EDITORIAL: Who’s the weaker sex?
ARE MALES NOW the weaker sex? Barbados has undergone dramatic social and economic change since 1966, so much so that as we celebrate the golden jubilee of sovereignty an intriguing question is being asked.
It is: who is the weaker sex, who is on top?
Given the global insensitivity when it came to gender issues at the time of independence on November 30, 1966 it didn’t come as a surprise that the answer was “men”. The evidence of discrimination against women was everywhere. The legal, medical, journalistic and accounting professions were bastions of male dominance; ministerial power was in the exclusive hands of men; girls rarely won Barbados Scholarships; women were routinely excluded from top private sector jobs; and senior civil service positions were out of their reach.
Not so anymore. Although men still dominate political and commercial life, the Opposition Leader Mia Mottley is a woman and so is the President of the Senate, Kerryann Ifill. In addition, two women sit in the cabinet. Owen Arthur as Prime Minister showed the way. There is more. Girls are performing better than boys in secondary schools so much so that they are capturing, deservedly so, a major share of national scholarships and when the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus holds its next graduation, not only will a capable woman, Professor Eudene Barriteau, stand on centre stage as the first female principal, but more women than men will receive degrees.
There’s more. Women are the leaders of the three largest trade unions and such major private sector institutions as the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Barbados Manufacturers Association have women as their executive directors. At the same time, female magistrates, judges and practising attorneys play dominating roles in the law courts. Interestingly, single women and wives with spouses are believed to hold most of the mortgages on properties.
Should society be concerned about what’s happening? Yes, and no. First, we should applaud not fight against women’s progress. They earned it. Next, far too many boys aren’t completing their education and therefore have less earning power than women and may not pulling their full weight in the family. Children raised in homes without a male figure routinely fail to establish long-term stable relationships, warn experts. With a changing economy and declining job opportunities, it explains why many fathers end up at Dodds.
Clearly, the educational system should become friendlier for boys and more attention paid to vocational training. More male teachers are needed to help provide boys with role models. Greater efforts are required to encourage men to play a greater role in raising children. Just as important, the Government and civil society must recognise the changes and act to correct imbalances.