What Informed Gender Disparity?

What Informed Gender Disparity?

Gender inequality is the idea and situation that men and women are not equal. Gender inequality refers to unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals wholly or partly due to their gender. It arises from differences in gender formation and functions categorised into male and female. Gender systems are often dichotomous and hierarchical. Gender inequality stems from distinctions, whether empirically grounded or socially constructed. Women lag behind men in many domains, including education, labour market opportunities and political representation and in pay as researched globally with some very pathetic situation.

Naturally, differences exist between the sexes based on biological and anatomic factors, most notably deviance in body frame and some organs to differing reproductive roles/function. Biological differences include chromosomes and differences. There is a natural difference also in the relative physical strengths (on average) of the sexes, both in the lower body and more pronouncedly in the upper-body, though this does not mean that any given man is stronger than any given woman. Men, on average, are taller, which provides both advantages and disadvantages. Women live significantly longer than men, though it is not clear to what extent this is a biological difference. Men have larger lung volumes and more circulating blood cells and clotting factors, while women have more circulating white blood cells and produce antibodies faster.  Differences such as these are hypothesised to be an adaption allowing for sexual specialisation.

Psychologically, prenatal hormone exposure influences  the extent with which one exhibits traditional masculine or feminine behaviour. No differences between males and females exist in general intelligence. Men are significantly more likely to take risks than women. Men are also more likely than women to be aggressive, a trait influenced by prenatal and possibly current androgen exposure. It has been theorised that these differences combined with physical differences are an adaption representing sexual division of labour. A second theory proposes sex differences in intergroup aggression represent adaptations in male aggression to allow for territory, mate and resource acquisition. Females are (on average) more empathetic than males, though this does not mean that any given woman is more empathetic than any given man. Men and women have better visuospatial and verbal memory, respectively. These changes are influenced by the male sex hormone testosterone, which increases visuospatial memory in both genders when administered.

From birth, males and females are raised differently and experience different environments throughout their lives. In the eyes of society, gender has a huge role to play in many major milestones or characteristics in life; like personality. Males and females are led on different paths before they are able to choose their own. The colour blue is most commonly associated with boys and they get toys like monster trucks or more sport related things to play with from the time that they are babies. Girls are more commonly introduced to the colour pink, dolls, dresses, and playing house where they are taking care of the dolls as if they were children. The norm of blue is for boys and pink is for girls is cultural and has not always historically been around. These paths set by parents or other adult figures in the child’s life set them on certain paths. This leads to a difference in personality, career paths, or relationships. Throughout life, males and females are seen as two very different species who have very different personalities and should stay on separate paths, which is fundamentally a vague notion.

Human capital theories refer to the education, knowledge, training, experience, or skill of a person which makes them potentially valuable to an employer. This has historically been understood as a cause of the gendered wage gap but is no longer a predominant cause as women and men in certain occupations tend to have similar education levels or other credentials. Even when such characteristics of jobs and workers are controlled for, the presence of women within a certain occupation leads to lower wages. This earnings discrimination is considered to be a part of pollution theory. This theory suggests that jobs which are predominated by women offer lower wages than other jobs simply because of the presence of women within the occupation. As women enter an occupation, this reduces the amount of prestige associated with the job and men subsequently leave these occupations. The entering of women into specific occupations suggests that less competent workers have begun to be hired or that the occupation is becoming deskilled. Men are reluctant to enter female-dominated occupations because of this and similarly resist the entrance of women into male-dominated occupations.

As women entered the workforce in larger numbers since the 1960s, occupations have become segregated based on the amount femininity or masculinity presupposed to be associated with each occupation. Census data suggests that while some occupations have become more gender integrated (couriers, bartenders, bus drivers, and real estate agents), occupations including teachers, nurses, secretaries, receptionists and librarians have become female-dominated while occupations including architects, electrical engineers, and airplane pilots remain predominantly male in composition. Based on the census data, women occupy the service sector jobs at higher rates than men. Women’s overrepresentation in service sector jobs, as opposed to jobs that require managerial work acts as a reinforcement of women and men into traditional gender roles that causes gender inequality.

Statistical discrimination is also cited as a cause for income disparities and gendered inequality in the workplace. Statistical discrimination indicates the likelihood of employers to deny women access to certain occupational tracks because women are more likely than men to leave their job or the labour force when they become married or pregnant. Women are instead given positions that are dead-ends or jobs that have very little mobility.

From the above differential illustrations of both genders, what is the possibility of driving and attaining gender equality in the nearest future? The contest for gender polarity seems bleak even in our local arena, where women and girls traditionally have limited access to education, ownership of land and assets in Nigeria as a result of general discrimination on women and girls. And they are denied equal treatment in inheritance rights, human resources development and sustainable economic growth. It is therefore worrisome that at a time they are seeking equal treatment and participation in issues that concern them and their families, some respected traditional rulers and family heads who ordinarily should know better are making utterances that are entirely unhelpful.

