Stereotypes impede women’s access to employment

The employment rate of women in sub-Saharan Africa (59.3%, ILO, 2017) is the highest  in the world (45.8%). However, a large majority of African women work in the informal sector, mostly in low-paying jobs. Ten West African countries have more than eight legal provisions restricting women’s ability to obtain jobs in the same way as men; for example, restricting access to certain professions. Moreover, deep-rooted perceptions, gender stereotypes, discriminatory attitudes and customary practices towards women are persistent. About 17% of West African men think that it is unacceptable for women to work outside the home, and 21% would prefer that the women in their families stay home rather than work paid jobs. In Nigeria’s private sector, many employers force young women to sign job contracts stipulating that they not become pregnant for the first three years of their contract. Some governments are taking measures to empower women in the workplace. Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Sierra Leone have passed laws on equal remuneration for the same work. In 2017, the region adopted a series of recommendations to update the “Supplementary Act relating to Equality of Rights between Men and Women for Sustainable Development in the ECOWAS Region.”

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