Maria is a young professional holding a management position in one of the local banks.
A young woman under 30, she claims she does not get the respect she deserves from her subordinates and colleagues and wonders if other women in high positions get similar treatment.
Gender stereotyping is not unique to Malawi.
Former United States president Barrack Obama’s female staffers came up with an inventive way of ensuring their voices were heard in the oval office by employing what they called an ‘amplification’ strategy when in meetings dominated by their male colleagues.
With this strategy, according to The Telegraph, when a woman made a significant point in a meeting, other women would repeat it, giving credit to the one who made the point.
This forced the men in the room to recognise that particular woman’s contribution.
Closer home, Naomi Msusa, a test administrator at the University of Cape Town (UCT)’s Centre for Higher Education talks of how she had to always prove her worth.
“I often had to use my title to be taken seriously, or pepper conversations with grand sounding words to prove to my audience that I was one of them,” she says.
However, sociologist Charles Chilimampunga asserts that whatever a man can do, a woman can also do, but notes that society seems to preserve some positions for males.
“Men and women may have the same qualifications and sometimes the women are better at the job than some men, but society seems to have preserved certain positions in the workplace for men.
“As such, when a woman holds that same position, she is not taken seriously or she does not get the same respect as a man would,” he says.
He observes, however, that with more women now occupying positions of authority, people’s mindsets are beginning to change and appreciating women in high positions as the norm.
“As long as society begins to accept that men and women are equal, people’s mindsets towards gender stereotypes in the workplace will change,” he adds.
Further, Chilimampunga says how a woman carries herself in the workplace can earn her the respect she deserves.
Apart from that, he observes that delivering quality work, being meticulous in the delivery of work and also respecting the people that she works with, both above and below her is also important.