By Marissa Lang
Enough was enough.
After years of watching the Miss Rwanda beauty pageant overtake the nation, a group of young women decided they were sick of it.
With the pageant playing on a TV nearby, they looked around the room at each other. All of them were successful and smart. Most worked in tech, some had started companies.
Why are we still praising people just because they’re beautiful, the women asked each other.
Frustrated, they began to brainstorm alternatives.
“We should have someone called Miss Geek instead,” one said. “We should value them because
of their brain.”
Soon, they devised their own contest — a pitch competition for female entrepreneurs they called Ms. Geek Rwanda. It was streamed on YouTube, and they began to build a following.
The idea was to make the notion of a technology career “real” to young women, said Esther Kunda, 27, the programs and operations coordinator at the Next Einstein Forum and one of the founding members of Girls in ICT, the group responsible for the Ms. Geek competition.
Over the past two decades, Rwandan women have risen from the ashes of a nation decimated by genocide to assume positions of leadership in government, industry and education. And though there are no national statistics on women in the country’s blossoming tech sector, many leading tech companies report high female representation, with some clocking in at more than 50 percent.
Unlike at firms in the U.S. and other developed nations, being inclusive of women is more than a goal at Rwandan companies — it is a requirement. For years, the country has used quotas, mentorship programs, internships and national campaigns as part of the singular mission of getting more women into the tech industry.
And it’s working.
The country has been so successful that several U.S. advocates of women in tech said Silicon Valley would do well to take notes.
“Rwanda has lessons for us,” said Swanee Hunt, an activist and former U.S. ambassador to Austria who recently wrote the book “Rwanda Women Rising.”“They have figured out a lot of things that we haven't.”
Women hold only about a quarter of U.S. computing and mathematical jobs by most estimates — a figure that has fallen over the past 15 years. They’re hired less frequently and leave tech jobs nearly twice as often as their male counterparts.
The tech industry, long mired in its image of bros in hoodies crushing code, has made attempts over the past several years to address its diversity problem. Companies have hired diversity coordinators, invested in mentorship programs, released diversity statistics and required managers to undergo training.
And yet, four years after the first diversity reports were released, there’s been little movement in the way of female representation.
Meanwhile, half a world away, in a tiny East African nation, Rwandan women are joining tech companies and signing up for coding classes at unprecedented rates.
Companies held to government-issued diversity quotas report not only meeting those expectations, but shattering them.
If a woman and a man were equally qualified for a position, several executives said, the job would almost always go to the woman.
“It’s a really good place to be when you’re a woman and have ambitions, just because there’s a push to get women into all sectors,” Kunda said.
Rwanda is landlocked, densely populated and surrounded by countries that dwarf it in size and resources.
In the spring of 1994, the country was consumed by unimaginable violence. Under orders from the government to exterminate an ethnic minority known as Tutsis, neighbors turned on neighbors. Colleagues killed colleagues. Family members murdered their own.
Roughly a seventh of the population — more than 800,000 people by some estimates — was slaughtered in just 100 days.
Infrastructure was ravaged, homes and businesses ransacked. The economy was left in shambles. Hundreds of thousands of people were traumatized, wounded or orphaned. More than 250,000 women had been raped. Thousands of ethnic Hutus, the majority group, fled the country. More than 2 million of those who stayed were indicted for their participation in the massacre.
Rwanda had to begin again from zero.
In an ambitious turn, President Paul Kagame set his sights on building a knowledge-based economy, the Silicon Valley of East Africa.
“When it’s dark, there’s an opportunity,” said Pierre Kayitana, 31, director of operations for RwandaOnline, a company that works to digitize government services in the country. “Rwanda knew (technology) would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and opportunities. It was a way forward.”
Women made up 70 percent of the Rwandan population when the killing stopped.
Turning decades of patriarchal rule and strictly enforced gender norms on their head, Rwanda thrust women into roles as village leaders, community health workers and purveyors of justice. Soon, women were ascending to the very top of government and industry.
In 2008, women tipped the scale in Parliament, the country’s elected legislative body, becoming the majority.
A rapid overhaul of laws followed, making those changes permanent: Women were granted the right to inherit and own land. A quota system was instituted for all public offices, mandating that 30 percent of positions be held by women. Abuse of women and girls was outlawed. So was discrimination.
