Girls and women are the first victims of gender stereotypes that make you think of a woman when a cook is needed. Gender stereotypes have a way of making us categorize some job roles. However, some women have chosen to challenge and are excelling in male-dominated fields, ERE-EBI AGEDAH IMISI writes
What picture comes to mind when you think of a nurse, a hairdresser or a cook? If you instantly thought of a woman, you’re not alone. Gender stereotypes have a way of making us categorize some job roles as “men only” or “women only”.
Gender stereotype “is a generalized view or preconception about attributes or characteristics that are or ought to be possessed by women and men or the roles that are or should be performed by men and women”
Ironically, we are all influenced by gender, norms or rules that tell us what is appropriate for girls and for boys, women and men to do in our society. Because of gender stereotypes, girls and women are often less valued and have lower social status.
Girls and women suffer most of the negative impact of rigid gender norms and roles and more often than not they are likely to experience restrictions of their freedom and mobility, they experience epidemic levels of violence and harassment and have fewer opportunities to choose how to live their lives.
Stereotypes are how societies expect people to act based on their gender. For example, girls should stay at home and help with housework and childcare, should dress modestly and not stay out late at night. People are often judged by how well they adhere to gender stereotypes. These stereotypes can often bleed out into school and work, where girls are less likely to be encouraged into science and technology subjects or leadership roles, due to the perceived ‘male nature’ of these pursuits. These attitudes limit girls’ power by rendering them less able to help contribute to making the world around them a better place.
Only recently Dr Ngozi okojo Iwela created history when she resumed office at the World Trade Organization to become the first woman to be chosen as Director-General, to show that no woman has been voted or given the opportunity to serve in this office since its existence.
A gender stereotype is therefore harmful when it limits the capacity of women and men to develop their personal attributes or professional skills and to make decisions about their lives and plans.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Nigeria’s premium malt brand followed the lives of three phenomenal women; Sandra Uso Prince-Ekueme, a mechanic, Uju Udoka, a painter and Cynthia Egbunam, a barber who is certainly not “leaving it to the boys.”
These extraordinary women shared their compelling true stories of how they came about their line of work, how they are able to navigate male-dominated spaces and how far they have come. They also answered interesting questions about their challenges, aspirations and shared some practical tips for young girls and women.
Sharing her experiences on the difficulties of starting out in a male-dominated industry, Uju Udoka a painter, revealed that her biggest challenge was sexist stereotypes and having to prove herself when bidding for jobs with male competitors.
Sandra Uso Prince-Ekwueme also stated that she worried that clients would not want to entrust her with jobs because of the societal roadblocks that paint women as weak and feeble-minded. However, she is proud of her progress and hopes to see more women coming into a complete realization of their full potential.
For Cynthia the barber when asked about her biggest challenge as an upcoming barber, Cynthia said, “People don’t always take you seriously. You have to prove yourself over and over again. A lot of people look down on me and don’t think I am capable of doing my job and sometimes people will say ‘women are not allowed to touch my hair”.
However, one striking thing that stood out from each of the conversations with these women was the desire to see more women in political positions handling the affairs of the nation.
“I would love to see more women in government, these are the people who make the laws that determine the quality of our lives. I want more women there so that they can push for more favourable conditions for women”, she concluded.
Despite the many hurdles these women have had to climb, they are determined to keep advancing and are set on challenging gender stereotypes as they continue to inspire women all over the world.
Women all over have been encouraged to stay strong and resilient, not feel defeated by obstacles because each small achievement is an extra step towards changing the narratives.
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