Written by Ulari Fiona Maduekwe
In a time when the role of a woman in the society continues to receive a mixed perception and opinion, dynamic changes and revolutionary breakthroughs, some women today cannot say that they have been ultimately released from the traditional patterns that restrict their success and happiness at home, in relationships and in the work place. Nonetheless, today’s reflections looks at the nature of the Millennial woman, who is she, what does she do and are there any of such women in Nigeria, if so; is there a close similarity between their opportunities and challenges with their peers in other countries. And how can they progress?
Millennial are a group of people defined by their birth dates. They are people who were born between 1977 and 1995. Nicknamed ‘Generation Why’ because of their questioning nature, they have benefitted from better parental attention than past generations and have more involved fathers. Hence, they tend to have a different and more wilful understanding of gender roles in the homes, workplace and future expectations. The Millennial age range falls within the ages of 35 -17. The focus of this discussion is on Nigerian women within these age gap.
According to a survey on 1,000 women carried out by Accenture in the US on full time working women between the ages of 22 and 35 years. Nearly all 94 percent believed they could achieve a balance between a satisfying professional career and a gratifying personal life. 12 percent cited marriage, 19 percent maternity policies and 30 percent pay scales as barriers to their careers.
The question arises, if 94 percent of women in the US believe they can achieve a balance between a satisfying professional career and a gratifying personal life – are they just being overly positive or is it entirely true? Secondly, can this positive feedback be the case if the study is carried out in a Nigerian society. Are there any women who have withdrawn from pursing a professional career because they were afraid they would not get married or their husbands have threatened them to the confines of the domestic? For the women that have gone against all odds and pursued their dreams are they any societal prices they have paid – are they divorced or separated, did they rise to top by succumbing to sexual harassment? What has been the implication of their actions on the lives of their children; did they lack any parental care? Finally, what is the level of acceptance? Have they been subjected to a trail of derogatory comments? Are they struggling with the confidence of accepting their dreams and finding an identity- mother, wife and profession? Is marriage the only criteria by which to judge their success in life as a woman?
As I ponder on these questions, I recognise the fact that like most young Nigerian women, I am a millennial woman; who questions everyday my goals to pursue a career path, who notes the comments I receive from male friends and female friends especially the “successfully married” when I mention my aspirations. These comments may have to a certain point limited the choices I have made. Please do not get me wrong, I admire the institution of marriage and family. I understand that there are several millennial women like me in the country who have aspired and overcome, but yet there are those who may have aspired, but did not overcome and whose dreams have been killed.
There have been progressive steps; more girl children are educated today. Nonetheless, the battle to limit the girl child has taken a dramatic turn, it now plays out in the mind, which expresses our fears, encourages our insecurities and increases our limitation. We may have been allowed to have career, but are they fulfilling, are we able to manage work and family? Have our statistics been confined to the dichotomies of certain career paths (banking and financial services, teaching, nursing etc) In addition, how do women manage to overcome the challenges of the funnel effect in organisations whereby the higher the position, the lesser the number of women in those positions. Thus, how do we progress?
At the moment, my answer would be for women who have achieved success to share their experiences and challenges, for those who may not have achieved this, please encourage other women, do not slight them or make derogatory statements (i.e. they have manipulated their way to top, how about thinking that they have earned it) Nigerian women should lighten the load and have more fun, find success, and make a difference even when the difference they make is unpopular. “Remember to always give. This is the thing that will make you grow.” -Elizabeth Taylor, e.g. support causes you believe in such as supporting organisations that seek to eradicate child/ human trafficking, go to the village and instead of taking the little maid as a help that would only assist in your household, educate the little girl and give her a future.
In conclusion, my reflections are just my thoughts, with the hope to ignite a progressive discussion.