For many years, the contribution of women in development has not been taken seriously around the world. This has been witnessed especially in the economic aspect of society, where they continue being sidelined despite the awareness of their vital role. A lot of questions have been raised regarding the wisdom behind this discrimination. A lot has been done over the years, in terms of legislation, to ensure that women enjoy a more favorable career environment, so that today the world can actually talk about gender equality, to an extent. While merit has become the primary tool for measuring competency, it seems that there are serious challenges for the implementing arms of various governments.
Today, there still are those who believe that women should have a lower position in as far as careers are concerned. A simple look at a great majority of careers, reveals that majority of the top leaders are always men. This shows that although there are laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender, it mostly remains as such, in the books of law. This is seen not only in the economic sector but also in the political realm. The reasons for the kind of gender disparities witnessed across the world can only be given a cultural explanation, not intellectual. In the current global setting where progress, of whatever kind, is measured in terms of economic progress, career progression is also considered along similar paradigms. This study seeks to establish whether women should enjoy equal opportunities in careers as their male counterparts. In order to sufficiently discuss this, an analysis of the various sectors may suffice.
Women and Career Opportunities
The gap in access to career between men and women is remarkably large. The opportunity to exercise power with regard to the structures of economy has largely been dominated by men. Women have, by and large, been absent from decision making processes. This has a direct impact on access to career opportunities disparity. Economic power and access to economic resources have a direct relational aspect with gender inequality. In other words, whenever power and resources are vested predominantly in one gender, the other gender is likely to be sidelined (Babcock and Laschever, 2003). Historically, the possession of property has been a preserve of the boys. Of course a lot has been done, so that today there is an equal right to ownership of property, but the demographic analysis presents a total unbalanced picture. Scientifically, no proof has been offered indicating that women are lesser beings in any way. As a matter of fact, those that have made their way to the top have often excelled in their careers. If the real potential of the women is to be realized, it is important that their presence in economic decision making be enhanced. In particular, women should be allowed equal opportunities in the areas of economic policy formulations. It is upon these policies that everything to do with equality is determined.
In several regions worldwide, the participation of women in remunerated work, both in the formal and informal sectors has undergone a remarkable growth. Although most women still work in the agricultural sectors, they those that have made it to the small, medium and large enterprises have proven that women have a large pool of untapped resources. However, due to a lack of bargaining power and challenging economic situations, a great number of women end up accepting peanuts for a pay, as well as very unwelcoming working conditions. The cheap availability of their labor has made women the preferred workers. On the other hand, those who do not have access to career opportunities in the formal sector end up joining the informal sector. In order to ensure that women have access to these opportunities, it is important that multilateral institutions be mindful of gender issues in their policy formulation process.
Gender discrimination in access to career opportunities has over the years been witnessed on several fronts: “education and training, hiring and payment, promotion and horizontal mobility, working conditions that are not flexible, family responsibilities that are inadequate, and lack of productive resources” (The United Nations, 1995). These pose serious difficulties for women as they attempt to compete with men. According to a report by the European Union regarding gender equality in Europe, the rate of employment is lower for women even though they form the higher percentage of graduates annually. A look at the earnings of both men and women reveals that women make 17.4 percent less than men per hour (European Commission, 2009). Although there has been an increase in the share of women representation, they still remain very under-represented. Moreover, women are still faced with a higher risk of poverty than men. The fact that there are more women graduating than men shows that women are competent, only that they lack the opportunities.
Quite a number of women in formal careers are continually faced with major obstacles to the extent that they are unable to fully realize their potential. Most of these women find themselves in lower managerial positions. This is seen in both private and public offices. The attitude of their male counterparts is often discriminating, which blocks their chances of being promoted. Sexual harassment is also an area where equal opportunity faces challenges. This prevents them as well, from moving out with their full potential. This is to say that the forces against equal career opportunities are advanced at various levels (Burstein, 1994). However, this lack of opportunity has driven women to seeking alternatives. The area of micro-enterprises and self organized enterprises has grown largely thanks to women. The lesson to be learnt in this case is that whenever women lay their hands on credit, capital, as well as other resources, they end up being real agents of development. It is for this reason that women should be given equal career opportunities as well as a level playground for them in order to ensure that their talents are not wasted.
In conclusion, the contribution of women in development cannot be overstated. However, the fact that they are continually sidelined in matters of career opportunities is a sad reality, especially in the twenty first century. While it is acknowledgeable that a lot of governments have enacted legislations aimed at protecting women, it is important to create frameworks within which proper implementation of these laws can be made effective. Whatever decisions are made, it is important to ensure that a consideration is made of certain unique roles played by women in society, especially reproductive roles and functions, in order not to expect too much from them. It is important that governments conduct a thorough research into the nature and extent of unremunerated work in order to ensure that women are not left out. Programs should be set out in such a way that these unremunerated jobs are sufficiently compensated. This will help to eliminate the kind of discrimination that is often witnessed.
Babcock, L., & Laschever, S. (2003). Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and Gender Divide. Princeton University Press
Burstein, P. (1994). Equal Employment Opportunity: Labor Market Discrimination and Public Policy. Edison, NJ: Aldine Transaction
European Commission. (2009). Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities: Gender Equality. Retrieved May 21, 2010, from http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=418
Friedman, E., & Marshall, J. (2004). Issues of Gender. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.
The United Nations. (1995). The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. Retrieved May 21, 2010, from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/economy.htm