Jamaican women in front, men hardly in the race


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

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CINDY is in her late 30s, has high school education and has been operating a bar for the last three years. She has two children, an on-and-off husband, a seasonal boyfriend, and two ladies that work in a weekly rotation.

One of the ladies, on her week off, works at another bar. The younger is blessed with beauty and does modelling, but tells me that she wants to finish up her schooling.

Who is more likely to own or operate the corner shop, open up a small store in a medium-sized plaza, or operate a business in the front room of the house? A woman! In our universities women enter in ratios of at least seven to three. They graduate at higher percentages. Over 90 per cent of our teachers are women. Seeing no immediate role models, even in the schooling system, the 50 per cent of our males who make up the primary school student body, begin to deteriorate from that time until just before the age at which one would normally enter university.

After that, many of our young women continue to soar as our young men prefer a perch on a low fence. Numbers coming from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicate that little Jamaica tops the world in having the highest percentage of women -- about 60 per cent -- in senior and middle management. Our women, at all levels, are not content to be loafers. While our women have not sufficiently broken into the boardrooms, where shareholding of the business entity will play a natural part, one can easily see that coming in the next 10 years or so.

Depending on one's viewpoint, our men are either in the stands or scratched from the race; while our women are storming down the track at a blistering pace. The numbers support more than the idea that our women are no longer prepared to wait on slothful men, some of whom abuse them, who would normally be seen in larger terms than just a meal ticket. Women are taking over the job of 'head of household', while many of our men wander in at late hours, with their figurative tails between their legs.

Jamaica had its first female prime minister in 2006. It would provide us with enormous satisfaction if our recall of that time informed us that Portia Simpson Miller rose to the top because she was deemed the best of the best -- among men and women. If one is a PNP partisan, one would immediately say that she did, in fact, meet that very accomplishment.

When one recalls that P J Patterson had told the PNP delegates that she was, "the only hope" for the party, it is easy to conclude that she was the only strategic political fix for highly complex issues which did not require that she meet any other objectives but the political one.

In a broad ceremonial sense, it seems fair that the country does in fact have a woman prime minister when large swathes of our women have used their resourcefulness in occupying ownership of the household space and jobs close to the top which outnumber our men three to two.

About 20 years ago many Jamaican men at street level had bought into the fallacy that, in Jamaica, there were seven women to one man. While these men saw it in purely sexual terms of women being easily available, what was even worse was that they actually believed the census numbers supported such rubbish.

In many streetside discussions I tried to explain that the percentages were about even. It was an exercise in futility. At one stage I tried to twist it to suit economic realities by saying that there could be seven Jamaican women to one economically viable Jamaican man. That made some sense to me.

Now we know that the men have slipped, the women have picked up the ball, and it is hardly likely that our men folk will ever catch them in the medium term.

The advancement of our women in senior management must also be seen as a triumph of sorts and our women must be congratulated. It does not only show up our men, but it begs a look at the leadership of Simpson Miller. The PM has not been faring too well in terms of opinion polls rating her job performance. In many years before she took the top spot in her party and the nation -- public judgement of her performance was based mostly on stored-up love for her.

Having seen her since 2012, the people have seemingly shucked off much of that sentiment and are judging her on perceptions which are closer to what can be openly seen. Knowing how women can be tough in their judgement of other women, I would not be surprised if a higher percentage of women represented in recent polls have made a negative judgement of Simpson Miller than the men.

In crude terms, it could therefore be said that in a nation of people where more women (60 per cent) occupy management posts than any other country, the prime minister has lost a wonderful opportunity to claim that she is a genuine part of that progression and not an anomaly as many believe she is.

It is obvious that we cannot reasonably ask our women to slow down for the sake of our men. The women are on a roll and it will be difficult to disturb that momentum -- and, why should we?

Questions which present themselves to us are, where are the men and what are they doing? Many of them can be seen gathered in groups outside bars, shops or close to the centres of their community. Many are also into anything which involves 'hustling'; that is, embarking on many matters -- some which skirt legality -- which can get them some quick cash. Many others simply hang around and smoke weed until a job on a construction site is available.

Jamaica should long have seen this coming and prepared for it with a concentrated effort in building community colleges and vocational training centres. I know many young men who are excellent mechanics, masons, tilers, welders, plumbers, etc, but almost down to a man, they are without certification.

If the women insist on soaring, that flight must only be encouraged. In terms of attempting to deal with the men at the levels where they are, we will have to meet them where they are -- in their tendency towards manual dexterity.

We will still produce male lawyers, engineers and doctors, but the males most at risk are those on the corners rolling up a spliff and just waiting for nothing in particular.


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