Tsitsino Shengelia, 31, Zugdidi
„In the years 2003-2008, I worked in a bank as a loan officer. This is where I realized for the first time how many women are actually discriminated at workplace. The first shock came when I read a work contract where the length of my dress was measured in millimeters. Besides, back then there were only three girls including me occupying this position in Samegrelo, Zugdidi, and it was a big matter of controversy in the banking sector. Some people claimed that we didn’t have the brains to carry out financial evaluation, and some argued that girl loan officers would struggle to make a case for and get approval for their loans at the credit committees. However, in a rather short time we managed to prove that our portfolios were not any worse than those of the men in the same positions.
Another thing I remember is that there was a corporate party and the girls’ husbands were not welcomed even though men always brought wives with them. 17 men worked in our team and we, 3 girls, constantly struggled to establish ourselves. We worked harder so that nobody could say that we were inferior to men. In addition, I had to listen to cheap, sexist jokes about women, emphasizing that the world of business belonged to men and women were extras in this domain.
Career advancement is always difficult for a woman, as if they are not forgiving you for wanting more. For instance, my contract did not include salary increase and promotion after a certain period of time. If this happened automatically to my male co-workers, I had to remind of it to my managers. I remember starting internship in a public institution along with a few boys. The internship was to last three months. After three months all the boys were hired and I was left as an intern for two more months. Interns are treated like slaves in our country. We mostly did the dirty work. I reached my limit when, after 5 months’ of internship, they called me at 3 o’clock in the morning and asked me to arrange lodging for foreign guests. On the following day, I demanded employment or else I was going to leave. They signed a contract with me right away. What men get “naturally”, we can only have after ten times harder work and pleading.
For better or for worse, we, women have got accustomed to living by the principle “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. We do not put up with obstacles, I have never retreated, I have never believed in that there are male and female professions and works, and maybe at snail’s pace, but we are still moving forward. Because I know that behind me there is a woman who will follow my footsteps and I will be happy if I can pave the path for anyone.”
The stories and the challenges that are told by the modern women from Georgia on this page, were in fact first written and talked about by the women living as early as a century ago. Most of you are probably familiar with them – the women who launched women’s movement in Georgia almost a hundred years ago, but we would still like to remind you of them.”