Today, one of the most frequently cited statistics about Rwanda is this: Sixty-four percent of the seats in Parliament are held by women.
No other nation in the world comes close. In the U.S., women occupy less than 20 percent of the seats in Congress.
“If we could do what Rwanda did in their first election and get 42 percent of our Congress to be women, just imagine how different that would be,” Hunt said. “We forget that we can do this, that this is possible for us, too. Instead, people say, ‘Oh well, it’s just our society. It’s different.’ But I think what Rwanda shows us is any society — any society — can figure this out.”
More than 52 percent of Rwandan students at private universities are female, according to national statistics from 2015. Administrators say that when there’s a gender imbalance in tech classes, it’s because more women than men signed up. Kigali’s Akilah Institute, the first college in the country built exclusively for women, began offering a degree in ICT, or information and communications technology, in 2014 to a class of 10 women. Now, more than 60 are enrolled.
The Rwandan government’s unyielding support of women is rooted as much in President Kagame’s hope for the future as his fear of repeating the past.
“He wants women in power because they’re not going to start wars or plot slaughters the way men do,” Hunt said. “Context matters. He’s looking at women empowerment from the viewpoint of someone who has seen his country consumed by genocide.”
Still, life for Rwandan women remains far from utopian.
Many girls are taught young that being a “good Rwandan” means keeping quiet, being deferential and pliant, Rwandan women say. Some are taught, too, to fear violence if they don’t obey. Domestic violence often goes unreported.
At school, girls can be teased for being too pushy, too bossy, too “muzungu,” a term used to connote Westerner, foreigner, someone who does not belong.
And women still face pressures to marry and have children, regardless of their careers.
Even so, Rwanda’s government has used its long reach into private industry to promote women in the workplace. It has set mandatory minimums for female hires that companies have been expected to maintain.
For tech firms like DMM.HeHe, one of Rwanda’s most successful startups, the mandatory target was 13 percent. Soon the company had crossed 50 percent.
“It’s actually quite interesting that when we saw we were at 53 percent female, we were like, ‘Huh? How did we get to that?’” DMM.HeHe spokeswoman Bridget Uwineza said.
Hiring quotas are, of course, illegal in the United States.
So, instead of quotas, some companies have instituted hiring goals — with financial incentives.
Intel, for example, set a goal of having 40 percent of all new hires in 2015 be female or underrepresented minorities. Meeting that goal meant the Santa Clara company would award a bonus to all its employees.
That year, Intel not only met, but exceeded its goal: 43 percent of new hires were women or underrepresented minorities. Last year, the company moved the mark to 45 percent — and met it again.
Intel saw its share of female workers creep up from 23.5 percent in 2014 to 26 percent in 2017 — a significant shift for a company with a workforce of 100,000 worldwide.
“That’s effective, and that’s great, but there’s also something that needs to be added and that is retention,” said Gloria Feldt, the president of Take the Lead, a nonprofit that aims to get women into positions of leadership in the tech sector. “Retention is where (companies) lose high performing women who should be making it into the upper leadership ranks.”
At DMM.HeHe, a company that builds online strategies and mobile-friendly websites for small businesses, Chief Executive Officer Clarisse Iribagiza, one of Rwanda’s most high-profile entrepreneurs, has drawn from her own experience to build a workplace where women not only feel valued but also that their needs are being met.
A generous maternity leave policy, after-work chats about work-life balance and more help instill a feeling of community, said Fileille Naberwe, 20, a fellow at DMM.HeHe and student at the African Leadership University in Kigali.
“It’s such a nice environment,” Naberwe said. Another draw “is seeing (Iribagiza) in one of the biggest positions, and seeing her handling it like a boss.”
Role models and mentors make a tangible difference in the success of women in business, tech and other sectors, studies have shown. And yet, women tend to have a harder time finding mentors than men do.
That, Kunda said, was the driving force behind Ms. Geek — and why it has taken off.
“If you have career guidance plus role models, it shows kids, ‘Hey, you guys, if you want this particular cool job or this career, these are the things you should be focusing on,’” Kunda said. “Most of us always say for us to reach wherever we are, we’ve had role models so we want to give back whatever was given to us when we were young.”
The strategy adopted by her organization, Girls in ICT, is, in many ways, similar to efforts under way in Silicon Valley. The group urges young women to specialize in math, computer science and engineering in school; supports women already in the workplace; provides mentorship; and creates a path for female professionals to become leaders, executives and board members.
