• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
businessday logo


Break the bias

Break the bias

Every year since 1975 the UN has recognised March 8 as International Women’s Day. This day set aside globally is symbolic to draw attention to women’s plight and to celebrate women no matter where they are in the world and celebrate their achievement.

There has been quite an effort over the years to draw attention to the under-representation of women in politics and leadership. Statistics show that globally there are only 27 percent of women in managerial positions and only 19.5 percent hold corporate board positions, while only 6.7 percent are Board chair and only 5 percent are CEOs.

In addition to these, there are biases like not believing in a woman’s competency even in her area of expertise and being passed over for promotion for a man who does not even have a quarter of her competencies.

I was in the civil service for 35 years and experienced this first hand. There are other biases like the motherhood penalty bias. Statistics show that 23 percent of women in the US say they have been passed over for promotion because they have children. Maternity leaves should not be used to punish anyone. Someone is adding value to the population. How does it make her less efficient, less hard working?

Do men not want better lives for their daughters, wives and female relations? It boggles the mind. If they are better, are we not all better together

I have seen it first hand in Nigeria. These cold statistics indicate that in spite of the many strides women have made, including the right to vote, women continue to hold the short end of the stick.

In Saudi Arabia, women have just secured the right to drive without a male escort, while in most Latin American countries the very idea of Machismo means it is possible to suffer violence or even death just by saying no to a man’s advances.

Back home in Nigeria, we still have blinkers in our eyes about a woman leading or even having a voice. I am saddened that despite the effort of many stakeholders, the number of women in the National Assembly dropped at the last election, even though many more women contested in previous years.

In spite of our appellation as the giant of Africa, we continue to ignore the truth of the humanity and equality of women. That we are physically different does not change our brain matter. Women hold half the sky, and the population of Nigerian women indicates that we can do more, help to make our nation better if given the chance. Rwanda post-genocide remains miles ahead of Nigeria on gender equity and holds the enviable position of one of the leading nations in the world and the highest in Africa for gender equality in governance and the society.

At the end of the 2018 elections, Rwanda now has 62 percent of female representation in Parliament. In addition, a woman earns 80 cents to a man’s one dollar, making earnings by gender almost at par. It is not hard to see how Rwanda in spite of its many challenges achieved these milestones. Strong political commitment. Period! When a nation chooses that it will run with only half of its population, it loses the skill-sets and diversity that the other half brings. A couple of weeks ago, Nigeria’s National Assembly threw out gender bills that would attempt at giving 20 percent affirmation to appointed and elective positions to women to give them a leg up the ladder.

I am still wondering what the challenge with giving women an opportunity will be. The patriarchal mindset is still there and the biases remain entrenched. Sad!

Do men not want better lives for their daughters, wives and female relations? It boggles the mind. If they are better, are we not all better together?

Research has shown that when in leadership roles, women provide more opportunities for other women and can pull up a lot more women and improve their quality of lives. Women socialise nations, hold families up and support the socio-economic development of their family units and their nation.

Read also: Women to share insights on ‘Breaking the Bias’ at 2022 Live Awake Conference

This year’s International Women’s Day has as its theme: ‘Gender Equality Today for Sustainable Tomorrow, #Break the Bias.’ What are these biases? Some of them include thoughts like women can’t lead, women don’t know science, technology and engineering, women don’t know what they want, women can’t drive, women are too emotional, etcetera.

From thoughts we begin to elevate them as facts. What are those biases that we have unconsciously imbibed over the years as women and men? That women are daft? That nothing will happen if they are raped? That silence is better than speaking out against discrimination?

Whatever bias you have been carrying around, 2022 is the year to break that bias. Here are some of the ways:

Be intentional about your goals. Be focused and follow your dreams;

Be careful to choose a life partner who treats you as an equal and encourages you to live your full potential; Get as much knowledge as you can. Knowledge is power; Get a role model and be ready to mentor others; While you are at it, look after your mental health; Believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you you are not good enough or can’t achieve, etc.

Break the bias – one bias at a time. At home, in the workplace and even in a public place. Do not accept disrespect from anyone even if they are your family. You are a human being. People should treat you well, not like furniture. People should respect your ideas and accept that you bring enough to the table, not try to shout you down at meetings.

Renew your battered self-esteem and stand tall. You were fearfully and wonderfully created by God. You fulfill procreation, you nurture society, you propagate peace, you feed nations. Who told you you are not good enough. Invest in self love. Break the bias.

Happy International Women’s week wherever you are in the world. And as a prize-winning poet, Maya Angelou, says… Woman, you are phenomenal. So true!