Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Gender double standards still prevail

Published:Thursday | November 3, 2016 | 11:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The Executive Director of UN Women, Madame Phumile Mlambo Ngcuka in the townhall meeting held by UN Women and UWI Leads on Tuesday, highlighted the importance of shifting cultural attitudes and biases towards women as a part of any strategy to achieve sustainable economic development. She also noted the sacrifices women often times have to make regarding their family life, in order to be taken seriously in the world of work and political representation.

The reality is that men hardly ever have to think about striking the "work-life" balance because society deems them the breadwinners and women the home-makers. These culturally engraved uneven gender roles directly impact the ability of women to contribute equally to the economy and equally participate in public life.

There are other cultural norms which must be interrogated if we as a nation are serious about achieving Vision 2030 and the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 5 which require Jamaica to achieve gender equality by 2030. We must therefore look into the fact that women's capacity to acquire wealth is limited by a culturally imposed, gender-based "economy of beauty".

Women are held to higher standards than men as it relates to their body image and deportment. Women are often times criticized and mocked for repeating their outfits and not changing their hairstyles. Many places of employment even require women to wear uncomfortable heels at the work place daily and there is often times an expectation that women will wear some layer of make-up.

While there are deportment standards for men, they are less strictly applied and failing to comply has a lesser impact on man's employment opportunities.

The flip side of this is that women who spend on their beauty are considered frivolous and not serious about work. The result is that women in public life are forced to walk the thin line between seeming too vain and seeming too plain.

Glenroy Murray

Policy & Advocacy Manager, Equality for All Foundation

Policy Officer, WE-Change