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Women still face significant social pressures and ongoing challenges when it comes to equality in Thailand, according to activists. But despite many obstacles, women continue to break through social inequalities and thrive through existing barriers of employment.
“There’s limited space for women in leadership,” Darunee “Dada” told Thai Enquirer. “Our career advancement opportunities are limited.”
The 27-year-old woman was rejected 17 times before landing her dream job as a civil engineer.
“I must work harder than everyone to show I’m capable of making contributions.”
As women continue to face lingering challenges in the workplace, Dada represents the gender gap in the workplace as she’s one of only twelve women in her company while the majority are men.
“Before I got accepted to this job, my employer asked me whether I can provide the same contributions as men do with the company,” she said with emotion in her voice.
Her employer drilled her with the same questions during the interview process, but Dada stood her ground. Although she’s been hired and is now thriving, she said she still experiences discrimination in the workplace.
“Many male workers make fun of me and other female workers due to our lack of physical strength,” Dada said. “But just because we don’t have the same strength, doesn’t mean we will provide less quality work.”
Although by law, women’s rights must be protected in the workplace, many describe discriminatory practices against women still exist. Many women describe distinct disadvantages when being considered in predominantly male-led careers.
According to a 2020 UNDP Human Development Report, Thailand ranked 79th in the Gender Inequality Index. Only 14% of parliamentary seats are held by women, and only 59.2% of women had participated in the labor force compared to the 76.1% of men.
For women like Dada and her female colleagues, she said that no one should feel vulnerable based on their sex or gender identity.
Girajade Wisetdonwail, 24, an activist from the Femliberateth group, told Thai Enquirer that the main reason women feel insecure is because of society’s conservative perspectives towards them.
“We were instructed that women can’t have a certain career as we will become mothers and stay home eventually,” Girajade said. “It makes it difficult for women to build confidence to grow in their career.”
Girajade believes that Thailand’s societal expectation is that women should not be leaders.
“The distrust and underestimation towards women hold women back from developing themselves. Women don’t receive the opportunity to grow as they should,” Girajade said.
Emilie Pradichit, an international human rights lawyer who has been advocating for gender equality since 2009 and the Founder of Manushya Foundation, told Thai Enquirer that the reason women in Thailand still experience workplace discrimination is due to patriarchal values that perpetuate gender inequalities.
“Thailand’s long been controlled by the military and old conservative people who don’t want to see changes in the country,” Emilie said. “Women are not allowed to dream and they are told to suppress themselves to be the women they want.”
Emilie added that many jobs including governmental, civic, and legal jobs, are reserved for men as Thailand’s government established sexist and binary perspectives in society.
Emilie believes that women must first allow themselves to become the women they want regardless of the society’s negative perspectives towards women.
“Follow your heart and vision,” Emilie said. “Allow yourself to create your own woman. Do not feel less vulnerable because of sexism. Create your own safe space. Little by little, we can make a change.”