Woman Heads Male Dominated Gov’t Sector
Acting Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Olha Trofimtseva said that women are now a normal site in Ukrainian politics
Along with her boss, Volodymyr Groysman, Trofimtseva walks through the fair, where many are keen to meet her.
After the Prime Minister goes his way, she hurries on to the press room where a crowd already awaits her at a discussion panel.
Trofimtseva doesn’t count her working hours. She said when you enjoy doing your job, finding time for it is not an issue.
“There are late-night TV appointments or early morning meetings, there are work trips. You’re constantly in the loop. You check documents in the evening before going to bed. Or you get up early and remember there’s something you need to check first thing in the morning. And so on,” Trofimtseva said.
Trofimtseva likes to compare Ukraine’s situation with gender equality with Germany, where she lived for 14 years. She believes, Ukraine is catching up with Germany when it comes to women’s rights.
“When I left Ukraine in the early 2000’s Ukrainian politics was a male-only occupation. And now if you look at the government, it’s almost half-female now. There are many more women in high-rank positions, who prove with their work that it’s not the gender that matters, it’s professionalism. And therefore the attitudes around them are changing,” she said.
At the same time, Trofimtseva notes, things are not going to change overnight. Total equality has not yet been achieved even in Germany.
“I can’t say I encountered that much sexism, but when I got this position I read a lot of comments along the lines of, ‘How can a woman be in charge of the agriculture ministry?.’ It’s no surprise, the agrarian sector is one of the most traditional and patriarchal. But everyone who met me at work no longer thinks that way. Because, while I may turn up wearing red sneakers and a pink dress, it doesn’t mean I’m not a professional or that I don’t have a steel core inside of me,” she said.
Trofimtseva said that growing up she wasn’t subject to any gender stereotypes in her family. She played ‘war’ alongside the boys, never considering herself as the weaker sex. Now Trofimtseva brings up her daughter the same way.
“If she wants a pirate ship or some other kind of boy’s toy, I say absolutely! I’ll never tell her, “But you’re a girl, have this pink skirt instead”. If she comes home with some bruises, that’s okay. When I came back to Ukraine, my first impression was that we tend to impose these boundaries on children a lot more here: ‘You’re a boy, so don’t cry; you’re a girl so you can’t do karate. Come on!” she said.
The acting minister believes, girls need to be taught from a young age that all doors are open for them. So far Ukrainian education is lagging behind in this area — the remnants of the Soviet past are still there, she says, but every new generation of Ukrainian women is stronger and more independent than the one before.
“I really want girls to believe that they’re cool, that they’re strong. They definitely are capable of everything boys are. I really want girls to have a dream and to not be afraid of moving towards it. Even when people say, “You’re mad”, it’s worth trying. Life is not that long. So you should live to the fullest,” Trofimtseva said.
With the interview finished, the official hurries on — to get to the next appointment on her packed schedule.