Contributions of women in society go far beyond billable hours

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 07, 2019 (SKNIS): The government’s weekly programme, “Working For You”, on March 06, hosted a lively discussion on the role of women in the workplace and their significant unwaged contributions to society.

Mrs. Ingrid Charles-Gumbs, Former Director of Gender Affairs, said women are still positioned at the lower end of the labour market in a number of territories and are choosing careers that do not have great remuneration packages.

“Women are nurses, social workers, teachers…a lot of areas in which women are positioned in large numbers are areas in which salaries are not great,” she said, adding that there needs to be more encouragement for women to join more profitable fields such as engineering and surgical care that will “help them to move up economically.”

She said that a large part of women’s contribution to society takes place outside of paid work and noted that, “women do a lot of unwaged work.”

She noted that it is believed that women have jobs outside of the home and perform about 25 hours of care work per week.

“Women are what we call time poor; we work and we work,” she said.

“All of this work is absent from our GDPs,” she said, while noting that currently in the Caribbean, only Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica are incorporating unwaged work into their GDPs.

Mrs. Charles-Gumbs said that, “what we are seeing is that this care work prevents women from advancing professionally,” while pinpointing that some companies are reluctant to hire or promote women because of the possibility of them going on maternity leave or not being able to handle the commitment necessary for high level, time sensitive jobs.

Ms. Sylvine Henry, Social Commentator, said that women’s unwaged contribution in society can add about 10 – 15 percent to the overall GDP of a country.

She said that in some fields women have to choose either job or family because of the high stress level and time commitment of certain jobs.

“When we begin to look at things like that, women deserve more credit than is given to them. We want to have a level playing field. Small things can be done to make life easier for women,” she said.

Mrs. Sarah Owen, Head of UWI Open Campus, St. Kitts and Nevis, cited a study conducted at the university which spoke to the predominance of male professors over female professors, especially in their earlier years. She said that what they saw from the study is that women tend to join the field at an older age once their domestic responsibilities decreased.

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