Why despite many challenges, women can still get ahead

“Although we were not able to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling this time,” said Hillary Clinton when she dropped out of the Democratic Party nomination in 2008, “thanks to you, it has 18 million cracks in it.”

Mrs Clinton was making history as the first female presidential candidate in America’s 220 year-old democracy. The hopes of women across the world rose with Mrs Clinton improbable candidature.

Yet 10 years later, the glass ceiling still remains too high for many women, especially in Kenya.

Enter the C-suite of any corporation in Kenya and you will be confronted by a Big Boys’ Club. Out of the 10 suited honchos, all mostly aged 40 and above, there will be the odd token woman thrown in there to create the image of gender parity. Just below the top cream, you will also find women who have almost made it, but just never seem to get a seat at the table. 

And as the world marked the International Woman’s Day yesterday, the occasion offered a chance to pause and reflect on what holds back woman from forging ahead.

Obviously, the opposite sex ranks high. Efforts to sooth the male species to accept the woman as being equally capable (at times better than him) have been relentless and sustained.

A lot more girls enroll and stay in class as long as the boys. In fact, more go on to pursue careers formerly deemed as boys’-only. Maternal Mortality Rates (500 deaths per 100,000) have gone down significantly with more women accessing adequate antenatal care. And there is even legislation on gender parity in the form of the two-thirds gender rule. In spite of this, the woman seems lost in an endless struggle to realise her potential.

While women nowadays are just as well educated as the men, they may find themselves working shorter periods that the man often taking more work breaks to nurture children. Men on the other hand work longer hours and avoid career breaks.

Moreover, research findings by McKinsey & Co, a consultancy, showed that women stay at their companies much longer than their male counterparts. This makes them lose out on more competitive roles in the market. This loyalty also widens the pay gap in the long run. Nothing encapsulates the tribulations of the woman than these two cases where “being good” is detrimental to growth prospects.

But then, the rise of Mrs Clinton offers sobering lessons to the woman on what to do to get ahead and stay ahead. First; women should keep the eye on the ball and secondly; women should support each other.

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international women's daygender paritywomen milestones