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Aluta Continua for women as gender gap still a challenge at workplace

By Seliphar Machoni

Lately, women are getting out of their comfort zones and stepping out in search of jobs. They fight for employment opportunities the same as their male counterparts. Nowadays you will find a female surgeon, a female engineer, and a female ICT expert. As the world keeps on changing with technology taking control, few jobs are still gender- specific but the question remains is the labour market favourable for the female gender? Is the ratio of male and female employees equal? There is a big hindrance that makes the percentage of males in the labour market higher than that of females.

Globally the hustle of finding a job is tougher for women than it is for men. When women are employed, they tend to work in low-quality jobs and in vulnerable conditions, and with low income. There is a clear gap between the percentage of labour force participation of women compared to men globally which is 47% for women and 72% for men. In Kenya according to the research done by the International Labour Organization (ILO), youth employment has increased steadily over time. The statistics show that it is at 15% whereas in 2021 young female unemployment rate was two percentage points higher than that of young males.

Looking at the 2022 Economic Survey shows that 923,000 people were employed in the public sector compared to the year 2020 were 884, 700 people who were employed in the public sector. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics is not clear on the matter of gender-disaggregated data related to the workforce but its data shows 60.7% of men are in the modern sector of employment.   But when we talk about the absorption of women into the services the survey shows that there is very minimal women absorption for example in public administration, compulsory social security sector, and defence, these sectors hired 209, 800 men year 2020, and 10500 added last year, while it hired 101, 500 women in 2020 and only 8000 women 2022.

Gender gaps in recruitment go down to promotions. If there is no gender balance during employment, there will be no equity during promotions. PSC report indicated that it promoted 6,172 officers, with women taking the 30 percent share of a mere 1,852 while men gobbled up the rest of the pie at 4,320, during the year, yet it recruited 3,018 men against 2,164 women, that is an under-performance. Looking at the two-thirds gender rule, it does not mean that the female gender has to take the smaller percentage compared to men. Another survey done by the ILO, clearly indicated that the contributing factors to the low unemployment rate for young females include gender-based employment segregation, social and cultural norms, and stereotypes. These factors discourage and prevent women from pursuing education or going for certain jobs. These factors also deny women a chance to showcase their skills and knowledge in certain jobs that they are competent hence constraining the supply and demand for female workers.

Hard Working women in workplaces have been made to look like they are overdoing their duties and, in some cases, belittled. From the Tallest Poppy 2023, close to 90% of women in Kenya have at one point or another experienced macroaggressions and jealousy at their workplaces because of their exemplary, hardworking achievements. Successful women in society tend to be impacted, which exposes them to attacks, criticisms, and resentment.

A conversation with some of the successful women revealed that they have been looked down upon because of their hard work and sometimes they are told that they are making others look bad. Findings were that Tally Poppy Syndrome hurts ambitious, high-performing women in society, leading to many of them quitting their work. The syndrome refers to a situation where people sabotage or criticize those believed to have achieved success in a given area. “Top talent will burn out, check out, and ultimately leave. When ambitious workers find themselves in an environment where excelling is penalized, their productivity will be impacted, and they will have a foot out of the door. This not only negatively impacts the individual, but the organization as well.”

Most of the women have been forced to make the hardest decisions where 67.8% of them said that they are looking for a new role, while 50% revealed that they have left their previous jobs. As we all know, sharing some of your success and achievements is a way of motivating yourself to work harder but to those women who experienced Tally Poppy Syndrome, this has decreased as many of them feel isolated and burnt out. Apart from men, the study has also shown that women undermine their fellow women and colleagues because of their success and achievements. For example, not promoting their fellow female achievements and mentioning their names where there are opportunities that suit them is a result of downplaying their achievements. 75% of women revealed that undergoing such work toxicity can interfere with their productivity at work. 73.8% of women suffered mental health problems while 66.2% have revealed to have low confidence as a result of such toxicity and biases. The young women’s unemployment rate will remain high despite the technical and vocational education and training in Kenya. Looking at the traditional curriculum which addresses ignored gaps in technical skills or social-emotional skills.

The study recommends awareness against women’s discrimination and advocating for transparency. Also, the study recommends more women’s training workshops, mentorships, and sponsorship. To help women succeed in a challenging labour market, targeted reskilling and upskilling programs should be created, focusing especially on groups most in danger of being left behind. And expanded labour regulations are needed to ensure that labour market transitions improve the position of women, rather than simply reproducing existing inequalities. This includes a living minimum wage, regulations against pay discrimination, and social protection systems that address, for example, discrepancies between the unpaid care burdens of women and men.     

Also, to be able to close the gap there is a need to engage the ministry of education to ensure girls, especially those who drop out of school due to teenage pregnancy, complete their studies. This is to allow them to take advantage of the opportunities in public services in the future.

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