TODAY, Nigeria joins the rest of the
world to celebrate this year’s International
Women’s Day, IWD, with a campaign
theme: #BeBoldForChange. This year’s
focus is different because for the first time
in human history there is recognition of
women’s contribution to global workforce
in the sub-sector of all economies.
Usually on IWD, the United Nations
brings up a theme that is relevant to the
challenges of women and so the 2017
theme for celebrating the day worldwide
seems to show sympathy on the plight of
women as a segment of unpaid workers in
all societies. The campaign for this year’s
celebration is asking women irrespective
of their colour or creed, educated or not,
urban or rural to #BeBoldForChange. It is
a call on all women to help to forge a better
working world or better still a more gender
inclusive world.
This is also calling on all governments
to make their policies gender inclusive.
The 2017 IWD focuses on “Women in
the Changing World of Work: Planet
50-50 by 2030”. According to the UN
Women, the work world is changing,
with significant implications for women.
On one hand, technological advances
and globalization bring unprecedented
opportunities for those who can access
them. On the other hand, there is growing
informality of labour, income inequality
and humanitarian crises.
Globally the workforce has not being
fair to women because there is usually
inequality in pay and salary structure.
There is this general believe that
women should earn less than their male
counterparts even when they put in the
same energy be it intellectual or manual
efforts into a particular kind of work. This
is because of the subtle believe that women
should be taken care of by men.
In Nigeria the situation is worst because
the workload maybe the same but the paid
definitely lower than what a man earns.
‘’What do you need all that money for they
would ask’’.
Last year, organisations and
individuals around the world supported
the #PledgeForParity campaign and
committed to help women and girls achieve
their ambitions; challenge conscious and
unconscious bias; call for gender-balanced
leadership; value women and men’s
contributions equally; and create inclusive
flexible cultures.
Despite the obvious reasons to close the
pay gap between men and women, the
World Economic Forum predicts the gender
gap won’t close entirely until 2186. The
UN Women data on women in the global
workforce shows that women in services
are 61.5%, Industry 13.5%, Agriculture 25%.
For Women in leadership position- seats in
parliament 23%, Chief Executive Officers,
CEOs 4%.
Against this backdrop, only 50 per cent of
working age women are represented in the
labour force globally, compared to 76 per cent
of men. An overwhelming majority of women
are in the informal economy, subsidizing care
and domestic work, and concentrated in
lower-paid, lower-skill occupations with little
or no social protection. Achieving gender
equality in the world of work is imperative
for sustainable development.
As the United Nations observes 8 March as
the IWD it said it would call upon all actors
and stakeholders to Step It Up for Gender
Equality towards a Planet 50-50 by 2030 by
ensuring that the world of work works for all
Ahead of this year’s celebration of the
women’s day the message by UN Women
Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-
Ngcuka on International Women’s Day, 8
March 2017, titled Women in the Changing
World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030, she
called for a change of attitude towards
women’s work.
Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted the plight
of women in the work world, she said,
‘’Across the world, too many women and
girls spend too many hours on household
responsibilities—typically more than double
the time spent by men and boys’’.
They look after younger siblings, older
family members, deal with illness in the
family and manage the house. In many
cases this unequal division of labour is at the
expense of women’s and girls’ learning, of
paid work, sports, or engagement in civic or
community leadership. This shapes the norms
of relative disadvantage and advantage, of
where women and men are positioned in the
economy, of what they are skilled to do and
where they will work.
This is the unchanging world of unrewarded
work, a globally familiar scene of withered
futures, where girls and their mothers sustain
the family with free labour, with lives whose
trajectories are very different from the men of
the household.
We want to construct a different world of
work for women. As they grow up, girls must
be exposed to a broad range of careers, and
encouraged to make choices that lead beyond
the traditional service and care options to
jobs in industry, art, public service, modern
agriculture and science. We have to start
change at home and in the earliest days of
school, so that there are no places in a child’s
environment where they learn that girls must
be less, have less, and dream smaller than
This will take adjustments in parenting,
curricula, educational settings, and channels
for everyday stereotypes like TV, advertising
and entertainment; it will take determined
steps to protect young girls from harmful
cultural practices like early marriage, and
from all forms of violence.
Women and girls must be ready to be part
of the digital revolution. Currently only 18
per cent of undergraduate computer science
degrees are held by women. We must see
a significant shift in girls all over the world
taking STEM subjects, if women are to
compete successfully for high-paying ‘new
collar’ jobs. Currently just 25 per cent of the
digital industries’ workforce are women.
The UN Women notes that achieving
equality in the workplace will require an
expansion of decent work and employment
opportunities, involving governments’
targeted efforts to promote women’s
participation in economic life, the support of
important collectives like trade unions, and
the voices of women themselves in framing
solutions to overcome current barriers to
women’s participation, as examined by the
UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel
on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
The stakes are high: advancing women’s
equality could boost global GDP by US$12
trillion by 2025.
According to the women agency to
achieve this goal also requires a determined
focus on removing the discrimination
women face on multiple and intersecting
fronts over and above their gender: sexual
orientation, disability, older age, and race.
UN Women says that Wage inequality
follows these: the average gender wage gap
is 23 per cent but this rises to 40 per cent
for African American women in the United
States. In the European Union, elderly
women are 37 per cent more likely to live in
poverty than elderly men.
In roles where women are already overrepresented
but poorly paid, and with
little or no social protection, we must make
those industries work better for women.
For example, a robust care economy that
responds to the needs of women and
gainfully employs them; equal terms and
conditions for women’s paid work and
unpaid work; and support for women
entrepreneurs, including their access
to finance and markets. Women in the
informal sector also need their contributions
to be acknowledged and protected. This
calls for enabling macroeconomic policies
that contribute to inclusive growth and
significantly accelerate progress for the 770
million people living in extreme poverty.
It is believed that addressing the injustices
will take resolve and flexibility from both
public and private sector employers,
especially in low and middle income
societies like Nigeria and other African
countries, where incentives will be needed
to recruit and retain female workers; like
expanded maternity benefits for women
that also support their re-entry into work,
adoption of the Women’s Empowerment
Principles , and direct representation at
decision-making levels.
The UN Women boss further stressed
that accompanying this, important changes
in the provision of benefits for new fathers
are needed, along with the cultural shifts
that make uptake of paternity and parental
leave a viable choice, and thus a real shared
benefit for the family.
In this complexity there are simple, big
changes that must be made: for men to
parent, for women to participate and for
girls to be free to grow up equal to boys.
Adjustments must happen on all sides if
we are to increase the number of people
able to engage in decent work, to keep
this pool inclusive, and to realize the
benefits that will come to all from the equal
world envisaged in our Agenda 2030 for
Sustainable Development.
Now that there is a global advocacy for
better pay for women, it is pertinent that
nations should give women the pay that
rightly belongs to them when they work.
This can only be achieved through gender
inclusive policies and implementation by
governments, Nigeria inclusive.