The barrier for women in our society has always been high. Despite the very hard work put in by them and all who support their cause, lip service has at best been paid to gender equality. At worst, women have been deemed second best to men. All the nice talk notwithstanding, the space for women is narrow and opportunities are limited.
A report compiled by the Alliance for Women in Media Africa on gender disparities in governance and politics, made for depressing reading. The report showed that out of 275 Parliamentarians in Ghana, only 37 were women, representing 13.46%. The report also revealed that even fewer women are represented in the leadership of our legislature. Only one each could be found in both Majority and Minority leadership of Parliament. It also came to light in the report that just 41 out of 254 MMDCEs were women.
Under-representation at all levels is not the only problem that women have had to face in our country.
There is an even more worrying phenomenon – stereotyping, where the very few who make it, become the subject of a dubious notion, that they rose to those positions not by dint of hard work, but through other considerations.
Already,we battle with an acute shortage of women in leadership positions in newsrooms and editorial boards.This has been made worse by yet another unfounded narrative, that pretty-faced ladies with a keen sense of fashion, complete with fine hair and impeccable make-up, have taken over the airwaves at the expense of more conservative colleagues.
The narrative has it that these young women are the cause of supposed falling standards in the media landscape owing to shallowness or a lack of depth.
Contrary to the wise saying that you cannot judge a book by its cover, many in our society do not see beyond the alluring looks of these ladies and brand them rather harshly as possessing no intellect.
All the sacrifices and countless man, or is it woman hours, put into the job are hardly factored into the equation. The rise of any such young lady must, according to the skeptics, be the outcome of unwholesome relationships with bosses at the workplace or simply the reward for being good-looking.
Recognition by way of awards must also have been due to some extra factors other than merit.
I have been at news presenting and media work for a little over three years, almost everyday of which has started at 4am, when many of those championing the campaign against the unfortunate women, would be cuddling up in bed. Several hours of the day would be spent researching guests and delving deep into the news stories to appreciate the key issues in order to be better positioned for an interview or some other engagement. With multiple roles, the day can end quite late only for another one to start after a few hours of rest. I believe that to be the routine for those working in other media houses.
There are many well-groomed men on television. They display neat haircuts, well-trimmed beards and put on bespoke suits and are eye-candies for many women. Yet, no one questions their place on our screens because of how dashing they may look.
Whatever falling standards may exist in the media requires a broader discussion than the narrow and simplistic reasoning informing the debate now.
Many have blazed the trail and excelled. The Matilda Asantes, Nana Aba Anamoahs , Emma Morrisons, Shamima Muslims, Beatrice Agyemangs, Aku Shika Acquayes and Dzifa Bampohs have long proven the Ghanaian woman more than capable of not only maintaining the standards but taking it a notch higher. The current generation will do no less.
It is perfectly alright to subject persons in the public space to scrutiny, but in all honesty, the scrutiny for women is particularly intense and invasive and where they have demonstrated competence and outstanding performance, slander becomes the next resort for the critics.
False stories are quickly cooked to show how a woman’s rise must be due to anything but hard work.
It is unclear why our society appears set up to doubt women and their ability to perform at the highest levels and why they must justify themselves beyond what is required of men.
Women have done enough in our society to be accorded the same respect and recognition as men for their work. Women cannot and should not be held to lower standards than men, but gender equality must be given its true meaning through equal treatment for all.
Discrimination against women and stereotyping must give way to inclusivity and fairness.
The feeling that an intelligent mind cannot reside in a beautiful body is obviously flawed and must be discouraged.
The time has come for women to be judged based on their output and performance and not the appearance of their skin. Those young women who step up to the plate against formidable odds deserve to be given a chance. They should be encouraged, not disparaged.
Columnist: Serwaa Amihere, News Anchor and Broadcast Journalist.