All Articles Tagged "gender equality"
Manhattan-based Japanese financial firm Nomura has not had many women working for it over the years. So the company has decided that it wants to have fewer toilets for women. The male-dominated company has requested a new Certificate of Occupancy that will let it change the ratio of ” water closets and lavatories” to be 75/25, male to female.
According to Jezebel, the 59-story West Side building’s ownership group, led by George Comfort & Sons, has tried to justify this request by explaining to the New York Post that “certain financial operations” in the building (that would be Nomura) have been overwhelmingly male. New York’s plumbing code requires that companies get a city approval to make this sort of change due to a mandate that the number of toilets in women’s restrooms be equal to the number of urinals and toilets in men’s restrooms reports the Post. The building’s owners, however claim that toilet parity would be superfluous, an unnecessary expenditure.
Fewer toilets for women could give the company a reason not to hire more women in the long run, speculated Robert Brubaker from the American Restroom Association (yes, this exists). He told the Post, ”They could get into a thing where they say they can’t hire more women because they don’t have enough toilets.”
So rather than strive for equality, just cut the number of toilets. Crazy talk.
There’s a battle brewing in Congress over fair pay for women. And part of the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would also prohibit companies from retaliating against workers who discuss salary information. More importantly,the law would also require employers to provide evidence that any pay discrepancies among workers are unrelated to gender, reports The Huffington Post.
If there is transparency in how much workers are paid, employers won’t be able to “hide behind excuses for paying men more,” Mikulski argued in a statement on the Senate floor. The idea is there will be an increased focus on merit, with business results and job performance becoming the primary factor for determining pay.
According to a 2011 study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research cited by USA Today, women earn on average about 82 percent of what men make. And the gender wage gap is even bigger for minority women.
The Paycheck Fairness Act aims to expand the Lilly Ledbetter Act that President Obama signed into law in 2009. The Lilly Ledbetter Act gives workers more flexibility when suing employers over pay discrimination.
So recently I was in Ghana on a repatriation and investment tour, taking in culture and history and some of the social scene, particularly the men folk.
Let’s be honest, I don’t care how wonderfully vibrant and economically lush a country may be, a good social game is paramount to any choice destination, especially if you are a young, single person looking to repatriate. Well, you would be happy to know that there are some really good looking men in Ghana in a variety of styles and hues. Likewise, most folks there speak English, in addition to native languages, and they dress almost similar to Westerners, so you won’t be too home sick.
But there are some notable cultural differences. For one, Ghanaian men have no qualms about being affectionate–including with each other. Imagine the raised eyebrows at seeing men – self-described straight men — holding hands, hugging and dancing in groups with each other. That would never happen here in the States. Never. Even Yuwil, a new friend of mine from Washington State, who dreams of expatriating to Ghana in hopes of getting more in touch with his African side, said upon seeing two men swinging arms and holding hands, “S**t, that’s one local custom they can keep to themselves.”
However, despite having a more modern feel to the country, in some ways Ghanaians, particularly Ghanaian men, still tend to lean more on traditional gender roles. For instance, Stephanie from Brooklyn, another traveler on the tour, was sitting with me and having food and drinks at the lounge at our hotel in Accra. We were conversing with two Ghanaian men about how common it was to see women walking around balancing and carrying trays of stuff – food, water bottled for sale, meat, rice, firewood – on their head and a baby tied to their backs, while her male companion seemed to walk beside her, untethered by baggage and/or children. “Why does it seems like the women do all the work and the men here just pretty much take it easy?” Stephanie asked, with some cosigns from me.
“See when women start talking that human rights stuff, I stop listening and say go ‘head,” said Kojo, who acted as security and local customs and courtesy expert for the tour. By human rights, he meant gender equality. And he was done with the conversation before we even started. “You see, those are Western women values. Ghanaian men are very respectful of women,” said Kobina, another native Ghanaian tour guide and friend of Kojo. According to both men, who hail from the Ashanti region, the foreigners, particularly NGO (non-government organizations), have imposed their own values on Ghana, including the belief that women are being oppressed. Therefore, more women are willing to delay marriage and leave their husbands for what both men described as the most frivolous of reasons. “I know a woman, who left her husband because he cheated on her. How silly is that?” said Kobina.
As Kobina explained, there are duties in society that each gender is expected to perform. Women are expected to take care of the house, take care of the children, take care of the men and perform their womanly duties every night – the latter of which was emphasized many times. However, this doesn’t mean that women are powerless. In fact, said Kobina, when it comes to the home front, the family is very matriarchal. While women do most of the housework including laundry, cooking and the cleaning, women also keep order and call most of the shots in the house, particularly decisions around the family. “Really when it comes to the children, women have the final say. It doesn’t matter what the men say. If the mother doesn’t like it, it’s not going to happen,” he said.
But then I asked about our visit to the local weaving craft village, where we witnessed how the process to make the ink they used to die fabric was divided between the genders. What about that?. “You had this woman with a baby tied to her back, using all her might to pound and pound at this wood bark with this big, six-foot-tall pounding stick in order to extract liquid from it. And after all that huffing and puffing she does, the guy casually picks up the ink, puts it in a pot and stirs it – and that is the extent of his job. Clearly she is doing all the hard work in the relationship,” said Stephanie.
