I’ve never liked Women’s Month. It either makes me think that women somehow don’t exist for the  remainder of the year or that women need special consideration or handicap to be worthy of a  dedicated month. Of course, if we reflect on the history of South African Women’s Month, that’s exactly  the point. Women have been side-lined and silenced in the past.

The celebration of women in August has become a way of highlighting that history and reminding all of  us that the treatment of women as second-class citizens is morally reprehensible. But there’s a more  attractive reason for us all to embrace the empowerment of women. It’s basic economics.

Studies show that involving and including women in the job market have positive effects on a country’s  economy. The Global Gender Gap Report (in which South Africa ranks a healthy number 17 ahead of  Australia, USA and UK) explains that people and their skills are core drivers of sustainable, long-term  economic growth. If we don’t utilize and develop people’s talents, then logically our ability as a nation to  drive economic growth is compromised. Women make up at least half of our nation. That’s a lot of  people who are essential to driving our economy.

I’ve always found that it’s best to suit up your armor and apply your war paint before heading into  battle. So here, I’m equipping you with some womenomics facts to wage war on misogyny in business. 

1. The issue of unpaid work 

In every country in the world, women spend more time than men do in unpaid work. Unpaid work  comprises the three Cs: cooking, cleaning and caring for children, elderly and other dependent people.  We all agree that these are important jobs that must be done but the problem is that though they  contribute positively to the economy, they are not remunerated, so they are not measurable. This is  what economists call an economic bad. We can’t track the work that so many women do so we can’t  quantify what enormous contributions they make to our country. 

Without a new generation of work-fit humans to turn the economy over the older generation will not  receive social security and pension support. So, child-rearing is, even for those of us that aren’t and  don’t want to be parents, essential for sustaining a nation, any nation.

2. The issue of STEM 

We are during the fourth industrial revolution. Technology has advanced and changed the way we do  almost every job there is. Today at least half the jobs we are doing won’t even exist in another 50 years.  This means that a lot of the work that many women are engaged in around the world will become  obsolete soon.

This problem is exacerbated by the low number of women who participate in or qualify for the STEM  (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines which is where we will see the most  growth for employment opportunities. Only 27% of graduates entering engineering, manufacturing and  construction are women while more than 74% of graduates in health and welfare are women. 

3. The issue of maternity 

Studies show that a trade-off between working and parenting does not exist anymore. In developed  countries where women work more, fertility is higher. This means that the level of female employment  is not as a result of maternity decisions. Women are working AND having children. The problem comes  when policies, both governmental and company-specific, do not support parenting. 

There are two main aspects of maternity that affect economics. These are parental leave and childcare.  Parental leave tends to be unbalanced between men and women. Because women bear and nourish  children, they automatically become primary caregivers to babies. This causes an unbalance between  mothers and fathers, meaning that fathers can work more, for longer and therefore gain more income  and better work opportunities (like promotions) as opposed to women who tend to participate more in  unpaid labour in the household. This puts women at risk of a whole bunch of negative economic  outcomes. 

In the case of childcare, the South African government provides no state support in the form of safe,  well-run facilities for moms to leave little ones during the day while they go to work. We as a nation rely  entirely on our mothers and our family members to assist us in taking care of children. Those with  money can afford private childcare but truthfully this is an expense that very few South African moms  will be able to afford, particularly of the quality that they would like. This further exacerbates the issue 

because if you want the best for your child, you might feel as a mom that you are the best caregiver they  can have. Add to this various cultural pressure and you’ve got tons of experienced and qualified women  exiting the workforce temporarily or permanently. Bad for economics. 

4. The issue of pensions 

Pensions are dependent on several variables particularly in the labour market. If a woman has worked  for less money than an equally placed man, her contributions over the years will be less than that man’s  contributions which means that at retirement her pension will be exponentially smaller than her male  counterpart. This effect deepens when we consider women who have periods of absence from work.  These absences are usually related to child-rearing or caring for others. Every month a woman isn’t  working is a month she isn’t contributing to her pension which results in less money to retire on. 

Added to this is the fact that women tend to live longer than men across the globe. That means that  you’ve got a lot of poor old women who need to live for longer off less money.

5. The issue of entrepreneurship 

Across the world, women are less likely than men to own their own businesses. Approximately 2% of  women are employers of others. This is bad because as South Africans particularly, our greatest hope for  youth employment is the creation of jobs rather than the seeking and finding of jobs. Jobs aren’t out  there waiting to be found. There are simply too many people, equally qualified and experienced, for the  kinds of roles we look for inside big companies. From an economic perspective, entrepreneurship and  small to medium business growth offer the best solution for increasing personal income, increasing  employment opportunities for others and increasing country wealth and development. 

These five facts don’t speak to misogyny, gender-discrimination or cultural matters at all. That’s a whole  additional layer of mental peanut butter to wade through. So, sisters, let’s get back to work.


By FYLTeam

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