Gender mainstreaming is a wonderful concept and a step towards gender equality. However, there are some issues that will require more than just policies, legislation and programmes but a shift in mindset to make different environments more conducive to the development of Zimbabweans.
The woman’s path to achieving her goals is rough and almost impossible but women, especially in the 21st century, are emerging as victors in their respective fields.
Women are just as educated as their male counterparts. However, for a door to open for a woman in the job market, she has to better than the men at her level. More is required from a female candidate for her to secure a post. For example, a communications post will require an honours degree in journalism and two years’ work experience. Men who meet these requirements dead on are good enough but the only way a woman will stick out and stand a chance is if she has way more than what is required like a post graduation degree and more years of experience.
Even with that, fingers need to stay crossed that she will get the job. So, if you see a lady strut her stuff in a stark white shirt and a pair of shiny black court shoes at work, respect her and acknowledge that she has gone above and beyond to achieve a little more in order to be there.
You would think that since she has entered the market her struggle is over but that’s not the case. Ladies in the workplace have to work harder than their male colleagues in order to keep their office. I suppose it has always been easy to look down on a woman and judge her. So if she slips just once, a written record is kept.
Women suffer harsh penalties, not only from their bosses but from society as well. We have seen women making headlines for altercations with their colleagues yet bigger and more disruptive offences like fraud and sexual harassment are male specialities but get brushed under the carpet. Women do not have immunity or the privilege of a second chance like men who get a third, a fourth up to a tenth chance and a slap on the wrist.
A woman cannot recover from a defamed reputation. Men who mess up at work will have colleagues and even their supervisors send them cards and gifts to lift up their spirits to get back up and try again yet a woman’s sin will have people turn up their noses in disgust and she will never be seen at the office again.
Are women given credit where it is due? Women are generally very diligent and will achieve results but unfortunately credit will be given to the male member of the team. This, I would like to believe is not intentional but is a result of how it has been deeply ingrained in our minds that the man must be the hero and that there is no way a woman could have saved the day.
It is very easy for us to accept a man as a leader and automatically clap for him when a deadline is met or when a deal is sealed. As a result, women remain in the shadows and are passed up for promotions and salary increments. I think this, out of all the challenges that working women face, is the most frustrating. Being a career oriented woman, your goal is to climb up the corporate ladder and be the best you can be in your respective field.
It is tiring to have to prove your expertise time and again in order to get the kudos you deserve. To have to continue reminding the people you work with how qualified you are so that your career is not stagnant, is a job in itself. We all work for money, period. Failure to be given your worth based on your gender is highly unfair. The WAGE (Women Are Getting Even) Project showed that women are paid about a third or more, less than men with the exact same qualifications. I wonder what the justification for that is. Do men have a secret alliance and promote each other and raise each other’s salaries based on the type of beer they like or soccer team they support?
Then, ladies and gentlemen, there is the most petty but prevalent challenge that women face at work; being disliked for being an alpha female. The alpha female is the boss lady. She knows her stuff and demands respect. She oozes confidence and will not be backed up in a corner by anybody. Her female colleagues want to be like her and her male colleagues are intimidated by her. Her biggest trait is her competence. This trait will have her labelled as a problem, unattractive, arrogant, and manipulative.
The male version of the alpha female, however, will be given hero status, becomes a hunk in a suit and will definitely succeed. It is almost as if as a woman, you are told to work hard but not too hard to a point where you shine or for us to like you and keep you do not over achieve. It is crazy how women do not seem to win in the workplace.
Surely we are past the era when men were regarded as superior to women. One cannot help but wonder why in this day and age it is it still so difficult to see women as equals at work and treat them as such. Why are people still shocked when they see a young female CEO? Examples of successful women who have conquered the challenges are increasing but remain few. This goes to prove that women are indeed being under-estimated somehow somewhere along the line. We are underdogs today but the way we women are built, with a smart mind and a resilient soul, it is only a matter of time before we are given our due respect and acknowledgement at work.
When I talk of respect I do not mean strategic respect where a lady is placed in the fore-front to make an organisation appear like it is pro women empowerment. I talk of genuine realisation of the value of women in the success of a company and a nation, rewarding women accordingly and letting discrimination of any sort against female employees go out the window. That is all we ask for.