Kobina, laughing, assured us that we’re just not seeing the full picture. According to him, men are the ones who cut the wood and bring the food to make the stuff in the pot. “We’re the hunters. Who do you think finds the food? Women are not going to go up in the tree to get the coconuts, instead, they want us to do the heavy lifting jobs.” Using a panties analogy, Kobina said that while women will wash a man’s “panties,” men, on the other hand, wouldn’t wash a woman’s panties because that is woman’s work. And any man caught tending to his wife’s unmentionables would likely be laughed at and ridiculed by as many women as men. Kobina added that, “The reason why men don’t carry things is because they always have a stick in their hands. This is because they have to be ready to fight and defend their family, in case of an attack.”
Okay, so it’s the African version of chivalrous behavior? I’ll bite. However, I wasn’t quite convinced. So Kobina invited some strange local woman, who just happened to be waiting at the pool, to come speak to us. While she agreed with Kojo and Kobina that women do perform these duties out of respect for the family structure, she was also adamant that women, in fact, do the majority of the hard work. That’s when Kojo and Kobina thanked the sister and told her to go on about her business. I guess they had to send her away before she let the cat out of the bag any further.
There are plenty of men I met in Ghana, who offer the same opinions as our male Ghanaian friends. However, the gender equality conversation I had with Kojo and Kobina is almost identical to conversations I’ve had with men right here in Philadelphia. In fact, there were many situations that felt similar, including talk about baby mothers, child support and cheating spouses. It just goes to show you that no matter where you go in the world, male/female relationships stay virtually the same.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Norwegians are playing a cruel joke on us. They want us to believe it’s 1950 all over again and unless we’re at home barefoot, pregnant, and preparing a hot meal that will be ready as soon as our husbands hits the door, our marriage is doomed for splitsville. At least that was my take away from a new study conducted abroad which found the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than the rate among couples where the woman did most of the work.
“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study, “Equality in the Home,” told the UK’s Telegraph. “One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite,” he said.
As I’m sure comes as no surprise to any married woman, the study showed that the more a man did in the home, the higher the divorce rate. Hansen has a few intersecting theories about why that is, suggesting:
“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes. There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight.”
Then there’s the other theory that modernity is the problem, and maybe we do need to take a few lessons from the ‘50s.
“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Hansen said. “In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce.”
Although this study was conducted in Norway, their societal makeup isn’t all that different from America, perhaps more progressive in that in about 70 percent of the cases in the study, child-rearing is shared equally between mothers and fathers. But just like the case is in America, when it comes to housework, women in Norway still handle most of it in seven out of 10 couples. The study made it a point to note that women who did most of the chores did so by choice and were just as happy as the modern families.
Dr. Frank Furedi, sociology professor at the University of Canterbury, told the Telegraph these results aren’t all that surprising as shared responsibility in the home was more common among middle class couples where divorce rates are already known to be high.
“These people are extremely sensitive to making sure everything is formal, laid out and contractual. That does make for a fairly fraught relationship. The more you organize your relationship, the more you work out diaries and schedules, the more it becomes a business relationship than an intimate, loving spontaneous one,” he said.
“That tends to encourage a conflict of interest rather than finding harmonious resolutions. In a good relationship people simply don’t know who does what and don’t particularly care. Unless marriage is a relationship above anything else, then whenever there are tensions or contradictions things come to a head. You have less capacity to forgive and absorb the bad stuff.”
Hmmm good point. What do you think about this finding?
*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Gender equality doesn’t appear to be much of a reality when it comes to pay inside the White House. The 2011 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff shows that women earned about 18 percent less than men last year.
The Washington Free Beacon reports:
“Female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).”
The author, Andrew Stiles, notes that some assumptions about an employees gender had to be made based on their name but says “when unclear, every effort was taken to determine the appropriate gender.”
This news is particularly damaging for two reasons. One, the democrats have been calling out republicans for their “war on women” in relation to the slew of restrictive reproductive proposals that have come from the party which means the GOP will no doubt see this as an opportunity to call dems out on the own type of war they’re waging.
The second issue is that when Barack Obama was just a presidential candidate in 2008, he was criticized for paying the women on his campaign staff less than the men, and less than his opponent John McCain paid his female staffers. Since he’s become president he has been rather outspoken about wanting to close the pay gap, although it appears that hasn’t happened just yet, despite issuing a statement on equal pay in 2010 that read:
“My Administration has already begun to address this problem. In my first week in office, I signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women who face wage discrimination recover their lost wages, and in my State of the Union Address, I promised to crack down on violations of equal pay laws.”
It’s unclear whether some of the White House staff will come forth with lawsuits as a result of this report, but if President Obama doesn’t respond to this news soon, things will likely get very ugly.
Are you surprised women aren’t even earning an equal wage in the White House?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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