By Peter Osalor
In the European parliament for instance almost 2/3 of them are male, although this has increased 16% to 24% from 1997 to 2009, but nevertheless the female demographic is still notably under represented. In national governments, the situation is improving steadily with the share of women senior ministers in EU governments at 27%. The European Commission counts nine women Commissioners (33%) and eighteen men (67%), the best gender balance yet – up from 5.6% in 1994/1995.
In the United States of America, only 2 per cent CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies are female. And in the OECD countries, women represent only 7 per cent of the director positions of leading and top companies. Similarly, there are no women on the boards of over 46 per cent of top companies in OECD countries and only 23 per cent companies have more than one woman on the company board.
In United States of America, only 13 per cent of the board members are women, whereas in Canada this percentage is as low as 11 per cent. According to the statistics of European Commission, central banks of the countries in European Union only have male governors and women only represent about 17 per cent of the main decision making units within the companies of these countries.
A factor responsible for the pro-male bias of policies is that there are too few women in the policymaking arena. For example, according to the Nigerian Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, the latest Nigerian census revealed that women constitute 49.9% of the nation’s population but only 2% of the policymakers.
The underrepresentation of women in the nation’s development processes in finance, business and investment fronts renders 40% of the population inadequately positioned to contribute to the economic growth of the country. Alongside, women who seek fair political representation face serious opposition and criticism
To many people, it just seems natural that women are worse off, because of their smaller size or their capacity to bear children. Men comfort themselves with the thought that women need looking after. Hence, from the very beginning, women have been perceived as a weaker gender in all societies and were not provided with equal opportunities. Today, women are still not considered equal to men and are subjected to violence and abuse, and provided with less economic, educational, political, and health care opportunities.
Lingering nuclear family ideals, which many people are still conditioned to believe is “natural” may play a part in deterring women from pursuing economic sovereignty, but also perhaps deterring men from granting those opportunities to women. In the nuclear family, gender roles are thus defined: men are expected to be the primary breadwinners and women are expected to be nurturers that look after children and the family as a whole.
In the western world, females are legally of equal status to males; they have equal access to education, as well as all other services and amenities. But there are subtle and more discreet forms of discrimination and prejudice when it comes to granting more opportunities to women. Males are still not only expected to be the primary breadwinner, but under pressure to make more money than their spouses or risk appearing inadequate or unable to provide.
In other words, conventional nuclear family gender roles are still viewed to be the norm and they hurt women’s changes of economic mobility outside of the nuclear family. To state on the one hand that men are the primary breadwinners and on the other hand that women can go earn as much as they can, is confusing. And this confusion creates the continuing subordination of women’s economic goals and aspirations to society’s ideals of gender roles thus, the gender gap persists.
What persists in society translates into un/underemployment for women whereas an employer may assume that a woman does not want a higher level position or the stress that comes with it or a female employee will likely take pregnancy leave in the future or when married, may decide to leave her job all together. Hence, women are offered “temporary” positions or non-career paths that don’t offer opportunities for upward mobility.