To some advocates of female inclusion, the notion of a national competition on the level of Ms. Geek — which has grown into Ms. Geek Africa after its start in Rwanda in 2014 — seems inspired.
“Those kinds of contests highlight people who’ve done great things,” Feldt said, adding: “Girls are getting inspired by this, and it’s actually moving the needle.”
Rosine Mwiseneza, a past Ms. Geek Rwanda victor, said one of the most rewarding aspects of winning is being able to be that role model for young women and girls who may have ideas of their own but no one to show them the way.
Seeing another woman achieve things you would like to achieve, “gives you hope, creates a strong connection having that person,” Mwiseneza said. “It gives you strength and motivates you to think, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I do it?’”
Published on SF Chronicle on January 13, 2018
More big companies have been found to have wide gender pay gaps as firms report on what they pay male and female employees ahead of an April deadline.
The Co-operative Bank, easyJet and Virgin Money are among those with a double-digit gap in their mean hourly pay rates between male and female workers.
Both private and public sector organisations as well as charities with more than 250 employees are required to submit their pay figures to the government by April.
The move is intended to highlight the worst instances and encourage employers to address the situation.
The gender pay gap refers to the difference between what men and women working for an organisation earn regardless of their roles, rather than men and women being paid different amounts for the same role.
One of the widest pay gaps – 51.7% – has been reported by easyJet. The discrepancy is largely accounted for by the fact that most of the airline’s pilots are male. The average salary for such a role is more than £90,000.
More than two-thirds of easyJet cabin crew are women. The average annual salary for crew is less than £25,000.
The airline says it pays men and women equally for the same work and has vowed to increase the number of female pilots it recruits.
Other firms with wide gender pay gaps in favour of men, on the mean hourly pay measure, include:
Public sector organisations have also reported wide gender pay gaps, including:
According to the Office for National Statistics, the median UK gender pay gap fell to 9.1% for the year to April 2017 for full-time workers.
The figure has fallen by nearly 50% since the ONS began collecting such data in 1997.
Published on The Guardian on January 7, 2018
By Hannah Summers
Fines for wearing trousers and the threat of beatings are being handed to women in Sudan “like traffic wardens issuing parking tickets”, say the authors of a study on the country’s controversial public order regime.
Researchers who carried out detailed interviews with 40 women who had fallen foul of the country’s discriminatory laws found corrupt officials are increasingly using the threat of flogging to elicit money.
The majority of those jailed or beaten are marginalised women from low-income backgrounds or poor migrants who resort to the illegal practice of selling alcohol to feed their families, the report found.
Interviewees describe long spells in jail and beatings for “offences” such as wearing trousers, which are considered “indecent dress”.
Earlier this month a Sudanese court dropped charges against a group of women who were caught wearing trousers at a party. If convicted they could have faced 40 lashes and a fine.
But often women face trial without legal assistance at spontaneous courts where their fate is determined at the whim of judges, according to the study.
“In terms of persecuting women for their clothing – it’s a huge issue. Public order laws are used against women whom the authorities want to silence, including human rights defenders and students,” said Carla Ferstman, who co-authored the report.
“There are economic incentives for maintaining this system because of the high fines. You have huge numbers of people hauled before the courts who will pay to avoid the lashings.
“It’s like in the UK you have traffic wardens walking around looking for drivers who have parked in the wrong spot. This is being done in the same way to fuel certain budgets.”
Raids are frequently carried out where police force their way into private homes in search of alcohol, the study found, or to arrest individuals for inappropriate behaviour or dress.
One interviewee told researchers: “Police officers climb over walls and invade houses with no respect for privacy. We are psychologically traumatised by the raids and the inhumane treatment we face.”
Female alcohol and tea sellers, students and activists, former detainees and prisoners in Khartoum State were interviewed between August and December 2016 for the study, Criminalisation of women in Sudan: a need for fundamental reform.
Prison staff and members of the judiciary, the legal profession and ministry of justice were also interviewed for the joint publication by the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (Siha) and the Redress Trust.
The report concludes that Sudan’s public order rules, which enforce strict moral codes, have been further extended and continue to be used in an arbitrary manner to oppress women.
