to work nor deserve to become a lawmaker, is it any surprise that the gender pay gap is widening in Hong Kong.  Is it any surprise that so many girls in China choose to become a Mistress rather than pursue a career, as why bother fighting a sexist society? Instead they live a quasi-successful life as a woman that doesn’t need to work, only has to look beautiful and satisfy the desires of men.

Almost two-thirds of Hong Kong women feel discriminated against based on their looks and more than 20 per cent of men think the Cantonese term 事業線 or “Career Line” equating a woman’s cleavage to her career progression is positive. Unless there are societal changes in thinking and a move away from the Confucian values that boys and men enjoy preferentail treatment…women in Hong Kong will forever be measured on their beauty or sexuality rather than their intelligence.

 

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