Determinants of Gender Disparities in Industrial Occupations in Kenya
Muchangi, Denis Jamleck
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Studies indicate that gender differences continue to persist in the various dimensions of industrial occupations both in Kenya and other parts of the world. This is in spite of the various efforts undertaken including the enactment of the various gender-based laws, and policies. Despite some notable gains, women representation in wage employment remains low forming less than 30 % of wage employment in Kenya. In addition, despite the policies framework, including the two thirds rule in the constitution and the new labour laws, gender disparities in employment continue to persist leading to underutilization of human resources. The differentials tend to firmly favour men over women yet meaningful development can only be achieved if all players are not only represented but if their capacities are well utilized. While gender balance is wide in all aspects of social, economic and political life, this study examined gender disparities in industrial occupations in Kenya. The main objective of this study was to identify the levels and the factors that influence gender disparities at the selected organizations in the manufacturing, the service sector and the related trade unions in Kenya. The disparities were examined at three levels, namely; the operational, the management and the trade union. Although several factors influencing gender disparities at work have been enumerated, the study investigated their relative importance to the industrial occupations in the selected organizations and the respective trade unions in Kenya. The study was guided by the structuralism theory and the concepts of socialization, particularly the division of labor. The fundamental conceptual proposition was that social structure influence socialization which may lead to gender disparities and the related division of labour. The study used the descriptive survey research design to obtain data from the manufacturing and the service sector industries as well as the related trade unions. The four organizations selected from these industries were the East African Portland Cement Company, the Telkom Kenya Limited, the Kenya Chemicals and Allied Workers Union (KCAWU) and the Communications Workers Union (CWU). These companies have both a national and international outlook and provide an opportunity for examining gender disparities in an environment of modern technology and business process re-engineering (BPR). Primary data were obtained from 360 respondents drawn from operational, management and trade unions levels using interviews, questionnaires, while organizations‟ records were used for secondary data. The data was then coded and converted to numerical codes which represent the attributes of the various variables of the proposed study. The findings revealed that despite the many strategies employed, gender disparities continue to persist in formal employment in Kenya. The margins of disparities were seen to increase up the organizational hierarchy and at the trade unions levels. Organizational and social factors were identified as main causes of gender disparities in Kenya. Some of the identified possible causes of disparities include recruitment procedures, job descriptions, long working hours, lack of appeal systems in promotions, poor implementation of policies, lack of health and safety provisions for expectant mothers, and family responsibilities. The key recommendations made included the introduction of the flexi-time working arrangements, enforcement of the two third rule at all organizational levels, introduction of the nomination in the election of trade union officials and regular labour inspections by the ministry in charge of labour.