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Stubborn glass ceilings - Women want more leadership roles

Published:Friday | September 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Jennifer Williams conducts a trafficking in persons workshop as a part of a collaborative effort between the Bureau of Women's Affairs and women's NGOs.
Portia Simpson Miller. - file

 Laura Redpath, Senior Gleaner Writer

GENDER EXPERTS are bemoaning the difficulties being experienced by women in ascending to certain leadership positions in the country.

The researchers argue that women are being kept out of some top posts despite being qualified to fill them.

"Women are still not getting the leadership positions. Women have broken into and continue to break into various fields, but these fields are still male dominated," the Director of Policy and Research at the Bureau of Women's Affairs, Jennifer Williams said.

Fields that were typically dom-inated by men but are gaining more women, include construction, welding, medicine, journalism and law.

Williams argues that women, despite breaking into these fields, have not been able to extend their dominance to the leadership levels.

Jamaica, on Tuesday, observed International Literacy Day under the theme: Literacy and Women's Empowerment.

According to Williams, Jamaica's culture has roots in gender roles.

"We have socialised boys to become leaders throughout the life cycle and some girls are left with the idea, 'I am not fit for leadership' and that is personal.

"(In society), we think, 'I don't want a woman to be a leader or a boss'," Williams said.

She also noted that women do not support women in leadership roles as they do men.

"There are still some systemic barriers towards women leaders," she said.

Migration has been blamed for the number of women in leadership in some fields.

"Women tend to migrate for better lives. They see the need and they have children and they tend to want the best for them," Williams explained.

Jamaican women have topped their male counterparts in the academic arena which has prompted one university lecturer to question why more women have not broken through the glass ceiling of some professions.

The last literacy survey, completed in 1999, shows that 88.6 per cent of men, ages 15-19, are literate, whereas 97.2 per cent of women in the same age bracket are. The age bracket of 20-24 shows 85.2 per cent of men are literate and 94.9 per cent of women as well.

However, the percentage of men goes down to the 75.9 per cent between 44 and 50 years, while women are at 91.9 per cent.

More recently, for the 2008-2009 academic year, there were roughly 6,000 more women enrolled in tertiary level education than men.

Group socialisation

June Castello, lecturer with the Mona Unit Institute for Gender and Development Studies, noted women tend to take education more seriously than men and this also stems from group socialisation, which is more likely to encourage women to do better.

"Apparently the way (women) socialise makes the education product easier for them to absorb," she said. "(Women) as a group are not as far ahead as much as we thought it would be."

Jamaica has been served at the highest level by a woman with Portia Simpson Miller rising to become Prime Minister for 18 months between 2006 and 2007.