Once upon a time, women were perceived as inferior beings and relegated to the background. As the clamor for women’s rights grows louder in contemporary society, the line between genders continues to blur. Women across different walks of life are blazing the trail and challenging decades-old stereotypes with their exceptional skills and poise.
Indeed, through their struggles and success stories, these women have spurred many more women to leave a mark in their careers and environments.
Through the course of many months, Prime Progress documented the brilliant stories of some of the women who have trumped societal norms by carving a career in a male-dominated profession or heading down a relatively unknown path.
Consider, for example, Rukayat Akodu, a 23-year-old barber and student from the commercial city of Lagos, southwestern Nigeria.
She narrated how people thought her choice to become a barber was because she was naive and irrational.
After leaving home for school, in Kwara State, she anticipated a different type of reception from her new customers, but the immediate response was disparaging. Undeterred, Akodu persisted until she gained recognition for her exceptional and creative barbering skills, although she continues to face scepticism due to her gender.
Her experience reflects that of many women who encounter similar challenges in different forms.
While Akodu’s boss in Lagos was open to her learning the craft, he would allow her to practice with his clients. In Illorin, the clients were even less welcoming, as they objected to having a woman “ruin their haircut.” So Akodu scouted for friends and family, who didn’t mind being shaved by a female barber.
Like Akodu, Sarah Oluwaseun, a student and car audio technician, confronted similar troubles.
She learned the skill from her dad, who pushed her to focus on what she loved. But Oluwaseun’s passion for car audio sparked a ripple of rivalry from her male colleagues, who thought her work was a sham.
As Oluwaseun narrated during an interview, their best bet was that her father had brought her to play with the instruments in the workshop. When she proved them wrong with her skills, they hated her more.
Despite being a well-known apprentice, Oluwaseun was greeted with condescension from most of her father’s customers, with one warning her against touching his vehicle. He ordered for a man to examine his car instead.
With the help of her father, however, Oluwasuen was often left to fix their car audio.
Beyond stereotypes, some of these women also suffer from trying to juggle home and work demands.
Amina Dahiru shared how multi-tasking had taken a heavy toll on her, leaving her overworked and exhausted.
“I believe women are constantly shielding themselves from the strikes of stereotypes. What bothers me most is how incompetent we look when nature calls. I say this because giving birth and taking on the responsibility as a mother have dragged me backward with the plans I had for my business,” she noted
Dahiru manages a clothing line that demands that she sit in her office to supervise the work of the day, while also tracking goods ordered for her store. Becoming a mother meant leaving her business in the hands of others, which spelled chaos for her business. She lost many things that she couldn’t trace.
“ Work-life balance Is almost impossible to achieve at this time, and I am positive this applies to many women. You get stuck in a place, and if family or society fails to support you in those times, it becomes easy to lose touch of the things you have passion for,” she added.
Maintaining a balance between work routines and the demands of their personal life is a rather significant hurdle for women in leadership. Even when both spouses work full-time, women are required to manage most domestic and child-care duties. As such, they are caught between missing their children’s performances at school and putting in long hours on office projects.
As time goes on, a woman’s feelings of well-being, productivity, and relationships might suffer due to work-life imbalance, which can lead to a burnout and other mental health problems.
As a student and car technician, Oluwaseun also has similar challenges. Yet she manages all of the pressures by deploying her time effectively and simplifying her work.
Assaulted and underpaid
Before she became a popular unisex fashion designer in Kano State, Favour Michael not her real name) was intensely curious about how to design male attire.She hoped to expand her business with her knowledge of this. But the male tutor she hired tried to take advantage of her.
“ The first place I went to learn male designs ended horribly. My boss frequently made sexual advances at me when no one was around. I reported it to his brother whom I knew, and I thought the warning he got was enough to keep him off,” she said.
Months later, Michael’s boss tried to rape her when they were alone at the shop. She fled the shop and registered elsewhere.
“I still went to a shop owned by a man who really knew how to design. I proceeded to perfect what I had started learning, but my boss had other plans. He started by professing love which I declined,” she said.
Things took a bad turn as Michael’s boss grew toxic, disregarded her work, and reduced her pay with the excuse that she was a bad stylist.
“ I remained patient until he and his friend tried to assault me. I took the mercy of God for me to survive because I had two strong men who pinned me down and closed my mouth so I would not scream. I managed to escape, and they were both locked in prison for months,” she added.
Yet Michael’s story is just a voice out of the many miserable tales of oppressed women
Martin Luther King’s inspirational words and values from many years ago are as prevalent as ever. No company or even society should be at a standstill when it comes to gender equity and anti-discrimination effort. We are in a period of rapid evolution and people of all genders and statuses should have the chance to ride the wave.