Gender Equality and Women in the Workplace

  • 04/03/2019
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As the US presidential election run-in continues to throw up controversy, headlines and debate, it’s given us at Vandu a lot to talk about, particularly the subject of women in the work place and gender equality. Why is there a gender disparity? When did the concept of feminism start? Is there progress being made?

To understand feminism and the movement towards gender equality, you would have to look back towards the early 1900’s. The social norm of men going to work, earning money and doing more-or-less as they pleased, while women stayed at home, cooked, cleaned and looked after the children meant for a totally patriarchal society. Places of power, be it in the work place, government or otherwise were reserved solely for men. It was only after The Representation of the People Act 1928 (and the work of the suffragettes), where all women above the age of 21 could vote that society began to progress.

And so what progress has we made? It’s undeniably gotten better; The western world is a leading example, Angela Merkel is the head of one of the power houses of Europe, closer to home we have Theresa May as our current Prime Minister and even here at Vandu our Director Mebrak came from a small village in Eritrea to become the owner of a successful small business company, with our Olivia being her right-hand (wo)man. But it seems we are in the minority, as disparities remain; whilst the gender pay-gap is getting smaller, a survey conducted in the US in 2015 concluded that in general women get paid around 20% less than men for the same job level, the percentage is worse still for women of colour…The survey goes on to predict that at the current rate it won’t be till 2152 that the US will see salary equality. Statistics aside, how is it that a man running for President can repeatedly say derogatory remarks about women and not have been made to resign? Why is there still a large gender pay-gap in the modern world?

In the lesser developed world, the situation is even worse with women often earning 50% less than their male counter-parts in areas of Asia, and in large parts of Africa there are problems with gender inequality in education as women are less likely to go onto higher education courses; In both these continents there are alarming rates of gender-based violence.

So, what are the solutions? We won’t pretend to have all the answers, but in first-world countries the change needs to be a cultural and societal one, and examples like a first female president can send a message and fuel the movement. In places like Africa and parts of Asia, the focus needs to be on the education of women - there is a definite correlation between higher education and higher wages (though the pay gap remains the same) and young men, in the way that they view women. As with racism, homophobia and xenophobia, the symptoms of sexism may not be as obvious as they once were; but the underlying problems, either through ignorance or deliberate prejudice, still remain.

 these websites were used for the statistics in this blog.

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