Vecherny Tomsk (Tomsk, Russia)
Posted on February 26, 2004
By Sergei Parfyonov
The PBN Company
Tomsk women are fighting for leadership. A two-day conference devoted to discussion of the status of women in modern society has begun at the Tom hotel in Kaltai. The name of the conference is overzealous - “Women leadership - a condition for the development and prosperity of modern Russian society. Perspective, opinion and experience of women leaders from Siberia.”
It’s not that women want freedom and independence. Equal rights were the topic of discussion rather than feminism issues. Over 40 women from Siberia talked about various aspects of women leadership. They are all are participants of the Open World Program, and have visited the U.S. where they became familiar with the lifestyles of American women. …And they came back with new ammunition.
In support of their bid for leadership, the Siberian women argued that countries where women make up less than 20 percent of the Parliament are considered to have poor social policy. Unfortunately, Russia is such a country.
Information from VT
The Open World Program provides the new generation of Russian leaders with a chance to personally get acquainted with the lifestyles of their American colleagues, democratic institutions and the system of free enterprise in the U.S. During a 10-day visit, the program participants have the opportunity to learn specifics about the three branches of government in the U.S. and how they interact at different levels. Participants also learn about the role of private companies and non-profit organizations in resolving social and public issues.
Scope of the Conference
The list of guests speaks for itself. Among the participants were Open World Program Manager Britta Bjornlund, Tomsk Region Deputy Governor Nelli Krechetova, Tomsk Deputy Mayor for Social Issues Vladimir Podkatov, Head of the Gender Research Center Tatiana Dmitrieva and others.
After the participants delivered their welcome speeches, journalists were given a chance to have a closer look at the issue - women in modern Russian society.
“We have practically no women leaders in Russia,” says Nelli Krechetova, an Open World Program alumna. “It is noteworthy that Irina Khakamada is the only woman running for presidency, but her chances are very slim. There are women mayors in the U.S., but in Russia, it is impossible! Women in our country are regarded according to with the ago-old principle of church, children and kitchen. So, it is difficult for a woman to realize that she can be a leader. This is undemocratic, but these are our roots.”
“In the Tomsk region, women are actively gaining director positions only in small businesses,” Ms. Krechetova went on. “This is a good sign but this also indicates that the modern Russian woman is giving up when faced with a opportunity of being a leader. The Open World Program does a lot of good. It helps a woman believe in herself.”
Men are Coming to Help
About 8,000 Russians, mostly women, have visited the U.S. since 1999, the year when the program was established. The program’s main aim is to bolster Russian-U.S. relations. The average age of participants is 38. The Women as Leader Program was launched in 2002; and 2,161 Russian women have visited the United State under the program; that is rather indicative. It is interesting that the majority of the Woman as Leader Program participants come from Tomsk. It is now clear why Tomsk was chosen as the site for this major conference.
“Humanitarian education is well developed in Tomsk,” Tomsk Deputy Mayor Vladimir Podkatov said commenting on the position of women in Tomsk society. “It is widely known that humanitarian sciences are the driving force of societal development. And in a developed society it is natural for women to want to use their knowledge. Some women are becoming leaders. Take, for example, Nina Belova, head of the Social Protection Department, or Nelli Krechetova or Oksana Kozlovskaya. Although women’s way to the top is full of hurdles, they are trying. And they need help from us, men in power. So, after the elections for mayor are held, I plan to promote gender policy at the city level.”
Close to Understanding
Russian women visiting the U.S. have yet another chance to experience the western way of life. Most understand that it is society’s level of development that determines the number of women in power. On the one hand, there are women who determine the development of society, as Mr. Podkatov said. Yet on the other hand, it’s exactly the opposite. The right balance is somewhere in the middle. The better we live the more women leaders we have.
“Women are always challenged to juggle their family and career,” Open World Program Manager Britta Bjornlund said. “It is difficult to find time for everything. Women have a great sense of responsibility. This is equally true about American women, Russian women, or women from other countries. While women do not need special conditions to become leaders, we do need to actively work together, as no one is going to do anything for us. Russian women are clearly leaders, remember the period during World War II. Since that time, this sense of leadership has faded. The goal of our program is to promote women's leadership.”
[Reprinted with Permission]