The efforts to uplift the girl child in Kenya have been very fruitful. We in Kenya, pride ourselves to have a constitution that is very supportive of women and their rights. We pride ourselves on having our women enjoy a good representation in decision making positions thanks to the 2/3 gender rule. This is through legislation where we have women representatives lobbying and advocating for the rights and interest of women. And we also pride ourselves to be a country that is a signatory to some very good international laws which protect the rights of women such as; CEDAW, African Charter on Human and People’s rights (ACHPR), The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol)
There is so much beauty in seeing women go out and grab careers that they have truly worked hard for. But despite many women empowerment initiatives and laws that govern equal rights for all, we still have a wide Male-Female pay gap in Kenya.
It should be clear, when one is talking about the difference between men and women earnings, the rationale behind the comparison should be specified.
In this article, the writer compares men and women earnings, not in the same exact job or same company but by the fact that more women work in fewer advanced or lack in top ranks of lucrative professions.
This does not mean that we do not have women who hold top rank positions in their professions. What the writer is trying to highlight is the fact that, most Kenyan Women are economically disadvantaged and that women outnumber men in lower ranking fields, such as secretarial and administrative roles, while men dominate in senior positions.
Historically, most women in Kenya did not have access to education. They were not allowed to school and some of them got married-off at an early age. For many years, women have been led to believe that their place in the society was at home; to take care of the families. This led to many women having lower education levels and work experience as compared to men, which is one of the reasons for the gender earnings gap in Kenya.
Women empowerment and government interventions have seen many women having access to formal education and training beyond secondary school level. This include; laws that govern equal rights for all and the various initiatives such as; The Women Empowerment in Kenya Link and other efforts done by Non Governmental organisations that work in Kenya. However, even to date, women are likely to be more economically disadvantaged especially after marriage. This is mainly because for a large portion of a woman’s life, parenting and housekeeping are her primary occupations. We still have the debate on the gender roles and issues to do with feminism that has seen many women do most of the household work and childcare.
In many marriages including those of individuals that are highly educated, there are patterns of favoritism in the husband’s career over wives. This lack of equal parental responsibility affects women earnings in that; women are more likely to work part time, work from home, or drop out of the workforce after they have children, making gender wage gap persists.
They say science needs women and women need science.
Sex distribution of occupations is a major issue that one should consider when trying to address the issue on gender earnings gap.
STEM careers are among the best lucrative professions but we have many gender stereotypes in Kenya who have had people thinking that STEM courses are for men. This has gotten many students’ career choices guided by gender, which is wrong. Mae C. Jemison, The first African American woman to travel in space once said, “We look at science as something very elite, something only a few people can learn. That’s just not true. You just have to start early and give kids a foundation. Kids live up, or down to expectations.”
If we had more women in STEM celebrated by the media, it would encourage young girls into pursuing STEM courses and this would see a reduction in the gender earnings gap.
Then there is this issue of sexual harassment where most people do not consider it a contributing factor to the social earnings gap. The negative effect of sexual harassment on women earnings takes multiple forms. This could be; women leaving their job to escape harassment or getting stonewalled from promotions or raises after denying her boss’s advances, among other situations.
Women are more likely to be on the victims of sexual harassment causing many them to leave their job for a lower paying job or shift entirely to a different industry in the name of saving their dignity. This complicates the positions that these women hold and it takes so much time for a woman to get a senior position in an organization.
Women have been endowed as a portion not only with sweetness and patience, they have often shown the most active zeal, the most intrepid devotion, and the most astonishing self-possession. For us to have sustainable economic growth and social development, we need to elevate our women and their economic roles in the society. When women are economically empowered, their family incomes rise and the whole society benefits.