“We are calling for these laws to be abolished. The atmosphere they create is one of fear and self-censorship as women are never aware of when or for what reason they might be arrested,” said Ferstman, the director of Redress.
More than 70% of all public order cases involve women, according to a recent survey by Sajeenat, an advocacy group which focuses on the rights of female prisoners in Sudan. In 60% of these cases the punishment came in the form of a hefty fine.
Those who cannot afford to pay face lashings or imprisonment, which can lead to further abuses while in detention both by guards and other prisoners.
Nahla, a university student, was fined 2,000 Sudanese pounds (£225) for consuming shisha and 5,000 Sudanese pounds for wearing trousers. Because she was unable to pay immediately she was also lashed 20 times and spent time in prison.
Terrified of how her family would react, she borrowed money from elsewhere to settle the fine. She was released but must now balance her studies with part-time work to repay the loan.
Other women jailed are often poor migrants operating in the illegal trade of alcohol brewing as the only way to make a living. They find themselves in a vicious cycle when landed in prison with no way of paying the fine.
One interviewee said: “The judge sentenced me to pay 4,000 Sudanese pounds or face six months’ imprisonment.
“I have no money and I’m the only earner in my family. I have six children … Selling alcohol is my only income. I applied for a mercy and the fine, which was reduced to 2,000 Sudanese pounds, was paid by my neighbours.”
The public order courts have been rapidly expanding since South Sudan seceded in 2011 and Khartoum looked to new ways of raising funds after losing 75% of its oil revenues.
There are now 22 public order courts in Khartoum and one in almost every town across Sudan.
The investigation by members of Ayin, a Khartoum-based media group, found that these courts in Sudan earn $1.8m a month, a figure equivalent to £1.3m and worked out using Sudan’s Central Bank 2016 exchange rate.
In 2012, women from the north of Sudan and from South Sudan wait for public transport in Khartoum. Lutz Oette, director at the Centre for Human Rights Law at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said: “The use of public order laws as a tool of social control and discrimination has been so pernicious that the whole system needs a fundamental overhaul.
“The repeal of the relevant law and provisions forms an important part of the overdue reforms Sudan must take to guarantee women’s rights.”
Campaigners say it is important for foreign governments to understand the full picture of what is happening in Sudan after several years without any progress on the issue even despite several high profile cases.
“Any UK engagement with Sudan should insist on a speedy repeal of these laws to end such legally sanctioned discrimination, including the practice of flogging, once and for all,” said Oette.
Published on The Guardian on December 21, 2017
By Paola Tamma
Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are “under threat”, the Council of Europe has warned.
In a report published on on Tuesday (5 December), the institution constituted of 47 European states and tasked with upholding human rights said that “in recent years, resurgent threats to women’s sexual and reproductive rights have emerged in Europe”.
Stripping back abortion
These include proposals for near-total bans on abortion in Luthiania, Slovakia, Spain, Poland and Russia. Although rejected following public outcry, these proporals “provide a powerful illustration of the extent and nature of the backlash to the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality in some parts of Europe”, read the report.
In Armenia, Macedonia, Georgia, Russia and Slovakia, new requirements were introduced such as “obligatory waiting periods” and biased counselling, which according to the WHO serve no medical purpose but undermine women’s decision-making. Latvia, Lithuania and Romania also advanced similar proposals.
And even when abortion is legal, women may not be able to access a legal health service due to doctors refusing on the grounds of conscientious objection. In Italy, approximately 70% of medical professionals refuse to provide abortion care.
Attacking human rights defenders
The report also highlights the threat to human rights defenders: “The recent introduction of restrictive regulations and policies affecting civil society in general, such as those now in place in Hungary and the Russian Federation, have had direct and concrete implications for human rights defenders and civil society organisations working to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Hungary’s law on “foreign-funded NGOs” requires all organisations receiving donations or grants from non-Hungarian donors to declare their funding expenses – in an attempt to undermine the credibility of organisations with a progressive agenda.
Reka Safrani, of the Hungarian women’s lobby, is a recipient of grants from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. She says the law actually benefitted her, as many donors stepped in in solidarity, but she knows of many other, smaller NGOs working with women who have had to become volunteers due to funding cuts from the government – something that inevitably affects their beneficiaries – that is, women in need.
Published on Euractiv on December 7, 2017
By Martha Kelner
Gender inequality in football is more entrenched than in politics, business, medicine and space exploration, according to a salary survey that compared the employment status and pay of thousands of male and female footballers worldwide.
