LIESE-MARIE HEYNS

A recent viral Always advertisement campaign video #LikeAGirl asks men and women of various ages to run, fight and throw “like a girl”. They usually portray stereotypical interpretations of women running with their arms and legs flailing, complaining about their hair, cat-scratching instead of punching, and throwing a ball with limp arms. When young girls were asked to do the same, they were enthusiastic and energetic. There was no flailing, complaining or limping. Instead, they threw the

ball as hard as possible and threw fervent punches. At what age, then, does doing something “like a girl” become a bad thing?

Based on information gathered by Engineering.net, at an early age girls are smarter than boys and have a higher IQ. Girls even score better on tests if they don’t have to disclose their sex. As soon as they are asked to disclose their sex, their scores decrease drastically.

They lose self-confidence as they get older and their self-esteem drops by almost 20% from Grades 6 to 10. The pattern continues in university where fewer women than men plan on studying maths- or science-related degrees and less than one in five women work in a related field after graduating.

According to data gathered from the All Media and Products Survey in 2012, 77% of South African men believe women should have the same opportunities as men. However, the unemployment rate of women is 6% higher than that of men. Women also earn 35% less than their counterparts, according to a report by the World Economic Forum in 2013. “This means women effectively earn in a full year what men earn in eight months,” said Sandra Burmeister, CEO of Amrop Landelahni, in an interview with News24.

Only 3.6% of South Africa’s CEOs are women, even though they account for 52% of the population. Grant Thornton said in the 2014 International Business Report that just over a quarter of senior management positions are filled by women. According to Burmeister, it would take nearly 50 years to close the pay gap between men and women.

Fredri Jordaan, a final-year accounting student, says she is optimistic about her career although she doesn’t see herself in a top-level management position one day. “I would rather be middle-level and spend more time with my kids,” she said. She is not alone, as three out of five women say they prefer a balanced work and home life, according to a study by Accenture.

Luckily, it’s not all bad news. South Africa is ranked 17th on the Global Gender Gap Index, six places ahead of the United States, also beating the UK, Canada and Australia. South Africa is also ranked eighth in political empowerment, with South African women holding 42% of the seats in parliament – more than double the world average.

Despite this, high levels of domestic violence and women abuse still prevail in South Africa and around the world. In South Africa, a woman is killed every eight hours by a partner. Rape incidences are also extremely high. According to research conducted by the Medical Research Council, six cases of rape are reported to the police every hour. More shocking is the fact that only one in 25 women in Gauteng report rape, which translates to 1.3 million rape cases each year.

Gender-based violence results in the death of one in three women worldwide. In India, more than half of women think it is justifiable for a man to beat a woman. Women in Saudi Arabia are forbidden to drive. A women named Manal al-Sharif was imprisoned for a week in 2011 for driving. Her son was beat up at school because of this, and told that he and his mom should be put to death. In Russia, 57 750 women are sold into sex trafficking each year.

As women in South Africa, we have suffered great losses, yet we still have to work harder than men and still have to fight gender stereotypes. Women across the world are still struggling to be seen as equals.

“Why can’t run like a girl also mean win the race?” asks a girl at the end of the Always advertisement. Keep that in mind the next time you feel inferior because of your gender. National Women’s Day is celebrated on 9 August. Go out and do something #LikeAGirl.

Watch the Always #LikeAGirl advertisement on www.perdeby.co.za.

 Infographic: Rebecca Paulsen