We have learned much over the past several decades about the connection between gender inequality and economic growth, particularly when we talk about inequalities in education and employment. Inequalities in education, for instance, artificially reduce the pool of talent which societies can draw from; by excluding qualified girls from the educational stream and promoting less qualified boys, the average amount of human capital in a country will be reduced and this will have an adverse impact on economic performance. We also know that the promotion of female education leads to lower births per women, not only because educated women will have greater knowledge about family planning but also because education creates greater opportunities for women that may be more attractive than childbearing.
In the face of significant social and cultural barriers, it is tempting to be cynical about a role for education in promoting women managers in developing economies. Consider the number of factors that could come in the way: nationally, cultural and social attitudes may discourage the career advancement of women, and at the firm-level, male-dominated informal networks and cultures can act as barriers. Furthermore, even if all these obstacles were somehow removed, the lack of good quality education itself, and skills mismatches can pose problems.
But, in spite of all this, education remains a crucial founding block for career success. After all, one needs an education in the first place to get to a point where these other factors can undercut the likelihood of career progression. Therefore, without access to education, one may stumble even before the climb up the career ladder begins.
The African continent is rich in natural resources, like oil, gas and minerals that contribute to a large share of exports, and are now a major source of foreign direct investment. In our paper African Mining, Gender and Local Employment, we investigate how this recent, rapid expansion in large-scale mining affects women’s job prospects.
According to previous research and policy documents, it is ambiguous whether industrial mining increases or decreases female employment. The “African Mining Vision” spells out the risk that extractive industries might make gender disparities in economic opportunities larger. The sector is generally known for weak local multipliers, i.e., for each job created in the sector, too few jobs are created in auxiliary sectors, such as services, manufacturing or construction. This is known as the ‘enclave’ hypothesis: that a large-scale mine generates few economic opportunities for local community members. On the other hand, mining activities may generate jobs in services and sales, which are relatively female dominated in the region and which are locally traded.
On September 19, 2014, a Kenyan middle-aged woman was waiting for a bus at a stop in Nairobi. When the bus stopped, a group of men surrounded her, and started to strip and assault her for wearing a miniskirt in public. She screamed and cried out for help, but only a couple of brave people reached out and gave her clothes to cover herself.
This kind of sexual violence against women is not unprecedented in Kenya, but this time was different. The brutality of the violence was caught on camera and went viral online. On November 2014 alone, at least four such attacks were recorded across Kenya. The numbers for violence against women are disturbing: according to the Gallup World Poll conducted in 2010 in Kenya, 48.2 percent of women feared that a household member could be sexually harassed.
Today, November 25, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. According to the United Nations, more than a third of women and girls worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. In some countries the proportion is at two thirds. More than 130 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. Child marriage is even more pervasive, with 700 million women living today who married as children. In Africa and South Asia, close to half of girls still marry before the age of 18. These practices are declining, but only slowly.
The widespread negative effects of violence against women have been documented, including in the recent World Bank report Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth lead 70,000 adolescent girls to die each year according to UNFPA’s State of the World Population report.
We often think that all women are in some way subjected to gender-based discrimination, and indeed, there is wealth of evidence to support this belief. The same can be said about ethnic minorities and other social groups—indigenous peoples, refugees, sexual minorities, the poor, immigrants, and people living with HIV/AIDS—who may face barriers in their quest for a better life.
In reality, though, we all have multiple identities, and our abilities, opportunities and achievements are all socially mediated by the way these multiple identities interact with each other. For instance, the feminist literature highlights that day-to-day experiences of ethnic minority women can be drastically different from ethnic majority women, although both groups fare worse than men in most outcomes. While context plays a large role in how ethnicity exacerbates gender-based divisions, such interactions often get manifested in similar ways, through systematic, cumulative achievement gaps across social groups.