Among a number of stark findings was that the combined pay of those playing in the top seven women’s football leagues equals that of a single male footballer, the Brazilian forward Neymar, who plays for the French club Paris St-Germain.
Neymar will earn £32.9m from PSG for the 2017-18 season purely for his playing contract, without taking into account millions more he receives in commercial deals.
His salary is almost exactly the same as 1,693 female players in France, Germany, England, the US, Sweden, Australia and Mexico combined, according to the Sporting Intelligence annual salary survey.
There are green shoots of change in attempts to address the gender pay gap. The Norway Football Association forged an agreement earlier this year between its male and female internationals to bring about parity.
The men gave away 550,000 kroner (£50,700) for commercial activities to their female counterparts. The players’ union boss Joachim Walltin said: “Norway is a country where equal standing is very important for us, so I think it is good for the country and for the sport.”
The Norway captain and Chelsea midfielder, Maren Mjelde, explained what the increased pot – which has doubled the money on offer for the women’s team – means.
“I would say you only really have one club in Norway that can offer a fully professional environment,” she said. “Other teams don’t pay as much. So it’s hard for Norwegian footballers to be able to fully concentrate on their football because they have to wake up early in the morning to train, go to school or work, and then in the afternoon it’s football again.”
In Britain, Lewes FC announced a similar initiative and now pays its women’s team the same as its men’s team, as well as dedicating similar resources to both. But these are relatively isolated cases, with the chasm in remuneration for male and female elite athletes widening every year.
Some women do make a good living from sport but it is nothing compared to the riches on offer for men who make it to the top of their profession. Lyon, the best paid women’s sports team in the world, which includes the England footballer Lucy Bronze, pays an average salary of £145,000 to its players. At home, the English players in the FA Women’s Super League receive an average of £26,752 a year while the men in the Premier League are paid an average of £2.64m, or 99 times that figure.
The gender pay gap is often explained away by those who argue that men’s sport is so much more commercially successful than women’s sport. But Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of the charity Women In Sport, claims that is not the whole story.
“Women’s sport has huge commercial value,” said Holdaway. “You only have to look at the women’s cricket world cup this summer where the final, which England won, was a sell-out at Lord’s. It is about brands being able to recognise how they can harness the power of women’s sport. There is a huge demand from an audience but it is about tapping into that market and making it work for both sides.”
Holdaway wants to see more sports governing bodies following the example of the Norway FA.
“We’d love to see more governing bodies valuing their female athletes the same as their male athletes,” she said. “It’s not just about equal pay; it’s about the message that sends out about how much women are valued. In tennis, the commitment to equal pay at Wimbledon is a good example of a sporting body realising that while the men’s and women’s game are different the players put in the same amount of effort and are all playing at the height of their abilities.”
The gender disparity applies to employment status, too. In England, the FA – which banned women’s football for five decades until 1971 – only relatively recently introduced a professional league.
While there are 137,021 male professional footballers in the world there are only 1,287 female professionals. This represents just 0.93% and compares unfavourably with even the most traditionally male-dominated industries.
The research, conducted as part of the annual global sports salaries survey, suggested football is perhaps the most unequal profession in the world. In politics, for example, 32% of MPs in the UK are women; in medicine 11% of surgeons in the UK are women.
Space exploration is more accepting of women, with the latest figures from Nasa stating that 59 women, including cosmonauts, astronauts and payload specialists, had flown in space, amounting to 11% of the total.
The survey also looked at other sports and leagues around the world, revealing similar disparities. In the US, male basketball players in the top league, the NBA, earn around 100 times their counterparts in the WNBA. On average, NBA players earn £5.498m a year, while WNBA players earn £57,490.
Published on TheGuardian on November 26, 2017
By Kareem Shaheen and Gokce Saracoglu
Activists and opposition politicians in Turkey have rounded on a law that allows Muslim clerics to conduct civil marriages, describing it as a blow to women’s rights and secularism and part of an ongoing effort to impose religious values on a polarised society.
The law allowing “mufti” marriages was passed by parliament and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then published in the country’s official gazette on Friday, despite protests by civil society activists and opposition lawmakers. Last month, Erdoğan declared the bill would be passed “whether you like it or not”.
