Empowerment in the workplace

The workplace must be transformed to recognize the role that both parents play in child rearing, as required by article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Social policies and programmes should be promoted to enable women and men to reconcile their work and family responsibilities and encourage men to take on an equal share of domestic chores and childcare.

It is also important to implement policies aimed at altering stereotypical attitudes towards women at work, addressing underlying factors including sectoral and occupational segregation, and lack of education and training.

The vital role of education

One of the most important strategies for ensuring that boys and girls will have equal income-earning opportunities as adults is to give them equal access to education. Several strategies have proved to be effective in increasing girls’ school enrolment in primary and secondary school, including the elimination of school fees. However, eliminating school fees is insufficient to ensure gender parity in education. Governments, parents and international donors must work together to ensure that schools are ‘girl-friendly’ through several measures:

  • Encouraging local school authorities and teachers to adopt flexible scheduling
  • Allowing married adolescents and unmarried parents to attend classes
  • Making school facilities safe from gender-based violence
  • Ensuring that schools have separate latrines for girls
  • Building schools close to girls’ homes
  • Encouraging parents and community leaders to be actively involved in school management.

In addition, it is important to emphasize that school curricula impress upon students the importance of gender equality.

Eliminating gender disparities in legislation

Critical measures to eliminate gender discrimination in women’s land and property rights must include, but should not be limited to:

  • Bringing national legislation in line with international human rights standards
  • Reforming land and property rights to eliminate discrimination against women
  • Involving international agencies and non-governmental organizations in efforts to track and expose violations of women’s property rights, and in monitoring government compliance with international human rights treaties.

The role of government in supporting working families

Governments should undertake legislative, administrative and financial measures to create a strong and enabling environment for women’s entrepreneurship and participation in the labour market, including:

  • Improved employment conditions
  • Creating career development opportunities
  • Eliminating pay gaps based solely on gender
  • Providing safe, affordable, high-quality child-care arrangements.

A further step towards ensuring women’s rights, greater public transparency and economic efficiency is the increasing use of gender-responsive budgets. This mechanism analyses the impact of government expenditure and revenue on women and girls compared to men and boys. It neither requires separate budgets for women, nor does it aim to solely increase spending on women-specific programmes. Instead, it helps governments decide how policies should be adjusted, and where resources need to be reallocated to address poverty and gender inequalities.

Budget initiatives aimed at eliminating gender disparities focus on national, provincial and municipal processes and may cover the overall budget or only selected parts of it. They can be carried out within government by the Ministry of Finance in conjunction with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs or other branches of government related to social welfare, or by non-governmental organizations and independent researchers.

The need for better data and analysis

Although there are sufficient data to show that women tend to work more and earn less than men, a lack of sex-disaggregated labour statistics precludes a more detailed analysis of the disparities. Better data on employment and income disaggregated by sex could significantly improve the analysis underlying policies and programmes – with benefits to women children, families and entire economies.

To empower women in the workplace, it is important that men and women reconcile their work and family responsibilities and that men take on an equal share of domestic work and childcare. Read how Marisa, from the USA, successfully juggles family and work, with her husband’s help.