On the issue of gender equality in the workplace, when I see the words, ‘women are encouraged to apply’, I particularly feel happy, and this is why.
The fact that they are encouraging women to apply gives me an idea of the kind of culture the organisation has, which is one to empower inclusion of gender, especially in management. Like it or not, men and women have specific criteria that propel or hinder them from growing.
We all know the pay gaps in gender when it comes to professional footballers, tennis players and the corporate world. Thank God the United States of America has announced that it will pay female and male football (Soccer) teams equally.
These things exist, and we know them. It’s not the pity card these organisations are throwing at these women. These organisations know the struggles of women and know that they need some pull factors to encourage them to apply and get jobs. Are men more qualified in the working environment especially in the United Nations (UN) and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs)? The answer is no. Then why do we have more men in these organisations than women?
I will try to answer below.
Marriage: Marriage at times hinders a woman’s career growth because she could have chosen to marry when she had a job, but being married has two setbacks. If she plans to have children, she must take career breaks to raise them. If she wants four kids for example, she needs a minimum of six months to one year off to raise them; you could already see the number of years she would spend without being able to work due to this. The second issue could be mobility of her husband. If she marries a mobile husband from the INGO, UN or corporate world, then she is bound to start moving around with him. This sometimes makes it difficult for wives to find jobs in some of the countries where they may not be allowed to work as accompanying spouses. These two factors alone can greatly hinder wives’ progress in the career world. Men most often are not challenged with the issues around marriage and raising kids.
Raising kids: Single working mothers are compelled to take time off to raise kids, and this usually has implications on their career trajectory.
Hard or difficult stations: Some women though qualified, MAY find it difficult coping in places like Afghanistan. This makes it difficult for them to pick up jobs they may be qualified for due to the political and economic situation of the country. Men on the other hand, usually don’t mind hard duty stations.
The aforementioned factors contribute to hindering women’s career growth, and most organisations have come up with policies to make sure women return to work after childbirth. This is because they have realised that the gender gap is very wide.
Training our daughters to be independent and get things on merit is the way to go. But what happens when she falls in love and starts raising a family, and/or must turn down jobs because they are in a hard duty station, or she is married to a husband who is constantly mobile. She will be forced to make some very tough decisions. My focus is not on hiring only females to mainstream gender programmes. These can be done by men as well. What most organisations need is a gender expert. If your organisation is keen on gender equality, then make it your duty to review those applications, choose that lady who qualifies and make her part of the team.
Women go through a lot of stress because they sometimes have to sacrifice their lives raising kids or accompanying their husbands. Giving them that well deserved break can go a long way in supporting them.
I will end with this quote from my friend Kim Ndeh. “I believe there is a sacrificial stage in every woman’s life. She has to die to self for the continuity of the human race. When she is done then, she will have herself back.”
I strongly believe in what she has said and will conclude that, we should really try and encourage women to return to work if they wish to and are qualified no matter the gaps in their Curriculum Vitae. This is because, women go through a lot in life, and they have to balance work and family and most often they have to sacrifice their work life for the children and/or husband’s sake.
It is not a pity call. It’s about gender sensitive equality/equity, inclusiveness and transformative working environments.
This article is inspired by where I work, and the experiences of my wife. w