dark side

Unlocking The Potential Of Female Employees

Male or female, everyone has challenges that face them in life. However, there are certain challenges women encounter in their lives that are different from men. I am the sort of person that believes women are a force to be reckoned with. So, whenever I have these kinds of conversations with my friends, I tend to tell them to go after what they want regardless of the hurdles they may face. I also try to apply that advice for myself.

I have friends who wanted to be many things. I had a friend who wanted to be a journalist; I had another friend who wanted to study law and was enthusiastic about equality and justice. I also have a friend who wanted to become an engineer so that she could become a problem solver. However, like many women, they turned from their original goals for many different reasons, but mainly because the way women in the professional world are treated.

It is a well known fact that women in the workplace face certain biases that do not generally apply to their male colleagues. To name a few: sexual harassment, gender bias, maternity leave, and equal pay. Even today, we live in a reality where men have the upper hand in the work force. In Ethiopia, the law does protect women employees as much as it does the men.

In fact, there are instances when female employees are told to find replacements to cover their work while they are on maternity leave; otherwise they are told they will lose their position. The law, however, clearly sets out a protected duration for maternity leave. It is sad how many people are unaware of their rights and how employers actually take advantage of this gap.

Yet, the most serious problem regarding working women is sexual harassment mainly from their employers, colleagues and customers. That is still a threat we face today. It creates a difficult situation, whether women stays in their position and fight this harassment or they leave their career behind, fearing that the worse is yet to come. I know multiple women who laugh it off when harassment is verbal and doesn’t escalate further, and there are women who simply lock up themselves and give up on the society.

But even in a situation where a woman is able to achieve great things, she cannot be sure how people perceive her success. Often, there will be doubts about how she got that promotion or made it big. A friend of mine recently got a promotion but she had to endure a lot of rumors. In fact, my friend told me she wished she didn’t get the promotion instead of being happy. The society seems to be blind to the fact that there are actually women out there who work for, and deserve, what they have!

Balancing work and personal life is another major hurdle. Without a doubt, women have more to do when they get home from work. Women have to make sure that the house is well managed, food is on the table, and the house is clean, and if she has children the work will double.

With such limited time and resources I still see women who achieved the impossible. It takes dedication and courage to be a wife, a mother and generally the care giver in the family and put on a suit in the morning and get the job done.

Of course, credit should be given to those men who support their mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends and their female friends. Without a doubt, men play a huge role in the life of a woman. If there were more supportive men out there, the problems we face today would have been solved. I hope to see more men becoming supportive of women, as it is crucial to have that support.

On top of this, those institutions that go the extra mile to support their female employees deserve recognition. For example, there are few private companies that have a daycare center. I have a few acquaintances who work at these organizations and it is safe to say that they are more focused on their work, knowing that their children are in good hands.

I also know another company here in Addis that gives mothers flexible working hours until their children turns one, meaning women employees doesn’t have to sacrifice one area of their life for another. With the steps these companies have taken to protect their female employees, they themselves have become the beneficiaries. All the mothers’ I know that work in such environments have healthy work life balances, making them effective and happier employees. Many organizations and companies need to follow in these footsteps.

It is a responsibility of organizations to make sure that female employees are protected. Companies need to create an environment, which enable women to complain comfortably against sexual harassment they have faced in the work place. Organizations need to create an awareness of this. Most sexual harassment goes unreported because the women fear losing their position. Thus, company management needs to create a cohesive environment that encourages women to come forward if they have faced such issues.

The opinion of the society is another setback. Women should never feel embarrassed for getting what they deserve. It is safe to say that almost every woman has struggled with the obvious challenges such as sexual harassment, gender bias, or struggling to keep her work and life balance. We need to praise successful women for being examples and role models, instead of trying to bring them down.

Women need to also encourage one another. Whether we like it or not, we face similar challenges. There is nothing more therapeutic than sharing a common story with female colleagues or friends through networks or organizations. They can share pointers on how to overcome the gender bias, the sexual harassment or any of the setbacks they faced. These sorts of networks and organizations create awareness among the society and are in a better position to influence policies that can ensure the wellbeing of female employees.

At the international level women are coming together to create awareness in their communities. For example, the #Me Too movement, helped many women come forward with regards to sexual abuse and harassment. The movement gave women to speak about the abuse they have faced. Coming together to fight against such acts makes much more difference than to fight in silence or alone.

Fair does not mean always equal. It is evident that women face some challenges just because they are female. The challenges are not only limited to the work place, the encounters begin at schools and sometimes even at home. Thus, companies, organizations and government offices need to ensure the work environment they set is safe and sound for female.

Women are an asset wherever they are. However, their potential cannot be harnessed unless they are given fair opportunity to do so. If we need that outcome, then it is always important to create an environment that encourages them to do their very best.

8th Year • Mar.16 – Apr.15 2019 • No. 72

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