What has been the most unexpected part of my experience as an African woman/student in the United States? - by Anne Achieng
The question on gender inequality is predominantly narrowed down to the cultural aspect of African womanhood. Africa is the land where everyone know that women do not have control over their lives and the only role bestowed upon them is being a motherhood. Even beyond this huge responsibility, they still possess a lot of physical and emotional abuse. Even though some of this perceptions on women still exist in certain places, there has been a lot of development in Africa in terms of women advancement. I did not expect to see the same notions in America. There is still a huge insecurity among women in their potentials and abilities especially in the industry level.
I am working in a team of six students this summer as a software developer and it is really exciting. Within this team of six students, we are only two girls. The rest are men. I had not thought that one day I will be intimidated by the ego of men at a work place. While growing up in Kenya, I have never experienced an outright underestimation of a woman’s intellectual ability. In most high schools, even if they are mixed schools, girls always competed with boys in a fair ground without any degrading of a girl's potential. There are often girls who are smart in sciences and mathematics and I was a good example.
Women are not only less represented in the technological or any industry but are paid less compared to their male coworkers as studies has shown. In spite of hearing this in the news and social media, I had not fully grasped its reality. It only dawned on me during this summer internship. For instance, in most cases my male college are always hesitant team up with the two of us. Mainly because we are women.
I was quick to notice such a behavior because it was a shock to me. It was beyond my expectations as an international student. I am not implying that this crushed me as a woman. It was a wake-up call. To be a voice for other women. It does not matter whether I am a woman or a man, knowledge is to all. This had just happened after I attended a Women Undergraduate Summit with McKinsey Company and on that day I could see through the speakers that there is a huge leap that women have to take to ensure that they achieve their career dreams. On the their book, "How Remarkable Women Lead," Joanna and Susie shows that women two "could stand down their fears and gain the confidence, and single-mindedness to lead, without losing their warmth personal authenticity or creativity."
In summary, it was quite ironical that a lot has been achieved in the issue of gender discrimination but there is still a lot to accomplish starting from America.