The general notion in our country that women are inferior to men was recently reinforced when President Muhammadu Buhari, at a press conference in Germany, said the role of his wife did not extend beyond the kitchen and “the other room”. It was an unfortunate gaffe, especially given that women in Nigeria have made their mark in the political and economic arena. Only recently, a Nigerian woman, Amina Mohammed, was named as the Deputy Secretary General to United Nations, also the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who are making waves globally just to mention a few.

Against the background that in September 2016, gender equality was declared “not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world”, President Buhari’s remarks about his wife was unfortunate. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on which Ms Mohammed was an adviser to the outgoing United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, had helped set as one of the goals, undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources.

It is all the more disheartening that in this climate, the Nigerian Senate has been found wanting in its role to help achieve these new goals of promoting gender equality. In September 2016, a watered-down version of the Gender and Equality Bill passed a second reading in the Senate, and was referred to the committee on judiciary, human rights and legal matters. The first bill put forward six months earlier, and which included equal rights for women in marriages, divorce, property ownership and inheritance, was voted down. That bill was rejected because members of the upper arm of parliament said “enacting a law to accord women equal rights with men was un-African and anti-religious”.

Only seven out of the 109 senators who will serve in the 8th National Assembly are women, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports. But the ratio of women to men in the Senate should not influence the seriousness with which issues relating to women should be taken. Women make up about 50 per cent of the Nigerian population. Therefore, it makes no sense to exclude half of our population from contributing to national prosperity and well-being for archaic and oppressive reasons.

Gender equality is not just a human rights issue, it is essential for the achievement of sustainable development and a peaceful, prosperous world. Therefore, circumscribing the access to opportunities that ultimately empowers women and girls is counterproductive. Women are not the objects of pleasure of men or property to be used and disposed of. Indeed, women have the same intrinsic worth as men. Therefore, any custom that seeks to treat them as inferior to men or treats women as the property of their husbands cannot and should not stand.

In a landmark judgment in 2014, the Supreme Court held that the Igbo Customary Law which bars the female child, irrespective of the circumstances of her birth, from inheriting or partaking in the sharing of the property and estate of her father, is a violation of her right to freedom from discrimination enshrined in section 42 (1) (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. According to the Supreme Court, “any culture that disinherits a daughter from her father’s estate or wife from her husband’s property by reason of God-instituted gender differential should be punitively dealt with.” Recall that there were instances of women getting inheritances in the Bible.

This however prompted me to raise some pertinent questions below, that should be urgently answered, putting forward as postulate findings from the answers for adequate adherence by key stakeholders, with punitive measures enacted against defaulters, I believe this will go a long way to phase out quickly women marginalisation.

How do you address the impact of both the structural issues (policies and work practices) that create barriers for women and the cultural issues (beliefs, values, behaviours, stereotypes) that create biased perceptions about women’s ability to lead affectively?

Over the years, despite all the focus on gender parity, there’s still a huge gap between findings and compliance/implementation, and the slow pace of change is confounding. We would have expected some upward momentum on the perceptions of equal opportunity for women vis-a-vis men. Why is this so, and what could be done to see this gap bridged, so as to see speedy compliance to recommendations?

Research reveals that organisations with a high proportion of women in senior positions impact positively, generating enough values to keep up with set goals and objectives, for enhanced results; for instance, the women-dominant teaching profession, which is the bedrock of all specialisation. How then do we go about allowing more room for women at top positions so that they can be adequately represented in decision making, in order to facilitate the transformational pace of the entire global structure/economy at large, towards greater good results as urgently needed?

Women represent an under-utilised talent pool in an increasingly talent constraint environment, where decision-making effectiveness in organisations is improved by diversity of perspectives, which is true in a general global economy, where women increasingly drive the majority of consumer activities. In line with this tested fact what could be done to incorporate more women in organisations and governance?

Due to the complex, subtle and difficult issues on gender diversity, what do you think must be done to eradicate or uproot barriers getting in the way of women’s progression, i.e. getting a better understanding of the root causes of gender inequality and what organisations can do to dramatically improve gender balance. Do you think setting up a monitoring body that would be saddled with the task of ensuring that the percentage of space allotted to women for instance in Nigeria is strictly adhered to with penalties for defaulters in all areas of concern, government and private dully covered?

Most importantly, how can we get our local men out of general cultural beliefs and stereotype relegating women to the background, so to bring fresh and reasonable foundation for gender equality amongst humans especially in our environment?

The LORD is my shepherd.

  1. Questions raised by Evelyn Joseph for participants at Access women program on gender inequality (18/09/2018)
  1. Corinne; et al. (2012). “Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students”. PNAS. 109 (41): 16474–16479. doi:10.1073/pnas.1211286109PMC 3478626PMID 22988126.
  2.  Williams, Wendy; Stephen, Ceci (28 April 2015). “National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track”. PNAS. 112 (17): 5360–5365. doi:10.1073/pnas.1418878112PMC 4418903PMID 25870272. Retrieved 30 October 2015
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