Occupational segregation in Namibia: Women's experience doing "men's work" in the construction and manufacturing industries

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2016-12-21
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

Vocational education and training (VET) is one of the key interventions targeting youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Its success in promoting better livelihoods and a more robust economy depends on both the availability and affordability of quality curricula and programs and the pathways leading to the labor market thereafter. Previous research on occupational sex segregation (OSS) has suggested that men and women exhibit different education attainment and confront discrete work opportunities due to social expectations governing women's roles within the home and outside of it. Around the world women continue to be economically disadvantaged and limited in their agency to choose decent work, specifically in male-dominated domains, such as construction and certain manufacturing jobs. This study sought to understand to what extent this was true for women who were trained and working in construction and manufacturing in Namibia. My findings confirm that norms governing ideas of what is masculine and feminine contribute to the channeling of women into professions perceived broadly to be socially appropriate for them in that developing nation. Discriminatory hiring practices and workplace treatment shed further light on why Namibian women may be underrepresented in these domains. The experiences of this study's participants did not necessarily align with past research findings regarding the burden of child bearing and rearing, as family members afforded many of those I interviewed the flexibility to work by helping care for their children. A number of the interviewees also expressed a preference for working with men, challenging the oft-cited development narrative that women ally themselves with other women and tend to view themselves in opposition to men. By providing context-specific information on some of the factors contributing to occupational segregation in Namibia, this study adds to the existing development and feminist literature related to the interplay between the productive and reproductive spheres of women's lives as well as their options and choices concerning each.

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Namibia, vocational education and training, occupational segregation, Gender, development
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