Career Mummies – The plight of women in active employment in Nigeria

Although some progress has been made in the last few decades as regards the subject of “Gender Equality” in Nigeria, a lot still needs to be done. Despite the fact that the government has put in place favorable laws for employment of at least 30% women in all sectors, women are still relegated in our institutions which include both private and public establishments. Gender equality spells out equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities that should be enjoyed by everyone irrespective of gender (ILO,2007). Given that sociocultural factors in the country already makes women disadvantaged, special attention needs to be given to the needs of women to achieve this balance.Increasingly over the years, women have become the breadwinners in most homes with an increased numerical participation in the labor force. While this has improved economic conditions of these women and their families, it however has masked the issues of remuneration, promotion, job satisfaction, career development and overall work experience of women compared to their male counterparts. It is no news that women are being discriminated against even during job recruitment process with a lot of employers preferring young unmarried women to the married ones. Some ladies have lost very promising job opportunities they were well qualified for, simply because they were either newly married or pregnant. While some employers will blatantly come out to state the reason, a lot will mask the real reasons for the rejection. Often times, these women do not see a need to pursue legal actions as they do not even think it’s an injustice. The notion that some jobs are restricted to the male gender has also not helped the plight of women. Furthermore, the Nigerian labor market is characterized by gender segmentation by sector and employment status with women mostly found in marketing roles where it is believed that they are likely to generate more business than their male counterparts. This has led a lot of female professionals to prostitute to meet sales target and earn desired promotion on their roles.Women also constitute a greater percentage of the lower clerical and contract jobs with only very few in managerial positions which may not be unconnected with the fact that men are more likely to take advantage of the more demanding executive and managerial positions than women. Although few women have been able to change this status quo, it did not come easy as most were faced with unfair competition from their male colleagues. Despite the fact that we now have a lot of female executives, majority have had to sacrifice something critical to achieve their present status while others had great support systems which helped them weather the storm.The conditions of work have worsened with increased pressure to deliver in the workplace due to greater competition in the market and liberalization of the economy. Hence paid employment has become increasingly unfavorable to women with late closing hours, prolonged work hours, few days available for annual leave and greater work demands. Women often struggle to juggle these demands with the home front and constantly seek for a work life balance. Employers have failed to put this into consideration as women are expected to deliver at the same level with their male counterparts.Several pressure groups and non-governmental institutions are constantly pushing for the rights of women and are achieving some milestones. However very little progress has been made concerning enforcing their rights in the workplace. For example, the Federal Government of Nigeria prescribes a 4 month maternity leave which hasn’t been adhered to by most private establishments with banks and other financial institutions being major culprits. Sadly, employees are at the mercy of their employers in Nigeria and would rather suffer in silence than press for their rights. For these laws to be enforced, the government has to be actively involved using the carrot and the stick approach. Organizations with the right gender balance and compliant working conditions for women must be recognized and incentives provided. The erring organizations must be sanctioned and women should be encouraged to report discrimination to an appropriate body established for that purpose with their identity protected.

Furthermore, organizations must take into consideration peculiarities of women in formulation of their HR policies, by providing flexible working hours for women and adherence to the leave days as prescribed by the Federal Government. With these reforms in place and the appropriate laws enforced, Nigeria will be a better place for women in active employment.
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