by Alex Kinmont
Since the Suffragettes won us the vote a century ago, the fight for gender equality has been making unsteady progress. Today, we are still nowhere near a perfect balance.
Globally, women’s pay and participation in the workforce has significantly improved in the past century. Yet, it still has a long way to go. The World Bank Group’s 2019 report on Women, Business and the Law finds that only 6 countries in the entire world have closed the gender gap with a perfect score of 100.
The score is calculated according to key questions on law restrictions by gender, including how easily women are able to travel, get a job, get paid well, receive maternity leave and pay and run a business. South Africa scores 88. We may be placing it in the top third of results, but we still need to ask why our legislature is not 100% equal.
Where do we improve?
A 2018 Statssa report notes that the female NEET rate (not in employment, education or training) is consistently higher than that of men. For black women, the NEET rate is at its highest of over 40%.
It is nothing new that education is one of the most important sectors in South Africa which needs to be improved. Where Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment assists with black unemployment, change from a grassroots level is slower and in need.
104 countries have at least one law restricting women’s choice of work. These range from not being able to drive buses with more the 14 seats in Moldova, to selling alcohol in Argentina.
Even once employed, women and particularly women of colour are disadvantaged. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Gender gap report, women today are earning the same as men ten years ago – half of men’s current earnings.
This is not to mention the amount of unpaid labour which women do. Taking care of young children is a time-consuming and strenuous job, one without which our world cannot function.
So why are women not compensated for such work?
Traditional gender roles have dictated that women are predominantly the caregivers, entrenching a pattern of women staying home while men work. Before the industrial revolution, this made sense as work was strenuous labour and men had the strength.
However, it is not the case today, and hasn’t been for quite some time. Yet this history now plays a role in today’s gender inequality. The idea of domestic work being seen as women’s work is a major factor contributing to the Gender Pay Gap.
Globally, men’s participation in the labour force is 26% higher than women’s.
When it comes to succeeding in the workplace, there is once again a definite imbalance. Around the world, senior positions are dominated by white men. As one moves up the corporate ladder, the percentage of white men gets higher, whereas for white women, and even more so for men and women of colour, it drastically decreases. Only 32% of managers in South Africa are women.
There is clearly a long road ahead for the fight for gender equality. For South Africa and the world, the idea of the feminine needs to change. Women need to be given the same opportunities for education, for employment and for promotions. They need to be paid the same, and they need to be compensated for unpaid labour such as childcare.
Feminism is not women being better than men. Feminism is women being equal to men. Feminism is equality, something clearly still lacking in the modern day.