On Gender Equality and Lip Service: Beyond the Pay Gap

Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
You know, she deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship. And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.
– President Barack Obama

In the last few years much has been said about trying to close the gap between working conditions and expectations for men and women. You know how it’s so cool for a man to take time off work once in a while to attend Open Day at his child’s school, but if a woman did as she is naturally expected to, it would be asking for too much too often?

Many women groups and mentoring programs have sprung up in the last few years to address this. These programs take on different shapes and forms – you may get assigned a professional mentor who has probably gained experience in your area of specialization and who is supposed to be able to teach you the ropes. She’s also supposed to teach you how to be a superwoman – to combine family and a successful career.
Here’s why I have questions: Many women are managers, employers of labour, decision makers, heads of human resources in their respective organizations. So why is it still so hard to help other women progress or get better working conditions for the women who work under them. It’s because as it is with many other things, there’s a lot of motion and no movement, and I dare say plenty of lip service. Its easy to step into a power suit and step on a platform and talk about wage gap and how we wish it were easier for women to grow their careers while raising their families, and then go right back to the office and be the ice queen that no woman would dare ask for half a day off because she wants to attend her daughter’s recital. It’s also easy to talk about how it’s important to have a work life balance when raising children but complain that work is suffering when someone is asking for an extra month of maternity leave, albeit unpaid, so she can bond with her baby.
I’m treading carefully here, seeing as I don’t have kids yet and I have not been in the position to actively steer a company’s HR policies as I would. I’m also not trying to rubbish the work of women who dedicate their time and effort to mentoring other women and help them on their respective career journeys. It’s a lot of work.
I’m just saying here that if we paid a little more attention and showed a little more empathy to the women around us, perhaps we would advance our own cause faster than if we spoke empty words. Start where you are. Mentor the women around you, create a warmer workplace. By doing this you create a domino effect where women naturally show empathy towards other women and are sensitive to the dynamics of work-life balance. If you’re head of human resources, maybe your next employee retention program/ strategy should include the idea of a creche for children of employees, maybe an extra two weeks paid maternity leave and more child friendly policies. Maybe we could all just show empathy, knowing how hard it is to juggle home and work life for women. Be the woman other women can talk to and trust.
Beyond Labour Day and International Women’s Day speeches, beyond “Lean In” book clubs and trying to chase superwoman, there’s real work to be done. And it won’t get done if we-men don’t roll up their sleeves and fight for what they should actually get. This is how progress is made.

Light a fire where you are.


Can We Change the Conversation?

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better”- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.


So this my well-meaning friend, let’s call her Mrs. Z (because Mrs. A is too mainstream). Mrs Z and I lost touch, then I restored BBM on a new device and voila, here she is. Mrs Z and I have a short catching up conversation, it was 2 years since the last time we spoke. I try to ask enough questions, but not enough to make anyone uncomfortable or cross lines that I didn’t know existed. Anyways, the next night, I get a chat notification. It’s Mrs Z. “Gbemi are you married?” “Err… Nope”. “But you promised me the last time that you would get married in 2014?” “No Ma’am! I didn’t promise, but I planned to, but the whole roadmap changed”. “So when will it be now?” “Sweetie (because, I don’t want to say Boo Boo Kitty a la Cookie Lyon), if I could buy a good husband, I would have. But I can’t. So I’ll just wait till I find someone who wants me and who I want.” It gets interesting.

“But you know you’re not getting any younger, and beauty, especially for women fades”. I rush off to the bathroom with a torch (I haven’t been able to change my bathroom bulb because I’m vertically challenged) and I stare long and hard at my face. So far I have managed to defy gravity. So far. I look 23, sometimes. I run back to my phone. “Sweetie, my own beauty doesn’t fade o. Jesus has given me beauty for ashes. Besides, beauty is way more than skin deep. It’s from somewhere deep within”. Mrs Z is unrelenting. “I understand. I just think that time is going”. “I have nothing but time”. “What if I introduce you to someone?” “Errr. Nope. Been there, done that, got a T-Shirt. I’m good. Besides, I have a peculiar taste in men”  “There’s this my friend that I have given your number” “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”.


In the last couple of months, I’ve met many well-meaning people like Mrs. Z who are eternally trying to marry me off. And I have nothing but love for them, seeing as I have previously proved absolutely inept at getting my own game (Key word here is previously). However, I do have reservations about a society that teaches women that they are incomplete outside the walls of a home or marriage. I am hopelessly romantic and trying to be open to love. But I have come to learn that there’s so much more to life than a three letter prefix and children. And I think that it’s unfair to judge a woman’s success based on her inability to be yoked.


Being single is not a deficiency. There’s so much more to life for women, besides marriage and children. There’s passion and advocacy and travel and career. But if you feel marriage is God’s calling for you, it still doesn’t invalidate the choice of the other woman choosing not to marry yet. Don’t make someone else feel inadequate because they are single.


Maybe we should start asking our daughters and friends where their careers are going and start fighting for equal pay, rather than hassle them about their marital status.