Gender inequality - a practical perspective
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Study, work hard, mind your manners ... these are but some of the things our mothers told us we needed to do to conquer the world. And it worked, or at least to a certain extent, as here we are scattered across the corporate world. But there is much our mothers didn't tell us and much that we also end up not telling our own daughters.
The last Gender Equality Report published by the World Economic Forum in 2013 had some very interesting statistics, three of which are listed below (as it relates to Jamaica):
Tertiary Education - #5 - female-to-male ratio of 2.29.
Legislators, senior officials and manager - #1 - female-to-male ratio of 1.45
Wage Equality for Similar Work - #76 - female-to-male ratio 0.64 female
Overall ranking - # 47
So what do these numbers tell us?
Well, in practical terms, what the numbers are really saying is exactly what, I believe, our mothers neglected out of fear to tell us.
Chances are as a woman you have better qualifications and will rise to a mid-management level job, but any further is largely out of bounds. After all, Jamaican women are bright and can run homes on shoe-string budgets, so it stands to reason that indeed women should be the backbone of corporate Jamaica; in other words, we are good enough to produce the reports, but only so that the men can make the decisions.
Some will say we ought to be grateful that women now have so many career opportunities and hold so many management positions. And, indeed, we are grateful, but should we also be grateful that on average we are paid but 64 cents for every dollar earned by a man for similar jobs? The glass ceiling exists and it is called by many names. Maybe you've been accused of having 'man problems' because, God forbid, you were feeling ill. And if you are outspoken, you're just simply too 'emotional' to be considered for more senior roles. But my all-time favourite is being too 'distracted', as you actually spend your day working and leave on time, to go be a mom instead of hanging around pretending to be productive.
Why is gender equality so important? Gender equality leads to improved competitiveness. Coincidentally, most of the countries that rank highest in Gender Equality also rank highest on the Global Competitiveness Index. This is, therefore, as much an economic issue (maybe even more so) as it is a social issue. Countries will only be competitive if they are developing, attracting and retaining the very best talent, both male and female.
And so, today, I add my voice to the lobby for policy quotas aimed at promoting gender equality and diversity in both government and private sectors.