Working Women: Breaking Stereotypes

Throughout history, woman and men have had very different roles in their societies. As we can see by looking at most ancient (and some modern) cultures, men typically are the ones who are involved in the workforce, the ones who leave every morning to make money or bring goods home to the family. They stay at their employment for long hours, working their hands to the bone to attempt to make a living for their family. Conversely, the women are the homemakers, the part of the couple that stays home with the children, many times pregnant, cleaning the house and cooking for their husband and family. She is the one who brings children into the world so their man can have a legacy, while the man attempts to keep them alive by working. In our modern society, this archaic outline for a family has limited women from becoming something more than a homemaker, keeping them in a role that is in some cases no longer necessary with societies’ advances. These unfortunate custom is hard for women to overcome, many times keeping them from reaching their real potential as a businessperson or leader. It is apparent when we look at the workforce that women aren’t being allowed the same chances as men to make a difference in their societies, for they aren’t able to escape this cliche of what each gender should do.

In many countries, women are not only underrepresented in the workforce – they are paid less solely because they are women. In areas that suffer from extreme poverty, this is an issue. These women are perfectly able to leave the home and work but due to the stereotypes of what they should be doing, they aren’t given a fair chance. In some cases, women aren’t even paid for their labor, chalking it up to more “homemaking” and preparation for the family. When they are paid a share for their work, it’s anything but equal to what the men make. Additionally, women aren’t taken seriously when they attempt to deviate from the norm and make a real difference in their societies. They are constantly being taken advantage of and even sexually harassed by the male-dominated workforce. Very rarely does a woman make a fair salary when compared to a man with the same position and often they have little to no chance at advancement in their place of work anyways. Not only does this keep women from moving up in society, it keeps them from trying to kill the stereotype in the first place.

Naledi Pandor, South African Minister of Home Affairs

There are many people who are attempting to help women break their way onto the workforce, and although they have seen some success, there is much to be done before women can truly feel equal as partners. South African Minister of Home Affairs, Naledi Pandor, is confident in their future, even if the effects haven’t set in yet: “There are a number of sectors in which we seem to be making excellent progress, such as the access of women to university education, but the movement has not been shaped by a change in attitude — it is primarily shaped by the constitution and the new laws enacted post-democracy.” However, Pandor speaks about how as long as the workforce is structured for and around men, it will be difficult to find a place for women. Additionally, because of this gender discrimination, men are typically more confident and are able to obtain promotions and better positions with more ease. However, advancements in education is helping to lead to more knowledgeable women entering the workforce and there is hope for the near future to see changes in these ancient gender stereotypes.

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