Women have been marginalized from the workforce because of the historical patriarchy that has existed around the world. In developed countries, a woman’s ability to possess a dual role of both worker and mother is continuously called into question by society. She is constantly asked how she’ll balance her career and motherhood; whereas, her working male partner is never probed about how he’ll manage being a father at the same time. These pressures have often forced women to choose between the two and have furthered women’s marginalization from the workplace. Additionally, in the United States, women are still occupying many of the same jobs they did in the 1970s. Based on Census data, the Huffington Post: Business reports, “It is within the occupational standings where we see the least change in our workforce over the past 40 years. The leading occupations for women in 1970 were secretaries, bookkeepers, and elementary school teachers. In 2006-2010, the leading occupations were secretaries and administrative assistants, cashiers, and elementary and middle school teachers.” Our culture is still dividing careers based upon binary gendered categories.
In the developing world, women are seen as the primary caregivers of both infants and the elderly; they are designated as domestic workers; and contribute to the majority of agriculture production. These traditional societal demands prevent countless women from continuing their educations and establishing a career of their own. In Uganda, for example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations explains that “90 percent of all rural women work in agriculture, compared to 53% of rural men… men are primarily responsible for the marketing side…and women often do not benefit from the sale of their produce.” Moreover, Uganda’s Capacity Program initiated a Ministry of Health Gender Discrimination and Inequality Analysis (GDIA) to determine how gender plays a role within the health workforce. Findings illustrated that there was a “concentration of men at the top of occupational hierarchies and of women at the bottom…men occupied 77% of senior management jobs. Sixty-three percent (63%) of middle management jobs were occupied by men.” The positive news is that the Ministry of Health is now collaborating with the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development; the Ministry of Public Service; and the Health Service Commission/District Service Commissions in attempt to develop an equal opportunity strategy.
Spreading awareness is an important strategy to improve these, and many other, forms of gender discrimination. One interesting movement doing this is the Women On 20s project. Its mission is to elevate women to a place that has been entirely reserved for the men who have shaped American history. Also, another change would be do inspire men to support women in their search for equality. For too long the women’s rights movement has been geared solely toward women. The United Nations He For She campaign is a powerful call to men to join in and stand up for equality between the sexes.
It is difficult for me to completely take one side or the other when it comes to whether or not micro-loans improve the self-sufficiency of women in the workforce. On one side there are success stories, such as those discussed in Sheryl Wu Dunn’s TedTalk “Global Oppression of Women.” However, there are also the unintended, unforeseen complications that often manifest. Naila Keeber’s writes Conflicts Over Credit: Re-Evaluating the Empowerment Potential of Loans to Women in Rural Bangladesh, which outlines and evaluates the conflicting opinions on small-scale credit programs for women in developing nations. Overall, Keeber asserts that many of the negative repercussions cited by opponents originate from the intra-household power imbalances between husband and wife. A particular study illustrated that “access to loans did little to change the management of cash within the household for either female or male loanees. Interpreting reports of ‘joint’ management as disguised male dominance I decision-making, the authors concluded that access to loans had done little to empower women.” It seems as though before loans can empower women out in the community, they must first be empowered within the household structure.