Dark clouds shadowing gender equality

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… income equality and women leadership in the workplace still lag behind much touted goals

By Perseverance Javangwe

Women still have a long way ahead in achieving gender equality, in spite of the significant gains they have made as they still face huge socio-economic challenges in the country.

While the conversation around gender equality has been elevated, it seems not so much has changed. Speaking during a workshop on gender as a tool for sustainable development hosted by Girls of Today Trust (G.O.T), Takudzwanashe Samhembere said that income equality and women leadership in the workplace still lag behind much touted goals. He also said that there is need to empower women if gender equality is to be achieved.

“We can celebrate the great progress the world has made in becoming more prosperous and fair. But there’s a shadow to the celebration. In just about every way, women and girls lag behind. There are still gross inequalities in work and wages, lots of unpaid “women’s work” such as child care and domestic work, and discrimination in public decision-making.

“However it is important to acknowledge that where gender inequality exists, it is generally women who are excluded or disadvantaged in relation to decision-making and access to economic and social resources. Therefore a critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives.

“Therefore a critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives. Gender equality does not mean that men and women become the same; only that access to opportunities and life changes is neither dependent on, nor constrained by their sex.

“Achieving gender equality requires women’s empowerment to ensure that decision-making at private and public levels, and access to resources are no longer weighted in men’s favor, so that both women and men can fully participate as equal partners in productive and reproductive life,” he said.

While it is true that today there are a number of high profile female leaders, workplace statistics tell a very different story. Women remain underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline, with the most senior levels by far the worst affected. As Samhembere pointed correctly pointed out that women are constrained from reaching their full potential.

“Moreover, women are systematically under-represented in decision-making processes that shape their societies and their own lives. This pattern of inequality is a constraint to the progress of any society because it limits the opportunities of one-half of its population. When women are constrained from reaching their full potential, that potential is lost to society as a whole. Programme design and implementation should endeavor to address either or both of these factors,” he said.

However, to achieve gender equality, Samhembere says it is necessary to redefine the rights and responsibilities of both women and men. In order to successfully do that he says the great step will be to adopt a critical gender perspective.

“The achievement of gender equality implies changes for both men and women. More equitable relationships will need to be based on a redefinition of the rights and responsibilities of women and men in all spheres of life, including the family, the workplace and the society at large. It is therefore crucial not to overlook gender as an aspect of men’s social identity. This fact is, indeed, often overlooked, because the tendency is to consider male characteristics and attributes as the norm, and those of women as a variation of the norm.

“But the lives of men are just as strongly influenced by gender as those of women. Societal norms and conceptions of masculinity and expectations of men as leaders, husbands or sons create demands on men and shape their behavior. Men are too often expected to concentrate on the material needs of their families, rather than on the nurturing and caring roles assigned to women. Socialization in the family and later in schools promotes risk-taking behaviour among young men, and this is often reinforced through peer pressure and media stereotypes.

“The adoption of a gender perspective is an important first step; it reveals that there are disadvantages and costs to men accruing from patterns of gender difference. It also underscores that gender equality is concerned not only with the roles, responsibilities and needs of women and men, but also with the interrelationships between them. Sustainable Development Goal 5 focuses on Gender equality and this is important when we use gender as a tool for Sustainable Development,” he said.

To change the society’s behavior on gender equality people need to make a conscious effort to identify and recognize gender biases within themselves, because if they don’t, history will keep repeating itself and organisations will continue to be homogenous.


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