As we head towards the 24th anniversary of our democracy, the reality is that we are a long way from having achieved equality in many sectors of our society. Much of the focus on inequalities which still exist has been on racism, which is justified. However, in the process, we wonder if the equally pressing issue of gender inequality has been put on the back burner.
Women in this country are second-class citizens. There is no denying that. And no amount of posturing by politicians or public displays of “sensitivity” by men is going to change that any time soon.
The one thing which unites many men across their divisions of race, class and culture, is that they believe women should be their supports and be the ones who run the home. This chauvinism is clearly seen in the workplace where, according to Statistics South Africa’s Labour Market Dynamics Survey, women earn, on average, 23% less than men.
There is no justification for that, despite the excuses and rationalisations which men can come up with. Among them: Most men are breadwinners and women take more time off to have and raise children.
In this country, many households are headed by single women, juggling jobs and home-making in a way men cannot imagine. As for taking time off for children, this is their right and does not make them any less effective in an employment situation.
Business Women’s Association SA board member Kerry Anne Oosthuysen says gender discrimination, especially in terms of pay, is rife in the private sector, because job grading and pay notches are not as standardised and publicised as they are in the civil service. The message to men should be: People who do the same job deserve the same pay.
After all, these are are your sisters, your wives and your daughters, too…