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Challenges Of Being A Woman In The 21st Century

By Ilemona Akpa
27 March 2022   |   9:43 am
Over the years, women have been branded by definitions that have kept them at the base of the ladder, dependent on men and society for validation of their womanhood. “She has a job and is at the peak of her career, but she is not married.” “She is working and has children. Who would take…

An unmarried, childless woman. Photo Stephanie Foden

Over the years, women have been branded by definitions that have kept them at the base of the ladder, dependent on men and society for validation of their womanhood. “She has a job and is at the peak of her career, but she is not married.” “She is working and has children. Who would take care of her home?” “She has been married for many years now but she doesn’t have a child.” “She has so many children but no boy yet”. “She is over 30 and yet to be married. What is she waiting for?” These questions are common among women.

Shola Mos-Shogbamimu Lawyer and women’s rights activist says, “One of the biggest challenges that we face as women is the stereotype and the societal perception imposed on us that we have to be a certain way to be a real woman.”

While the woman of the 21st century has leapt over hurdles of stereotypes, there still remain measures of restrictions that would take more than notes to overturn.

Is the 21st-century woman truly better than the traditional women who strapped babies to their backs and carried bundles of firewood on their heads after a long day at the farm? Is she better than the girl in centuries past who was groomed for her greatest calling of being a wife and mother? Is she more respected than they that had to watch boys run off to school while they took in the tutorial of the day, “How to be a woman”? Indeed, women over the centuries, regardless of society, are bound by a common plague- Misrepresentation.

Gender stereotypes continue to exist and are transmitted through media, and through social, educational and recreational socialisation, which promotes gender prejudice and discrimination. From violence and sexual abuse to gender pay gaps, career growths and restrictive reproductive rights, women and girls continue to face obstacles in achieving equality and thriving in our modern society.

A few Nigerian women took to Twitter to share their stories on gender stereotypes with the hashtag #BeingFemaleinNigeria. Of all the 80,000 tweets that poured in from both men and women, the consistent narrative was that a woman is to be domesticated even when at the workplace and humble in her aspirations for career advancement. 

Exposure to educational rights and career-building are two areas the 21st-century women have more access to. However, many gender stereotypes continue to create problems in the progress of women’s careers. The availability of opportunities for the career progressions of women continues to be negatively affected by gender stereotypes, which shape managerial behaviour and occupational outlooks in the workplace with patriarchal expectations. 

While education and a vibrant career can be put out as the formula for a more liberated woman, a study, conducted by two female researchers at Sam Houston State University in Texas (and supported by the university’s Crime Victim’s Institute) looked at the impact that education levels and employment status differences play in domestic or intimate partner violence in heterosexual couples and found that dual-income households were more than twice as likely to. This is not to say that all men are of this stock. However, the staggering numbers cannot be ignored. 

The home was far from a haven for women of all classes during the Covid, as the surge of domestic violence was at an all-time high. With a more educated and exposed society, women are still not free from limitations and suffocating expectations.

Ndileka Mandela – Founder of Thembekile Mandela Foundation and the first granddaughter of Nelson Mandela says,” The biggest challenge for women in the 21st century revolves around the issue of choice–the freedom for women to choose who they become. We must support women to unleash the power to propel them to achieve that goal.

Can she really have it all? Career, a happy single life, marriage and family?

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