“Women’s rights are going to decline,” said Nazan Moroğlu, an expert on gender law and a lecturer at Yeditepe University. “Everything that has been pushed on to women in this land has been done in the name of religion.”
Muftis are clerics empowered with issuing religious opinions on matters of day-to-day life. Previously, only state officers in branches of the family affairs directorate were able to conduct marriages.
A requirement has also been added that prohibits individuals who carried out “immoral acts” before marriage from becoming Turkish citizens.
Many people in Turkey, a Muslim-majority country, conduct religious ceremonies in addition to civil marriages, as do Syrian refugees who tie the knot in the country, and see it as a religious obligation. Other Middle Eastern countries do not allow civil marriages because of religious restrictions on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men, but often recognise marriages performed abroad. Many couples in the region often travel to Cyprus or Turkey to conduct such marriages.
Supporters of the law point out that it does not change the requirements for a legal civil marriage. They say it does not create a loophole that allows child marriages or polygamy, and simply makes it more convenient for citizens who are religiously observant.
Opponents contend that the law is an unnecessary distraction in a country still reeling from the aftermath of a coup attempt last year and enduring an ongoing crackdown on dissidents under a 16-month long state of emergency. They say it is part of a broader campaign by the government to impose conservative Islamic values on a divided society.
Critics point to other recent changes that they say are indicative of an attempt to establish the dominance of Sunni Islam in a republic created on secular principles. They cite changes to the school curriculum that have ended the practice of teaching evolution in high school and introduced a state-sponsored explanation of the concept of jihad.
They also fear the government is turning a blind eye to other dangerous trends that are harmful to women’s rights, such as child marriage. The Turkish legal system sets the minimum marriage age at 17, with some exceptions for girls aged 16, with an estimated 232,000 such marriages conducted in the past four years. Women’s rights campaigners estimate that a third of all marriages in Turkey include girls under the age of 18.
“From the way this draft law was prepared without the participation of sides who will be affected, such as muftis or women’s groups, it is a sign of an enforcement of an idea,” said Selina Doğan, an opposition MP in Istanbul, who pointed out that women campaigning against the law in front of parliament were pepper sprayed. “One man [Erdoğan] has the power and a change to a political Islamist regime is planned.”
Efforts to change long-established family legal principles in Turkey have emerged as a lightning rod in the battle between Islamists and secularists. A parliamentary commission established in 2016 by the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party to study the causes for high divorce rates introduced a series of recommendations last year that were seen as a backward step on women’s equality and an attempt to impose conservative family values.
Among the recommendations was a widely condemned proposal that would have granted amnesty to some men convicted of child sex assault if they marry their victims. The recommendation was tabled as a bill late last year then withdrawn after widespread protests.
Other proposals included introducing mediation by religious scholars in divorce cases and changes to the penal code that would decriminalise the practice of couples living in a religious marriage without a civil one registered with the state.
“This is another trick by Erdoğan to polarise society and consolidate his 50% base and nothing else,” said Engin Altay, a politician with the largest opposition party. “While Turkey is burning with mountains of problems they are bringing this up just to separate his base [from his opponents] with unfounded discussion.”
Published on The Guardian on November 15, 2017.
🔎 Discrimination; Gender; Race; Origin
In France, an experiment showed that a woman with a Senegalese sounding name had only 8.4 per cent chance of being called for a job interview, as compared to 22.6 per cent chance for women with a French-sounding name.
According to research by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, attacks against women whose appearance suggested they are Muslim have been reported in a number of European countries, while the majority of islamophobic acts committed in 2015 - 74 per cent in France and 90 per cent in the Netherlands - targeted women.
These were examples of discrimination against women around the world given by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, at a panel discussion at the Human Rights Council that analysed the impact of intersectionality on women’s rights. Other figures can be found in a report published this year by the UN Human Rights Office.
“The distortions of opportunity and personal progress that discrimination introduces is never down to just a single dimension of our identities,” said Gilmore. “For those most affected by discriminatory practices, it is always multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that create the most intricate, sticky, choking web of deprivation, of denial of rights, which in turn hinders, undermines, obstructs, oppresses.”
The UN Human Rights Office has described intersectionality as the consequence of two or more combined grounds of discrimination. The concept also addresses the manner in which these combined factors contribute to creating layers of inequality.
