DR NJENGA: Discrimination on gender an ever-present problem

I work in this male-dominated field and I feel that the men are favoured. My female colleague was sacked over a trivial mistake and the rest of the male employees just receive warning letters.

I think the manager applies double standards when it comes to dealing with women versus men. In the workplace at one point someone will make a mistake. What do I do to ensure I am not judged or disciplined harshly?


I have no doubt that there are some men who mistreat women at the workplace. Indeed there are men who mistreat women not just at work but in general settings.

The challenge of gender disparity is a serious one and greater time and energy needs to be applied in understanding the real issues behind this societal challenge.

The debate about who is better, males or females, is at best a foolish starting point. The truth is that men and women are different. Men are better at being men and women are better at being women. One cannot be the other.

When you tell us your manager applies double standards in dealing with men versus women, I shudder to think what else he does wrong, and more importantly how he is able to retain the job he clearly cannot do.

Are you sure your colleague lost her job because she was female or might there be another reason? If you start off with a paranoid mindset, then all the evidence presented to you will fit into your paranoia. If any does not fit in you ignore it and your mind seems to discount it.

This kind of thinking is not restricted to gender issues. In Kenya, we hear the debate about tribal balances all the time. There is even a commission on ethnic balance.

When a politician wants to make the point that his people are being “finished” in a political setting, he is quick to choose his “facts” carefully. He chooses the examples that support his argument, ignoring all the facts that don’t. Such is the nature of politics.

So, was your colleague sacked because she was female, from the wrong tribe, wrong village or wrong family?

Might there be another reason?

What if she was a friend to his wife and now that he is about to divorce his wife he wants her out of the way as well. She might remind him too much of his now estranged wife.

It might have nothing to do with her family, friendships or even religious affiliation.

What if she was simply incompetent and just happened to be female. Do you want her retained just because she is your friend and a female?

When you draw conclusions on the basis of one characteristic, like being female, belonging to a tribe or profession, you set yourself up to drawing wrong conclusions.

You do, however, raise some other important questions to do with women in the labour force, and more specifically if women have a specific roleresponsibility within the work place.

A further discussion that one might raise is whether there are special jobs that are better done by men and or women. If there are, what are they and what might the reasons be for that?

There is no excuse in Kenya today for not having achieved the constitutionally set gender balance in Parliament. If Rwanda has achieved it, why not Kenya?

The medical profession is an interesting one all over the world. There is a steady increase in female doctors, so much that in some countries, 60 to 70 per cent of medical students are female.

The traditional middle aged bearded male surgeon is surely as good as dead in some countries.

Equally threatened in Kenya are male caddies on the golf course. Since women were allowed to work on golf courses, and more so in the last three to four years, more and more men have lost their jobs. Is this a good or a bad thing? It, however, illustrates the extremes in this debate.

Kenya Airways has an increasing number of female pilots. These highly competitive jobs are going to the girls in their own right. Is there reason for concern? If so, why?

Barrack Obama became president of the US not because he was black but because Americans decided to elect him on merit.

If Hillary Clinton makes it to the White House, will that be because she is female or because she is able in the judgment of the American people?

In October 1975, 90 per cent of the women in Iceland went on strike. For a day, they did not cook, look after the children, and did not go to work. Years later, one of them became the first female President of Iceland.

It sometimes takes a dramatic single event to get society to take a close look at an ever-present problem. So, if indeed it is true that the manager discriminates against female employees, you must do something about it, if for no other reason because it is against our constitution to discriminate.