The persistent Bias against Women in various industries

Despite numerous efforts to achieve gender balance in the workforce, women are still under-represented in a number of industries. Many believed that hiring more women would naturally end their discrimination, but no. It’s evident that we require much more than an ‘add women and stir’ approach as gender bias remains prevalent even in gender-balanced industries. 

The sad truth is that gender bias exists in every industry, whether male or female-dominated. The challenges women undergo are wanting and it could take a lot more than we think to achieve dominance of it.

According to USAID’s report on gender equality & female empowerment, Kenya ranks 81 out of 100 on the Business and the Law 2020 index. The Global Gender Gap Report, 2020 also ranks Kenya at 109 out of 153 countries, showing the significant gender inequality in attaining education, health outcomes, participation in the labour market and representation in parliament.

Female-dominated industries

For a long time, women have dominated specific professional occupations. This was perhaps influenced by their traditional caring, nurturing and home-making nature.  Luckily, the shift to explore other industries is slowly closing the gap. Some of the female-dominated industries include: 

  • Pre-school teachers
  • Nurses & medical assistants
  • Secretaries & Administrative assistants & Clerking
  • Dieticians & Nutritionists
  • Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists
  • Childcare workers
  • Housekeeping

biases in women-dominated industries

Despite women leading in numbers in these industries, gender bias still looms where women lack support from their colleagues, making the environment unfavourable for growth. Some of the challenges experienced are:

  • Controlled communication– where women need to be careful when expressing authority. They are expected to downplay their accomplishments
  • Lack of acknowledgement– Women barely get acknowledgement for their contribution This has been reported in instances where women are interrupted when speaking.
  • Decision-making – Despite being well-represented in these industries, women have been locked out of major decision-making processes in what is commonly referred to as the boys’ club mentality.
  • Lack of mentors– The lack of mentors and sponsors has led to crushed confidence and minimal to no access to growth opportunities.

Male-dominated industries women can thrive in

Male-dominated industries are assumed to have 25% or fewer women. These currently include:

  • Finance
  • IT & Software development – 
  • Construction
  • Plumbing
  • Electricians
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Landscaping/ groundskeeping
  • Motor
  • Architecture

biases in male-dominated industries

Women who work in male-dominated industries have found themselves often competing to keep their positions and get their voices heard. Some of their challenges include:

  • Stress and anxiety- Women working in male-dominated industries experience higher stress and anxiety in their struggle to keep up with male dominance.
  • Lower pay– The gender pay gap is huge and only grows bigger in male-dominated industries 
  • Pervasive stereotypes– Women are known to nurture, care and clean hence the push to perform the same duties in the office
  • Traditional beliefs– Even in this day and age, we battle against a society that upholds strong beliefs against women’s ability to lead.
  • Sexual harassment- More women in male-dominated industries experience sexual harassment than those in female-dominated once although this does not rule out the truth that all workplaces are prone to this.
  • Lack of mentors– As in female-dominated industries, the lack of mentors and sponsors has led to crushed confidence and minimal to no access to growth opportunities.

It’s given that women continue to experience gender-based bias whether they’re in a female or male-dominated industry, but if we all take part in promoting cooperation over competition perhaps, we can make headway to a fairer workplace for women.

Sources: Catalyst, Top Resume, Usaid, Harvard Business ReviewForbesOpen Access GovernmentCatalystScience, Inhersight

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