Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Resisting Occupational Gender Stereotypes: Experiences of Taxi Women Conductors in Kenya

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Resisting Occupational Gender Stereotypes: Experiences of Taxi Women Conductors in Kenya

Article excerpt

Kenya is a highly patriarchal society where gender imbalances and inequality is evidently manifest through gender based violence, and lack of right to ownership of assets and property and segregation of roles and duties. In defiance to the gender roles, women are beginning to encroach in nontraditional jobs such as commercial private transport sector which is regarded as highly masculine, unregulated, chaotic and ruled by the law of the jungle'. The female conductors' age ranged between 25 and 36 years old were single parents with children between 1 to 7 years and had a history of failed relationships and deteriorating economic prospects before joining the taxi industry. Drawn due to financial desperation, women conductors endured sexual harassment, exploitation and gender based violence from their male colleagues, police officers, passengers and owners.

Key words: gender, women, taxi conductors, experiences, workplace violence

Women's participation in paid work in the past has been hampered by occupational gender segregation, sexism in hiring, and promotion, and heavy demand in domestic responsibilities. Women also occupy lower paying jobs than men, far less of what men earn in the same positions (Budig, 2002). Gender segregation in an occupation arises when more than 80-85 percent of the employees belong to one sex and as a result it becomes common to have male or female dominated occupations, which are referred to as either traditionally male or female professions (OECD, 1998). The nature of an occupation's composition is a manifestation of societal gender stereotypes that dictate gender roles. Although gender segregation creates reserve for employment, it excludes women especially from well-paying jobs that bring power and prestige (Andersen, 2011).

For the last several decades, researchers have documented the effects of an increased involvement of women in non-traditional white color and blue collar jobs. This increase was partly driven by political developments surrounding affirmative action, feminism and the push for better income (Palmer & Lee, 1990). Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977) described the experiences of women working as minorities in nontraditional or male dominated employment who she called tokens as visibility, polarization, and assimilation (Yoder, 1991; Zimmer, 1988). While there has been a noted increase in women in nontraditional jobs, this trend has also been characterized by high turnover, sex segregation, discriminatory practices and glass ceiling effects, which makes it hard for women to settle in their occupations (Kissman, 1990; Levine, 2009). In addition, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and hostile organizational designs and practice, under hiring, lack of accommodation and social isolation diminish women's progress and felt impact in an organization (Gutek & Morasch, 1982). Even with organizations that encourage gender parity in the employment, women usually occupy lower grades of the jobs and thus earn much less than men. Moreover, to succeed in these fields, women are required to exhibit endurance, perseverance and invest a lot in order to overcome these odds

Sex segregation in job sector is not exception in Kenya whose patriarchy is manifested by the limited role women play in government, public administration and legislative roles. In 2008, only 9 percent of women were represented in Kenyan parliament, the lowest proportion in the East African region (UNData, 2011). In addition, by 2005, women made up of 15.6 percent of high ranking government officials, and in the judiciaiy, they represent 21.5 percent (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung & the League of Kenya Women (n.d), pg. 13). Property and wealth ownership is largely in the hands of men and although the constitution guarantees equal rights of ownerships for all citizens in Kenya. Yet, women's marginalization in economic participation is due to limited access to land, assets and credit facilities (Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), 2012). …

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