Gender inequality acknowledges that there is a disparity between males and females when it comes to the general experience of life. Both biological and psychological differences between the sexes are huge factors in this experience. Societal and cultural norms also play a role. Hence, we say gender is a social construct. For the most part we are socialized to perform the roles and exhibit the behaviours that we do. That’s why many believe that men are supposed to be providers and women nurturers; This is what society has known since inception. Socialization by itself is not necessarily a problem. The problem arises when one gender enforces their expectations on the other gender and denies them access to resources, opportunities, or basic human rights (solely based on their gender). Gender equality is achieved when all individuals receive access to the same opportunities, rights, and treatment regardless of their gender. It describes, at its core, social, political, and economic equality between the sexes.
“Today’s reality is an array of patriarchal societies dominated by lingering regressive attitudes towards women. Invisible power structures continually reinforce women’s places as the marginalised gender.” While the experiences of women and the degree to which they experience inequality may vary across cultures, countries, and socio-economic classes, the culture of oppression remains.
Between 2011 and 2015, only 36% of female students enrolled in STEM courses in Nigerian universities. 
This discrimination does not begin at the workplace. It begins at the point of making educational choices. In many Nigerian homes, females are considered as the less ‘valuable’ gender. This mindset often manifests in disadvantaged households where parents send only male children to school, while female children are left at home to perform domestic labour. Child marriage further compounds this problem. Many girls that are sent to school are forced to drop out in their teenage years to get married. At the age of 18, 61% of Nigerian girls are out of school compared to 41% of boys . Certain career paths or job roles e.g. STEM jobs are tagged as masculine and young girls are commonly dissuaded from pursuing careers in those. Even within the same field, some roles are seen as more suitable for men or women. For instance, people commonly assign male pronouns to doctors and female pronouns to nurses.
Gender inequality in the workplace is not industry specific and takes different dimensions, the most common being unequal pay, sexual harassment and unequal opportunities/promotions as regards specific job roles and managerial positions. Women are also expected to be home keepers, undertaking unpaid domestic work that keep them economically disadvantaged. While inequality affects both men and women, research shows that women are far more disadvantaged.
pcl. recently conducted a research on gender inequality. 35% of the women interviewed report having experienced gender-based discrimination at work compared to 9% of men. 75% of the women claimed to have been paid less than their male colleagues based on gender.
While junior positions at firms are likely to be equally distributed between men and women, senior positions are much more male-dominated. 53% of respondents said their firms had more men than women in senior positions. only 8% said their organisations had mostly women in senior positions.
It is a common saying that for a woman to be in a leading position, she needs to be twice as good as her male contemporaries. Of all the fortune 500 companies (the 500 largest US companies ranked by total revenues for their respective fiscal years), only 25 currently have female CEOs. Also, women occupy only 20% of the board seats in these companies. The few women who get to occupy such roles at some point in their careers are constantly asked during interviews about work-life balance with the popular phrase “can women have it all?” That is something male CEOs are rarely ever asked about.
“Hiring and promoting talented women is the right thing to do for our society, and it’s an economic imperative.”
Apart from being illegal in most countries and absurd, gender inequality is also bad for the global economy. Gender discrimination leads to an average loss of $95 billion per year for Africa , considering that Africa has the highest number of female entrepreneurs. A recent study by a leading consulting firm found that if women worldwide participated equally to men in the economy, total global GDP could be increased by $26 trillion.
Hiring unqualified women just to appear politically correct or “woke” is not the solution to gender inequality. A better approach is to ensure that there is free and fair treatment of all, and there are no glass pyramids in your firm. A ’glass pyramid’ is a system in which qualified individuals of either gender are hired, but women’s career progression is significantly throttled before reaching senior management positions. Examples are policies that don’t allow women take maternity breaks in the first 2 to 5 years of employment or unspoken rules of women not being allowed to occupy leading positions. Industries leaders need to reform these barriers to women and establish more flexible schedules that make provisions for the realities of family life. Many office buildings now include day care centers to make life easier for parents. Some companies such as GTBank and Interswitch pay for day care services at centers close to their Lagos branches.
“The Middle East remains the least gender-equal region in the world, with an estimated 365 years before the balance is righted at the current pace of change”
— WEF 2016 Gender Gap report.
Gender equality is the 5th goal on the list of Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations to be achieved by 2030. The expectation is that significant progress would have been made worldwide by this time, as we know that not all countries and regions will reach this goal at the same time. Women have made great strides in their professional lives, breaking as many glass ceilings as possible. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go till we reach gender parity. Many countries are enforcing policies and legislation that tackle gender discrimination. Individuals, private companies and NGOs are working together to increase women’s participation in male-dominated career fields e.g. Finance and STEM. Some of these initiatives are She Code Africa, Pearls Africa, and Women in Finance Nigeria.
Closing the gender gap is not a short-term plan; we must keep making effort till the world is balanced for better.
To read our report on Gender Inequality in the Workplace, please visit: https://phillipsconsulting.net/reports_post/gender-equality-in-the-nigerian-workplace/
- Bukola A. Onyekwelu, “Comparative Empirical Analysis of Female University Enrolment in STEM Courses in the Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria”, International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science (IJMECS), Vol.11, №1, pp. 24–32, 2019.DOI: 10.5815/ijmecs.2019.01.03
- pcl. report