Gilmore identified these systems of discrimination as being based, among other vital dimensions, on racial or ethnic origin, nationality, migration status, age, disability, and minority status. These factors, she said, should be considered when tracking progress on women’s rights in the context of the 2030 Development Agenda.
“These inequalities intertwine with multiple forms of discrimination to bind the feet and gag the mouths of millions of women and girls the world over. Women from minority groups are more likely to live in poverty,” Gilmore added.
“Being poor, [belonging to a minority] and female, their socio-economic status infects every sphere of their daily lives - their access to health services, their progress in education, their right to shelter, to live free from fear, their participation in their communities.”
Hilary Gbedemah, member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), pointed out that intersectional and compound discrimination contributes to make women’s position more precarious, and that it is an impediment to harnessing the totality of human resources needed for a country to develop. CEDAW has observed that this type of discrimination affects mostly women belonging to racial or ethnic minorities and indigenous women.
Discrimination is the lack of opportunities for status attainment, pointed out Carlos Augusto Viáfara, professor at the University of Valle in Colombian. Taking as an example a study undertaken in his country, Viáfara said that Afro-Colombian women were more likely to be born poor and thus their start in life came with a disadvantage.
The Status Attainment Model proposes that social origin determines educational opportunities and attainment, which in turn affect job opportunities. Viáfara’s study analysed school dropout levels in women and girls based on ethnic origin. Sixty-six per cent of women of African descent in Colombia were more likely than white women to drop out in the ninth grade. Further, 58 per cent were less likely to obtain a university degree compared to white men, and 32 per cent less likely than black men. He observed similar outcomes for comparisons inside the labour market and in the health care system.
“Because of social stratification women of African descent will face more disadvantages. Even though they are born poor, sometimes their educational attainment is high. But a cumulative disadvantage does not allow them to have good job opportunities; those disadvantages will grow as they go through life,” Viáfara said.
“The natural answer to this situation is affirmative action policies which don’t only focus on gender: we need policies that focus on women of African descent to break the vicious circle of cumulative disadvantages.”
For researcher and former UN Youth Delegate for Belgium, Warda El-Kaddouri, islamophobia intertwines with gender norms, thus exposing young women who wear religious or cultural symbols to discrimination.
“I believe women of colour who are visibly Muslim are one of the most vulnerable groups in the West to face multiple forms of discrimination such as sexism and racism,” El-Kaddouri said. “Several reports have shown that gendered and sexist inspired islamophobic hate crimes have increased, mainly in public spaces and especially when they wear hijab.”
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has played a pioneering role in studying human rights violations through the compounded effects of intersectionality, pointed out Anastasia Crickley, Chair of the Committee.
Crickley said, the Committee has been able to indicate to States the interaction between racism and gender discrimination, urging them to focus on special measures and targeted interventions to address that form of discrimination.
The Committee also highlighted States’ insufficient attention to conventions dealing with the juncture between racism and gender discrimination. “This results in inappropriate responses to specific challenges by women facing intersectional discrimination,” she said.
Crickley added that although studies remained scarce, information presented to the Committee had confirmed its concerns: the sexual violence against women and members of a particular ethnic group in detention or during armed conflicts; the abuse of domestic workers employed abroad; and the stigmatisation in some societies of women victims of rape belonging to ethnic minorities, and the challenges they face in accessing justice.
Published on OHCHR on September 29, 2017.
By Graham Ruddick
Tony Hall, the director-general of the BBC, is to unveil plans to tackle the gender pay gap at the broadcaster and the amount it pays TV and radio presenters.
Hall is expected to address staff at the BBC on Wednesday morning about pay after a summer dogged by controversy for the corporation.
The BBC boss is understood to have authorised accountancy firm PwC and law firm Eversheds Sutherland to do an audit of how much the corporation pays its staff with a view to eradicating disparities, potentially through pay cuts for some stars.
PwC is already conducting a review for the BBC about the disparities between World Service staff and the rest of the news department – which is another major pay row at the broadcaster – but the work of the firm is now thought to be wider this.
A BBC source told the Telegraph: “Tony and the executive team are keen to do something pretty big and dramatic. It’s going to be open, transparent and independent.”
The corporation is facing an internal and external backlash over pay after it published the salaries of its highest paid on-air stars in July. The BBC revealed that Chris Evans, Gary Lineker and Graham Norton were its top earners – with Evans earning more than £2m.
