Lesson 21: Women

  1. Students fill out short survey.
  2. Discuss results of survey, meaning in terms of cultural expectations, real-world limitations on possibilities, creative compromises.
    1. The only point on which there seemed to be some gender disparity in the class was the predominant motivation to "make a difference" rather than "achieve success" as a professional.
      1. On discrimination against women in the arts, see the "Guerilla Girls" website.
    2. Everyone seemed hopeful that child and elder care would be balanced among siblings and other relations and not related too much to gender.
  3. Discussion of readings.
    1. I was wrong about my response to Pablo's question. Maternal mortality rates are in fact lower in Latin America than they are in Africa and South Asia, it's not just a matter of greater population.
Points to be made in class:
  1. Point 1: In almost every society traditional (and some modern) ways of thinking about women and girls is limiting and discriminatory. This goes against the overall goal of DEVELOPMENT AS FREEDOM.
    1. For this to change, men need to see it as their problem too (and in fact it is their problem: gender expectations for men are limiting too, lack of access to women's full potential hinders the wellbeing of all).
    2. some aspects of globalization have been especially tough on women. They are out of reach of protective laws in "free trade zones", subject to harassment, intimidation, abuse, examinations to make sure they are not pregnant and being fired if they are, forced to work overtime to meet deadlines, not paid enough or on time. They are not allowed to organize, laws and rules are not enforced, and companies threaten to relocate if these situations are challenged.
    3. On top of earning money for their families, women are still responsible for household work (cooking, cleaning, childrearing).
    4. lower-status groups in general are vulnerable: whether discrimination is based on low-caste, minority, race, indigenous, disability, youth or elderly, migrants or refugees: all of these lower-status markers reduce the FREEDOM people have to leave a bad job, speak out, receive redress for grievances. They are layers of discrimination.
    5. When more stress is put on men because of inequality of power, it can lead to more violence against women, as men try to express their frustrated "masculinity" in other ways (see the article Jessica summarized a couple of weeks ago).
  2. Point 2: The reverse of the coin of women's extra exposure to work and responsibility for others is that investment in women leads to better outcomes for all.
    1. Women, when they get more resources, are more likely to make sure kids are fed and sent to school.
    2. Educated women are more likely to have fewer children.
    Here is a really good quote from Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM):
    "Above all, [having a strategy to eliminate poverty] means recognizing and valuing the work that women do, so that development strategies will include investing in women's entrepreneurial and labour market skills rather than depending on women to pick up the social costs of market-driven growth."
Take-home point: Worldwide, women face discrimination in the workplace and disproportionate responsibility for household care. Gender differences have implications for approaches to development, health, education, and so on, and play a large role in the evolution of demographic trends.