Thursday, February 9, 2012


It was almost midnight but sleep was yet to descend on me. The conversation started as mere chit chat and my brain was on snooze mode. Then he said, "You are a keen debater, aren't you?" I shouldn't have replied in the affirmative because the next thing he said was " I say, if you want to make impact on gender issues...come up with a business idea that addresses the issues." I bit my fingers for a few seconds and said the first thing that came to mind.

"...I believe that since the labour market tends to favour men over women with the restriction of age and marital status, thereby forcing prospective salary earners to become housewives or worse become destitute. Reforms should be introduced that will make the labour market more accessible to women. Now, companies who place an age restriction on women and seek younger women who they intend to use as baits for prospective clients should be forced to do away with such discriminatory conditions."

Now my friend is not your typical male. An entrepreneur, he controls Nigeria's biggest online forum and prides himself as being more of an economist than a politician. So, I was in for a rather interesting night. To be fair to him, my friend sees himself as a feminist *wink*, so I went into the debate with an open mind, knowing he was one of us. He warned me " issues, but I tend to approach them from a different angle. I like free markets, choice, economics, all that good stuff. I feel being angry about injustice isn't enough." I squinted hard at my screen till new thoughts began to form. I could see he wanted me to think of feminism in a new way. He made sense. It wasn't enough to be just angry about injustice, opportunities had to be created. He added again "...I like to propose business solutions to social problems. I tend to feel they are more sustainable because they pay for themselves." And I couldn't have agreed more. Proposing business solutions to social problems was more effective than just complaining about them.

So back to my reply to his question. He shared his thoughts with me with the next statement "..I think the labor market often favors men because they don't go on maternity leave and don't drop out of work for extended periods to focus on their kids...." I felt like he was agreeing with me until he added "...But it won't be fair to pay more for less work." So I was in a fix again. I had to prove how making concessions to women will bring more gain than loss to a profit driven company. I suggested telecommuting. He hit back with several answers that left me breathless. Then I had a light bulb moment.

"Companies need to establish day care centers for the children of female employees!" I told him. I was sure I had nailed this one. "Most countries in the West have facilities like these. Why should Nigeria be any different?" I surmised that a nursing mother or a mother with young children is less likely to be distracted knowing that she is close to her children. He reminded me that we were in an economy where labour could be gotten cheap, so what company would go to the extent of investing in day care centers if ".....there are people willing to do the hard work without daycares." I asked about those rare female specialists with kids in tow and he went "..they can get a nanny at home." Boy, was this hard or what? I wasn't much of an economist and was fast realizing that the labour market was more complex than I thought. At least, the Nigerian labour market. Now I couldn't accuse my friend of being a chauvinist. He told me he was a feminist, right? So why was this hard?

Not done yet, he sends me a link to his website where a debate was raging as to whether the decision by the Central Bank Of Nigeria to reserve management and board seats for women was inimical to national development or was a good move. Opinion was divided but it was clear that many frowned at the CBN's actions and thought affirmative action encouraged women to be lazy. My friend was of the opinion that positions should be given on merit rather than through affirmative action. As usual, the focus was productivity.

Our conversation lasted over two hours. We would eventually retire for the night with pleasant wishes to each other for a good night's rest but I stayed awake, long after I shut down my computer. I had been forced to take a look at the struggle for equality through the lens of business and economics and I was realizing that the walk to freedom was a long one.



  1. I found your blog through blogaholics. It is amazing! Your writing is eloquent and poignant. I cannot imagine the issues that you face. I do believe that affirmative action is necessary because although your friend gave many economical reasons why men should earn the position over women, he is forgetting that women offer many different opinions than man. We do not think the same as a man. Consequently, this could benefit a company because it provides an alternative avenue to possible revenue. I'm your newest follower. If you get a chance stop by My blog is not nearly as thoughtful as yours, but it allows me an opportunity to destress from the craziness of the times we live in. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you Jenny for your wonderful comment. I agree with you that we can be assets to companies as a result of our insightful thinking. I will share your thoughts with my friend. I am sure he will be happy to engage me in another debate ;).

    I checked out your blog and could only think "Awwwww....". I love kids, and seeing you share your experiences as a mother was just so lovely. You just gained a follower.I look forward to learning about raising kids. All the best.


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