04 November 2013 ~ 1 Comment

Why is sexism ok in development work?

I just posted a piece on The Huffington Post called “Why Is Sexism Okay in Development Work? Reconsidering the ‘Women are Better’ Dialogue.” Read up if you are interested.

It was inspired by hearing multiple people this weekend say “I don’t hire men,” when speaking about their social enterprises or NGOs in emerging markets.  This is a dialogue we hear more and more. Imagine if they had said “I don’t hire women….”

I had added this part below, and then removed it, as it is a bit of a tangential issue: the employment of men vs sexist dialogue.  I thought it might be worth including some reflections on the problem of actively not employing men as I saw it in Cambodia, not just from social businesses, but from corporations and other entities:

While living in Cambodia, I noticed that the job opportunities in the capital city, have an infiltration of these anti-men biases in all sorts of jobs. Nearly all garment factories in the country hire only women, with tens of thousands of women pouring into the streets during lunch breaks and shift ends. I visited a crab canning factory shipping crab all around the world, and it was like entering the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”: hundreds of people wearing blue full-body covers with only their faces visible, cracking crabs and using black-lights to pick out any remaining pieces of shell. All of the employees were woman. The salt flats being pounded into flat uniform planes to later be flooded and dried reveal rows of women pounding the earth with a wooden peg, called an “elephants foot.” (Note: The fact that most of the managers in all of these cases were men, and that the men walking next to those women got to conduct the action without doing any of the heavy lifting is a whole separate issue. But let’s leave that for a future discussion.)

The unemployment problem is very bad in Cambodia, and often skewed towards men as women are typically fully employed, if not financially gainfully, then they are usually working full-time in the home. Many men sit on the streets on their motorbikes all day, hoping to be paid to give people rides, while often not making enough to cover their family’s needs. (Note: At least one organization has noted this discrepancy in the entry level employment options for men and woman, and has started a men’s skills training centre offering electrical training, air-conditioning repair, etc and an iron workshop)

To read the article on the Huffington Post, visit here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniela-papi/why-is-sexism-okay-in-development-work_b_4210184.html



  • Stacey Fitzsimmons

    Hi Daniela – I read your HuffPost piece back in November, and it must have made an impact on me. On Friday, I used it to question a presentor who was making the same broad-strokes assumption that women are better than men in development work. I applaud your argument, but now want to look at the data. Do you happen to know of any empirical work that’s questioned this assumption? I’m curious how strong the empirical evidence is for such a common assumption. Thanks.