The list of highest-paid stars also revealed major issues regarding gender pay and diversity at the BBC. Just a third of the 96 on-screen stars earning over £150,000 a year are women, with the top seven earners all men. Furthermore, the data showed that the 10 top earning stars from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds earned roughly the same combined as Evans.
More than 40 of the BBC’s leading female stars wrote to Hall after the pay list was published to demand that the director-general takes urgent action over the gender pay gap and ensure there is equal pay for equal jobs.
Hall has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2020 but critics claim this is not quick enough.
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV festival last month, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, said: “I do think the BBC should accelerate here. The equal pay act passed in the year I was born, which, as you probably know, was not yesterday. These issues have frankly been going on under the radar for too long. Well, they are not under the radar any more and it’s time to up the progress.”
Published on The Guardian on September 5, 2017.
By Claire Cain Miller
The Obama administration had an idea it thought would help address the pay gap between white men and almost everyone else: requiring companies to report how much they paid people, along with their sex and race.
On Tuesday, that regulation became the latest of those reversed by the Trump administration, before the requirement was to go into effect next year.
Pay transparency, alone, would not have solved the pay gap problem. But without it, employees and regulators won’t have evidence that a problem exists at any particular company — and employers will face less pressure to fix it.
There is little data on whether forcing companies to disclose pay makes it more equitable, mostly because the pay of individual workers or companies is generally kept secret. The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys companies about compensation, but publishes only aggregate, anonymous data. Researchers who have studied the few instances in which companies have publicly disclosed individual salaries say it is not enough to close pay gaps, nor is it essential — some companies have closed them on their own, without publicly reporting pay information.
But most companies have no incentive to close pay gaps. The regulation provided that incentive — by pressuring them into it.
“Part of the motivation behind it would be to shame certain employers that found large gaps into doing something and taking proactive steps,” said Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis who has studied the issue.
White women’s median hourly earnings are 82 percent of those of white men, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor statistics data. Asian women earn 87 percent of what white men earn, while black women earn 65 percent and Hispanic women earn 58 percent. Black and Hispanic men also earn less than white men, while Asian men out-earn them.
The pay gap shrinks after controlling for factors like industry, education and hours worked, but a gap persists. Economists say the unexplained portion of the gap is probably because of discrimination.
The Obama regulation required that employers with at least 100 workers include aggregate, anonymous information about pay for categories of employees, on a form they already submit with information on sex, race and ethnicity. Similar policies are in effect in Europe, including a new law in Britain.
Proponents said the regulation would make it easier for employers to police themselves and harder for them to hide discrimination. It would also make it easier for the federal government to investigate them.
Business groups opposed the rule, saying it was a burden and wouldn’t prove that any disparities were because of bias. The Trump administration agreed, and said it required too much paperwork.
While pay transparency doesn’t prove discrimination, it’s a starting point for employees and regulators to find out if there is any. Lilly Ledbetter, who inspired the Fair Pay Act of 2009, did not find out she was being paid less than men until she received an anonymous note 19 years after she started her job.
The little research that exists has shown that pay transparency leads to smaller pay gaps, sometimes just by making people aware there’s an issue. Mr. Rosenfeld found in a study that it raised wages by helping workers negotiate. Many public-sector employers are required to publish pay, and pay gaps tend to be smaller.
Employers might not intentionally pay people differently, said Cynthia Estlund, a law professor at New York University who has written on the topic. But publishing the information highlights pay gaps that arise for other reasons, like the fact that women negotiate pay less often.
“These individual negotiation strategies with a lot of secrecy around salaries basically allow employers to keep salaries lower for some groups,” she said.
Pay transparency can have unintended consequences. Though some research has found that it motivates people to work harder, other research has found that it lowers morale and motivates people to look for new jobs.
When California cities began publishing municipal salaries, one study found, it prompted pay cuts among men. The quit rate also increased by 75 percent.
A study by economists at Princeton and the University of California, Berkeley, found that people who were paid below the median reported lower job satisfaction and were more likely to look for new jobs, and that people who earned above the median reported no higher job satisfaction.
To get around the problem, some companies, like Salesforce, have done internal audits and given people raises to close the pay gap without publicizing pay. That might seem like the easiest solution — but companies are less likely to feel the need to do it without outside pressure.
Published on The NY Times on August 31, 2017.