By: Hyeladzira James Mshelia
Gender issues continue to plague our World. Generally, women are mostly at a disadvantage and their roles and contributions to society are often marginalised. We have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, limited access to basic education, greater health and safety risk. We often experience career interruptions as a result of being the primary caregiver at the home front, and our battle against slow occupation growth is far from being won.
In public affairs, women have to fight for a seat at the table, and when we do get a seat, the vocal ones among us are often silenced. Little wonder, ‘too ambitious’, ‘bossy’ and ‘assertive’, are adjectives used to describe a woman rightfully taking what’s her due. Research shows that women are victims of rape and sexual assault at the workplace. Psychologists, Potter and Banyard reported that 38% of employed women had experienced sexual harassment at the workplace.
If your interest and competence take you to a job role that is traditionally for men, your achievements may not count because you are a woman. Today, pseudo-conservative societies and cultures believe a woman cannot be beautiful and smart at the same time.
While there is a lot of awareness and consciousness with addressing issues of gender inequality, it is important to further emphasise that women are still at a disadvantage and the kinds of policies that entrench this mentality are misguided. It is important for gender mainstreaming in the public and private sectors, backed with policies that can help address issues that place women at a disadvantage.
As a woman switching between entrepreneurship and multicultural workplaces, my growth has not been devoid of ‘gender bias’ challenges. I have attended workshops where my questions were either ignored or the answer was addressed to the man seated next to me. I have had customers that refused to buy my perfumes because they believed a woman should not be ‘that industrious.’
Nevertheless, I’ve not let that hold me back. I do not believe that just because I’m female, I cannot reach the same heights that my male counterparts can. Thus, despite the marginalisation, women have proven to be much more– mothers, farmers, managers, chief executives of multinationals, decision-makers, governors,, breadwinners and wives. There is absolutely no end to what a woman can achieve.
There should be a balance in our society where women can do just as much as men. Women should be given equal opportunities at the workplace and organisations should actively drive diversity and inclusion where policies are also in favour of women. There should be free career trainings for women, and use of gender neutral titles in job descriptions. Organisations should state their family-friendly benefits, parental leave and child care subsidies benefit families and future base of employees.
Women are taking charge, making decisions, and leading successful businesses around the world. But even with these successes, it can feel like an uphill battle to climb your way to the top. In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, the race is on for gender balance where men and women have equal rights in the workplace, in public affairs, at home, and in the society in general. The success mantra for men as well as women is the same so women deserve equality.