The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is, “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”, with the hashtag #BalanceForBetter.
We gathered women from different careers and walks of life who gave their two cents on how they view the gender balance in their industries.
Queenter Mbori-Saina, President of Standard Group Women Network and Chief Sub Editor at The Nairobian
Sadly there is no perfect gender balance at my workplace and this is the picture in most media organisations. Also, in the current media space, women are under-represented as sources or as employees. They are the focus of only 10 per cent of news stories and comprise just 20 per cent of experts and sources interviewed.
Additionally, only 4 per cent of news stories challenge gender stereotypes. That is why one of the objectives of Standard Group Women Network is to create a diversity policy that ensures women are empowered through training and mentorship for career growth. In my opinion, balance for better means knowing who you are and what you want. I encourage women to invest in empowering themselves.
Florence Nyaga, Taxi driver
Work is good. For my workspace, it really depends on your effort. I feel like we are the same if I am doing the same job they are doing. More people prefer to ride with male drivers more than female drivers. Sometimes, people cancel the ride when they see the driver is a woman and some get happy. Some fellow drivers look down on us because we are women. I hope they can change their attitude. Most of us do a better job than the men in our field.
Hon Esther Passaris, Nairobi County Women Representative
It’s so obvious we are the minority in Parliament. When you look in a room and you see more men than women, you realise you are in a different turf. Parliament would be more exciting if there were more women. The validation of a woman’s beauty comes from the compliment of a man but it’s more profound when it comes from a woman.
We need a lot more women to celebrate women. Don’t look at another woman as competition but look at her as someone you aspire to be. It was disappointing when the Members of Parliament failed to pass the Two-thirds Gender Bill because they have wives, mothers and daughters. They came from women and yet they denied women their rightful space even after the Constitution fought for us.
Dr Myrna Kalsi, Forensic Odontologist
There isn’t a perfect balance in the field of forensics. It’s a good thing to aspire to have more women in forensic science, diplomacy and government -- and in the right positions. There may be a perception that there are no women at consultant level in certain fields but we are a country that has numerous women who are accomplished in whatever they do. A new era of cooporation will mean that institutions representing developed nations acknowledge the African woman consultant from the developing nations. It is hard to be recognised. The African woman consultant’s voice needs to be acknowledged and raised.
Evaclaire Kairu, Finance officer at KEMRI in donor funded projects
There is no perfect balance in my field. The older generation accountants feel intimidated that there are young women who are doing what they do better and differently. Sometimes, you have to bring yourself down to make a man look better than you. In terms of pay, things are getting better. We are almost at par but not there yet. Managements should not feel like a woman can’t do a better job because she’s younger than a man in spite of her having a higher level of education. It would be better to level everyone on the same field.
Wanuri Kahiu, Filmmaker
It’s hard for me to talk about the income gap in Kenya because most of us who have made films have not made money from it. Kenya is one of the rare places where we have many female filmmakers. The rest of the industry is heavily weighted towards men and, as a director, one is likely to be on a set that has at least 80 per cent men and that’s something we really need to improve. We don’t have any female cinematographers from Kenya.
The gap is in the expertise and this is something we need to bridge. When making the film Rafiki, we tried to have more female interns attached to various departments. If we were to really delve into these issues, there would be a lot more women speaking up. Sometimes it’s the inappropriate touching and flirting and jokes that make women uncomfortable. Women have had to negotiate things that are uncomfortable. We’ve been on sets where men are in a corner looking at women’s bodies.
The film industry allows for a lot of sexual harassment in the workplace. In most of the cases, the men don’t even know they are sexually harassing women although that is not an excuse. If I was to change one thing in the film industry, I would give mandatory paternity leave to new fathers and work on the income gap between men and women.
Lucia Murotto, Matatu Conductor, Wamasaa Investment Sacco
In the beginning, it was hard for me to work because I am a woman and white but people are used to me now. The fact that people saw me every day made them see that I was there for work and not anything else. I love what I do and if I was to change anything about the industry, I would let matatu crew wear the clothes they are comfortable in.
Sophie Mukwana, Forensic Scientist
There are not many women in my field just as there are not many men. The few women I know who work as forensic scientists or experts work in government institutions and all of them are in senior positions. The pay in government is of course determined by pay grade. In the private sector, working as a consultant as I do, you can determine your own rates.
Lilian Mwende, Policewoman
I am proud of my job and what makes me devoted in my work is that the duties I perform are equal to the ones men in uniform perform. I hope that the government recruits more women into the service to make my fellow women feel honoured and respected in the society.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke