For a long time, the advocacy against gender inequality in all sectors of the society has been on the increase as several scholars, activists, feminists, professionals and organizations, both for profit and not for profit organizations, utilize available opportunities in ensuring that discrimination in the society and at workplace is eradicated completely. Gender equality and women’s empowerment continue to be central themes in global treaties, covenants and declarations because they are now acknowledged as catalysts to people-centered development strategies.
Despite the significant contribution of women in domestic activities and the few societal positions given to them, Nigeria still records a very low rate of women participations in various sectors such as technology, politics, economic, health and agriculture as these sectors are believed to be best fitting for men to occupy. In effect, a well-being and equity perspective, such gender inequalities are problematic as they lower well-being and are a form of injustice in most conceptions of equity or justice (Stephen and Francesa, 2009).
The history of discrimination against women stemmed up from the patriarchal practice where women had been stereotyped to play certain domestic roles and functions while the men dominated vital roles in the society, hence exploiting and oppressing women. This stereotyped culture has hitherto led to the slow development in the aforementioned sectors. Women who have overtime played tremendous roles in the socio-economic development of any nation are given limited slot in Nigerian strategic sectors, especially those stereotyped to be best fitted by men alone.
This practice aroused the interest of both international and local bodies, hence the need to formulate policies with the aim of fostering equality among genders. Policies such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPFA) were formulated. BDPFA was passed on the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China on 4th to 15th September, 1995 and it addresses discrimination against women in key sectors such as education, health, economy and power and decision making, among others. The policy advocated that gender mainstreaming should be strictly followed in all spheres and aspect of an organization.
In Nigeria, the National Gender Policy was formulated in 2002 during the President Olusegun era, with the goal of building a just society devoid of discrimination. The National Gender Policy emerged due to the permissive nature of gender discrimination inherent in the society and it was signed to support gender mainstreaming in policies and governance. The policy also stipulates that 35 percent of women should be present in all governance process. Sani (2013) posits that the attainment of gender equality is not only seen as an end in itself and human rights issue, but as a prerequisite of sustainable development.
Despite the existence of constitutional provisions and commitments to regional and international human rights treaties and conventions, the rights of women and girls are grossly violated and devalued in Nigeria and many African countries.
Schools of thought believes that women (compared to men) lack access to employment opportunities because of low investment in their human capital, especially their low level of education, and lack of skills appropriate for formal labour employment. However, women therefore dominate small-scale commerce in food, textiles, household goods and consumables. The few women employed in the formal labour market work within an environment which is very unconducive and full of discrimination.
Dr. Nancy Snyderman, an American physician wrote thus in her article; “Women in the workplace lack promotion opportunities”:
“It seems that women on the path to leadership tend to get less access to the people, input, and opportunities that accelerate careers. As a result, you see few women advancing to the top of the corporate ladder. This disparity is especially pronounced for women of color, who face the most barriers to advancement and experience the steepest drop-offs with seniority.
The new report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org. finds that for every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted. Another statistic that is disheartening is compared to women, almost twice as many men are hired from the outside as directors—and more than three times as many are hired as senior VPs.
A recent article in Fortune Magazine reports that one inequity that seems to jump out more than any other is women being passed over for employment promotion opportunities ”
This erroneous discrimination imposes on the Government, human resource practitioners and recruitment agencies to develop programs, practices and processes aimed at advocating gender equality at workplace, developing and empowering women to meet up with workplace human capital demand.
Ensuring equal representation of women in the workplace can have positive effects across the entire organization and by extension, the nation.
Also, harnessing the benefits of gender diversity enhances collaboration, improves productivity, creativity and innovation in a work system and this reflects in the national performance.