By Linda Eroke
As countries celebrate the International Women’s Day, the need to increase women’s participation in the labour market, political and economic areas, thereby achieve equality between men and women, has again been brought to the fore.
International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries of the world on March 8.
It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, cultural, economic or political.
This year’s theme focuses how gender equality, empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development. It also stresses the vital role of women as agents of development.
This year’s International Women’s Day has ignited calls for governments, employers, unions and everyone to be an advocate inspiring change for women's advancement.
Interestinly, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other world agencies, say the day provides a good opportunity to reflect on progress towards gender equality in the workplace.
Statistics show that women worldwide make up more than half of the labour market, yet gender equality remains a critical issue. Sexual harassment and discrimination are serious problems in today’s workplace.
According to reports, a good number of women had missed out on a promotion as a direct result of taking maternity leave and motherhood while some employers still have reservations about hiring a woman if she is married or already had children.
Risks and opportunities for women often vary depending on their colour, religion, social origin or skill levels.
Though this year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Inspiring Change’ and quite clearly, for some female employees, change cannot come soon enough, as women face new and more complex challenges in the workplace. Moreso, only a number of individual women have managed to advance and to break through the glass ceiling.
Gender discrimination still a big issue.
Gender discrimination and inequality are still prevalent in most countries as more than a quarter of women have been reported to have experienced some form of gender discrimination in their workplaces.
Indeed, workplace experts strongly believe that the inequality gap still persist even though they acknowledged that progress is being made in eliminating inequality in the workplace.
They explained that the rights of girls and women are often subordinated; their economic and social contribution often undervalued and their perceived inequality compared to men sometimes regarded as immutable.
Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder in a statement to commemorate the International Women’s Day, observed that slow and uneven progress has been made in addressing the challenges faced by women in their places of work noting that there has been notable progress in the area of national legislation with most countries having incorporated the principles of equality and non-discrimination of women in the workplace.
According to Ryder, occupational sex-segregation and gender pay gaps persist as women are over-represented in the informal economy, precarious work, and in low-paid jobs.
He further stated that in the formal economy women’s share of decision-making posts remains low notwithstanding a pool of talent.
Stressing that services to assist women in balancing work and family responsibilities – particularly state-funded and quality childcare – are unavailable or inaccessible for many, Ryder noted that a large majority of women lack access to quality maternal and infant health care and other maternity protection measures – effectively penalizing them for their reproductive role.
“Many governments have adopted active labour market policies to tackle discrimination against women and a growing number of employers’ and workers’ organizations are implementing initiatives on equal opportunity and treatment.
“At the same time, stubborn and often profound gaps persist. Progress in increasing women’s labour market participation has been uneven according to our 2014 Global Employment Trends Report.,” Ryder said.
Speaking also, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, urged leaders and employers to work for women’s rights, empowerment and gender equality even as they strive to eliminate poverty and promote sustainable development.
Ki-moon said achieving equality for women and girls have become imperative, not simply because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.
According to him, countries with more gender equality have better economic growth, companies with more women leaders perform better, peace agreements that include women are more durable and parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.
Noting that important gains have been made in access to primary education for girls and political representation by women, the UN secretary pointed out that progress on gender equality remains far too slow and uneven.
“A baby girl born today will still face inequality and discrimination, no matter where her mother lives. We have a common obligation to ensure her right to live free from the violence that affects one in three women globally; to earn equal pay for equal work; to be free of the discrimination that prevents her from participating in the economy; to have an equal say in the decisions that affect her life; and to decide if and when she will have children, and how many she will have,” he stated.
Joining in the call for leaders to implement policies that will ensure gender equality and increase women participation in nation building, Chairman Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM), Lekki/Ajah/Badore branch, Mr. Adeniyi Aromolaran, stressed the need for female employees to develop the capacity and ability to achieve and sustain balance among the many competing, equally important roles in the workplaces.
He advocated that for either the male or female HR professional to achieve, maintain and sustain this balance should be a primary concern for everyone lest other roles will suffer, leading to greater more pressing consequences of societal magnitude, such as not paying the appropriate attention to the upbringing of children.
He added that for the female HR Professional, who is a parent, this becomes a major source of concern for her and other pressing roles, especially as a mother.
“This challenge is real for every female HR professional who has children who need to be impacted with the right values, which in her continued absence from home such a responsibility may suffer. That does not mean I am advocating for our women to stay home. But I am advocating we find a way to address this challenge,” he added.