LAW & WOMEN IN MANAGEMENT
"When I joined the faculty of law in 1980, as a youth corper, and a year later as a lecturer grade 11, there
were only two other female lecturers out of total staff strength of about 20. Today, there are 15 female lecturers and one
junior research fellow, out of a total of about 50 lecturers. I am the second female professor in the faculty, and probably
one of the first five or so female law professors in Nigeria. Law, as a profession is one
of the traditional male exclusive professions. I can justify my choice of topic by simply saying the obvious: "I am a working
woman in a changing world of work.
Perhaps, I can say of myself, that, I am a member of a gender people acknowledge grudgingly. There are a lot
of us, yet we are kept hidden. I have to strain my neck to look for members of my gender at the top. But when I look down,
at ground or basement level, I see many of us either sweeping floors or typing. You will also find us in a few other places,
where we should naturally be found doing what we are placed to do best: cleaning, nursing, teaching and cooking. If we are
not invisible, we are isolated. We are isolated from the corporate mainstream. We are isolated from the board. We are isolated
from different positions. We are isolated from each other.
The percentage of male to female at the professional level is about 78 per cent to 22 per cent. Although,
there is progress on almost all fronts, International Labour organization (ILO), studies show that progress on three keys
and inter-related indicators for gender equality is still inadequate: namely the "glass ceiling" (women in management in both
private and public sectors), the gender pay gap, and the "sticky floor" (women in the lowest paid jobs and living in poverty).
The dignity and rights of women workers are too often violated with obnoxious practices such as sexual harassment.
The lack of recognition of the critical role of unpaid work, mainly done by women continues to obstruct equitable economic
There are so many areas which show that millions of women remain outside the reach and coverage of national
and international laws made for their protection.
In 1983, I presented a paper on "The Right to Work and the Right to Strike" at the yearly Conference of the
Nigerian Association of Law Teachers. I, also was chosen as a member of the organizing committee that put together the workshop
on women in the modern Sector Labour force to mark the end of the UN Decade for Women. I presented a paper on Labour Legislation
and Women Workers. Those who have over the years argued that law must be studied in context have been proved right.
Women and work is a study of law in action. It is a study of law in context. It is a study of law as an instrument
for social engineering.
In comparison to other areas of research interest, research into women's employment as a serious academic
exercise is of fairly recent origin. According to John Kremer and Pamela Montgomery, the tradition of research on women's
employment in Great Britain, goes back
to at least 1945. They noted, however, that it was not until 1984 that a truly comprehensive account of women and employment
in Great Britain became available, based
on the 1980 women and Employment survey (WES), carried out for the Department of Employment and the Office of Population and
Census Surveys. They also pointed out that the 1980 survey was informed by the realization that a woman's paid and unpaid
work could not be separated from each other.
Other surveys have also been carried out under the auspices of the Commission of the European Community since
1979, but again, like the British surveys, they were limited in scope because they dealt with single issues, such as sexual
harassment, childcare services or training in a particular industry. They did not adopt a holistic approach of looking at
women and work in general and the effect on the women themselves, their families and the society at large.
It is axiomatic truth that women are different from men. Women alone bear children. This basic fact carries with
it far reaching implication in the world of work. As steady rightly pointed out, "the importance of motherhood and the valuation
of the child bearing capacity by African women is probably the most fundamental difference between the African women and her
western counterpart in their common struggle to end discrimination against women. If the needs of working mothers are not
met as part of the mainstream terms and conditions of work, then, the society that prides itself in motherhood and good and
effective upbringing of children, would have failed not just the mother and her child, but, it’s very self.