Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What are women worth?

By Dzifa Gbemi

Women play valuable roles in our homes, communities, regions and our country as a whole. Women are as significant as men - there is a typical saying that “what men do, women do the same and even better”. In Ghana for example, women are doing almost all the same work as men. For instance, we have women as members of parliament, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, is an important person in the country and she is a woman, as well as the first ever female speaker of parliament Honourable Joyce Banford Addo, female ministers and many more. These women are doing marvellously well in their chosen fields and careers. Bravo to the Ghana Government for the role it is playing in the girl child education which allows women to go on and achieve these high playing roles.

But there are challenges too. In northern Ghana, most women go into early marriage. These women are mostly high school leavers, they pass their exams very well yet they are limited to do only domestic work by their husbands after marriage. Whereas they could possibly continue their education to become career women before going into marriage, or, their husbands supporting them to still further their education even after marriage. However, the government and some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like the International Citizen Service (ICS) RAINS project are working tirelessly to support children who are less privileged to go to school, especially the girl child.

Furthermore, women are still not accorded the respect they deserve. Women are still earning significantly less than men, despite working longer hours when paid and unpaid work is still taken into account, a new United Nations report reveals. The U.N. women report shows that even though more women are in the work place and taking on leadership positions worldwide, pay levels are nowhere near reaching equality on a global scale. Women are paid less than men even when they have similar levels of experience and are in the same fields. Part of the reason why women earn less overall is that they are more likely to go into fields with below average salaries, like consumer products and advertising. But even within the fields where both women and men do the same work, women still earn less than men. The U.N. report reveals that, on average, women around the world earn 24% less than men, and also earn just half of the income men earn over a lifetime.

Women in South Asia experience the greatest gender pay gap, earning 33% less than men. The Middle East and North Africa have a 14% pay gap. Women do nearly two and half times more unpaid and domestic work compared to men and are less likely to receive a pension. Only half of the working age women are in the workforce compared to three quarters of working age men.

It may be true that over the course of their lives, women make choices that cost them at work. So it’s useful to analyse the pay difference at a career moment when they are both highly qualified and available to work. When women are not paid fairly, not only do they suffer but so do their families. Women are risk takers, they should not be limited a particular type of job with the belief that they do not have the strength to deliver. Women should not be looked down upon or underestimated on their working ability since this is a hindrance to their involvement in the workforce. 

Apart from these basic problems, availability of finance and credit facilities for females is a big issue. Generally banks or other credit lending institutions fail to recognize women’s entrepreneurial aptitude and do not want to take a chance by providing them financial assistance. Hence the role of the government becomes very important.

Without looking at the individual circumstances of the women in the U/N survey, it’s hard to know whether there’s something about them besides their gender that could knock their pay after graduation, like how many years of work experience they had before their MBA. The significant gap is more than a statistic. It has real life consequences when women who make up nearly half the work force, bring home less money each day. It means they have less for the everyday needs of their families, and over a life time of work, far less savings for their retirement. 

However, looking at the importance of the girl education is a measure of addressing the income gap between women and men. Education is one of the primary tools for alleviating poverty in every economy and as such, educating every girl child will enhance their living standards. Women should not be intimidated, because these makes them feel like:

  • They are not welcome in the workforce
  • They do not perform anywhere close to how men do
  •  People are still living in the 18th century where women were limited to only domestic chores

With regards to the forthcoming May day which is a day to celebrate workers in Ghana, what could be done right to bridge the gap between income inequality between men and women in the working force is the involvement of the government. Government should pass a law or act legislating that every employer should treat his employees equally with no discrimination. That is, every employer must pay women exactly the same as men especially when they perform the same duties. To help build a better nation.