The Silent discrimination of women at workplace

Saturday January 5 2019


By Jamilah Khaji

In work places, women are frequently subjected to discrimination. Qualified women may not be employed or promoted just because they are pregnant, jobs may be offered to a less qualified male applicant just because they won’t require to go on maternity leave or ask for permission to take their children to clinic.

This is how our society’s norms, rules and roles instruct and encourage men to be valued more than women.

Also women are more likely to be judged by their looks and how they are dressed more than men, women are not only discriminated against for being pretty or provocative but they also discriminated for not being beautiful enough, too old or in some position not being slim enough for the position especially in certain airlines.

“When I was pregnant with my third child, my second born was only one year and the company rule is that there should be 3 years spacing between children,” says Jackline Edwin, 35, working at a communication company in Dar es Salaam.

“When my tummy started bulging, human resource manager of the company called me and gave me a dress down.” She said “I can see you have double clicked which means I have gotten pregnant before three years elapsed since the previous pregnancy,” says Jackline.

Then she went ahead and started describing how I looked skinny, asking how was I going to handle the frequent pregnancies, wondereds why I couldn’t wait, whether it was necessary to get another baby, questioned why I didn’t use protection and how was I going to work. I was distressed and I automatically knew I would not get maternity leave.

“I knew it was wrong for me to double click as she said, but it wasn’t necessary for her to abuse me, I felt insulted and I lost confidence,” she says.

When I gave birth, I took two months unpaid leave, the good thing is when I come back to work my boss gave me light duties, and I was supposed to work at least seven hours a day to enable me breastfeed.

“I want to tell the employers that, we understand there are rules and regulations of the companies but sometimes they need to understand that we are women and biologically it is necessary to get pregnant and bear children and it is our right,” she said.

“I graduated from University of Dar es Salaam in 2010, then I started looking for jobs, at that time I was already married,” says Cauthary Kasim, 31.

“The opportunity was advertised and we were told internal candidates would be given first priority, so we did the interview, the day after they called and congratulated me saying I should go and sign my contract, I was so excited and went to human resource officer who said I couldn’t sign the contract, I left but I was still working as correspondent in the same company” she added.

“I later found out one of the bosses who tried to lure me into a sexual relationship which I rejected was behind my misery.”

In another incident I was called in an interview, in 2013, it was a government institution, I always wore hijab, so I wore my hijab and went for the written interview, I did written interview and I passed, then I was called for the second interview which was face to face.

“It was a panel of 18 people, they didn’t ask any other question apart from the way I was dressed, they asked if I was told to wear a short and T-shirt, will I able to? I said I couldn’t because of my faith,” she said.

“They talked a lot on how I looked, I come out of interview knowing that I was not going to be employed just because of my dressing code.”

I also get another chance for an interview in another media house, I was pregnant at that time, I did my interview at the end one of the interviewers told me they couldn’t take me because of my condition.

“I wondered if pregnant women are not allowed to appear on television, from that day I got so disappointed with job seeking, I have decided to be entrepreneur, I was not able to get my professional job because of unfair treatment,” she says.

In some companies, even pregnancy test is a must before you start working.

Most employers especially private companies believe pregnant women can’t perform their duties properly. This is why some young women would rather pursue career than family life fearing it would jeopardise their future career prospects.

Ashura Mohamed, 36, working in one of the insurance companies in Dar es Salaam explained that they prefer employing men because women are mostly into family issues for example pregnancies, breastfeeding and maternity leave.

“They believe men can handle pressure better than women for instance staying late in the office,” she says.

She says even the salaries between men and women are different, they may be the same in terms of education, job descriptions but different salaries because women don’t push for better salaries, they feel inferior and this is because society still can’t accept women to compete with men in the career market.

Big corporate companies which care about their employee’s welfare and rights have no problems when it comes to women rights in the works place.

“My wife became pregnant while our baby was only 3 months, she was working in a microfinance company which decided to give her maternity leave plus breastfeeding breaks. Now she is pregnant again and shifted to another company when she was six months pregnant, they accepted her and will give her maternity leave,” says James Mzava, a resident of Kimara.

In terms of dressing it is true women are being judged on how they dress or appear in the working place, there is a perception that women who overdress or under dress have problems but not men.

“This is mostly shaped by culture and tradition, we can’t change that all over sudden people will take time to understand everyone’s rights,”

“Women are very difficult to work with, when you are soft to them they think you want to persuade them and when you are strict they say you harass women, sometimes there are a lot of work pressure but they don’t understand that, they have their priorities that they always want,” says Jacob Massawe project manager in one of the engineering companies in Dar es Salaam.

“In a field like this, there must be field works and sometimes we stay extra time in the office in order to beat the deadline,” he added.

“40 per cent of women in engineering field companies are getting similar rights as men, 50 per cent which has been proposed is not practical because of women nature and the kinds of jobs and commitment, there are certain jobs that women cannot perform well for example field work, they travel a lot sometimes the roads are not good so women cannot manage to work long distance,” says Dorcas Steven, Human Resource Manager in one of the engineering companies in Dar es Salaam.The law has clearly said a woman will be given 84 days after birth for one child and 100 days for twins, also the law do not allow demotion of pregnant woman no matter the situation and after maternity leave, a mother is allowed to get two hours every day for breast feeding. Dorcas added.

“In my company, this law is practiced and I have not heard of any complains, currently my company has 6 female employees out of 28 male employees, I know the number of women is very low it is because of the nature of our field,” she says.

“Most women who are employed here are in administrative and finance department, we hardly employ women in technical department because their performance is not good in technical issues,” she says adding that does not mean they are discriminating women, but simply want to maintain the company’s good image and performance at the same time, they also consider the cost the company will acquire if many women are employed and they want to go for maternity leave at the same time pay other people to perform their duties.

“We know the law wants us to employ men and women without favouring any sex but because of the nature of the work we have to consider some other factors such as safety of our employees because there a lot of risks.”

“As a woman who is a human resource in this company, I face a lot of challenges one of them is men look down on us, they think we are weak. Some management personnel think like we can’t advise them just because we are women,” says Dorcas.

“One of our female employee faced this harassment, she went for the field work, one of the bosses wanted to have relationship with her, she reported and we told her to stop going, we sent another male employee to cover her position but they started sending emails that her performance was not good.”

“We didn’t report them because we didn’t have enough evidence but we decided that she will no longer work with them in order to protect her” she added .

Grace Munisi, senior technical advisor at Engender Health Tanzania says the society need to change because those assumptions are outdated, society has to encourage women and make them feel they are capable of competing.

“The community we are living need to understand a woman need to live the way they want and stop the perception that women has to follow some rules,” Grace says adding that employers can create comfortable environment for women to fulfill their duties.