Gender-based discrimination comes in different forms in the workplace today. It is in the subtle resistance by the boss to place big responsibilities in the hands of women, or in comments with prefixes like “As a woman”, or “It is because you are a woman” or “Women should”. Even the big corporates that see to promote gender parity publicly through strategic investments and advocacy still seem to have the ugly attributes of gender segregation engraved subtly and even obviously in their office cultures.
We took to the streets of the very busy Marina Road (the central business hub of Lagos that hosts the headquarters of some of the biggest businesses out of Nigeria), to find out from real working class women, some of the common acts of gender-discrimination they have faced, and this is what we found out:
I have somehow become the designated domestic help.
I still do not understand why after all my degrees, all the projects I have led at the office and all my career achievements and years in the company, my boss still thinks I am the only one that should be responsible for sharing food and drinks when we have birthdays at the office. These days, I just leave the refreshments on the table, I am not any man’s domestic staff.
Why am I always tagged emotional?
I am not someone that does not speak up to counter wrong doings. So, I always speak up at meetings to point out errors or issues that need to be addressed. Overtime, I have been tagged ‘too emotional’. When my other male colleagues speak up, they are tagged ‘smart and ground-breaking’. But, Funke is ‘too emotional’. Maybe, I speak with a lot of passion. Although, I do not see the problem with being passionate.
I think I have become the Ceremonial Head of Department
Since I was appointed as the new Head of Department, it has been a struggle dealing with my Executive Director. I work hard to prepare documents for his review and approval and he ends up giving it to my male subordinates to review on his behalf, asking them to advise him on his approval. The people I have spoken to say he is like that with all the female employees he works with. He believes women are not intellectual equals. I have since created a new approval line for my memos with more progressive leaders.
I am just tired of being told to wait
Since I started my internship, I have been asked to hold on with all the ideas I’ve come up with. I am given more menial tasks like lunch duty, photocopying and meeting admin duty. I thought it was the general discredit for interns until I saw my male colleague working on a presentation with my group head. I am currently working on my move from that Group. I need a new gender-balanced Group Head.
You need to be stubborn to be taken seriously
I learnt earlier on in my career that I cannot be perceived as nice, gentle or weak if not I would be eaten alive in this environment. So, I am always in my ‘War’ mode at this office. Even the most powerful male colleagues are always very careful when engaging with me, everyone holds my opinion with such high regard. If only they knew how soft I really am underneath it all. I will not be taken for granted because of my gender, so, I will keep putting up this front if I have to.
That is all for this week. What are some of the acts of gender-based discriminations you have faced at your office? Let us know.
Remember to speak up to counter any action or inaction that discriminates or victimizes us or any other woman/girl because of our gender. How?
Fight to be treated equally in every situation and within every institution of society
Be visible and present as forces for change in business, politics, economy and the overall society at large. The more we are seen, the more we are heard.