Women and Work in Africa: A Masterclass by Dr. Cynthia Forson

Home>News>Women and Work in Africa: A Masterclass by Dr. Cynthia Forson

Cohort 7 of our Executive MBA class explored the Entrepreneurship module taught by Dr. Edward Mckeever of Lancaster University – UK on the weekend of 22nd to 24th July, 2022.

To give a more practical insight into this module, a Masterclass was delivered by the Deputy Provost of Lancaster University Ghana, Dr. Cynthia Forson.

The topic for this Masterclass was ‘Women and Work in Africa’. She emphasized that this session would cover gender in the labour market and in some respect how power shapes the way women experience the labour market in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Cynthia began by stating that “Africa is a complex context”. She further added that “according to Forbes, Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world and also a place where there is rising constitutionalism but yet, it’s also a place known for security and safety issues, political instability, religious extremism, etc”.

She further stated that “Africa is a complex context for women as well” and to explain this, by throwing more light on women in the sub Saharan Africa perspective, she illustrated to the class the diversity of results from online research on women and work from various regions across the world. These results of women in other parts of the world, namely; Europe and Asia, showed images and statistics of women in the corporate sector while that of African women and work revealed images of women in agriculture. She then stated that “as far as the internet is concerned, the women currently present during the Executive MBA masterclass do not exist in Africa”.

She continued by saying that “It is true women in sub Saharan Africa provide approximately 70% of the agricultural labour and also produce 90% of the food in sub Saharan Africa, but then also, their economic activity base is higher than all regions in the world at 61.9%, and they are predominately employed in the informal sector and in low-skill jobs”. She added that “the percentage of women in the non-agricultural sector is only 17.7% and that’s the lowest in the world.”

Dr. Cynthia added that “some of the stories and images are true, but they are just a partial story”. Quoting George Monbiot, Dr. Cynthia stated that “If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire”, and explained that “this is because African women do work hard and come from a diverse range of sectors. They are employed in the typical female sectors such as teachers, nannies, etc, but then also there are African women who work in male dominated sectors with some being pilots, in the army, in politics, etc.”. She stated that, African women lead the world in terms of numbers in politics, with Rwanda leading the world in this regard by having 61.3% of the parliament in Rwanda being made up of women.

By referring to a study by the world bank in 2021 and interparliamentary union in 2022, Dr. Cynthia made known to the class that there are a lot of African women in parliament and the labour force than the other regions of the world as portrayed otherwise by the internet.

Not to tell a one-sided story by presenting African women only in a positive light, Dr. Cynthia also made known some challenges these women face in the labour market. She stated that African women are mostly at the bottom of the social hierarchy, have poor access to land, credit, health and education, are mostly victims of domestic violence and in many countries, are denied constitutional rights at work. She further stated that the complexity of the experience of African women in the labour market has been explained in three level. Namely, the cultural dimensions (Macro), structural dimensions (Meso) and the individual level (Micro).

Dr. Cynthia concluded the session by stating what can be done at the Macro, Meso and Micro levels to ensure that women in sub Saharan Africa are treated equally.  She stated that for the Macro level, “we need the government commitment to secondary and tertiary educational objective because it has implications for the skills women bring and their ability to enter the labour market”, she also added that “ there needs to be a change in the perception of women’s role in the workplace and society”, and for the Meso level, she stated that “there needs to be a commitment by top management to ensure that there is gender equality in the workplace and the need to promote work-life balance. Stating what can be done at the Micro level, Dr. Cynthia mentioned that, “there is a need to organise mentoring, role modeling and training programmes for women, as well as women’s networks for women to converge and talk about ideas.”

The masterclass ended with a question and answer session and was followed by a networking cocktail session at the Lancaster University Ghana campus.

About the LU Ghana EMBA Masterclass

The EMBA masterclass is an engagement designed around taught modules of the EMBA programme with industry speakers. These masterclass sessions form and strengthen the relationship between industry and academia in support of our students’ personal, professional and leadership development.

About the Speaker

Dr. Cynthia Forson is an Associate Professor and Deputy Provost at Lancaster University Ghana. She supports the Provost in delivering and managing Lancaster University Ghana, specifically on academic quality assurance matters and matters relating to curriculum development.
Prior to her post at Lancaster University Ghana, Dr. Cynthia was Head of the department of Management Leadership and Organisation at University of Hertfordshire Business School. As an academic, Dr. Cynthia teaches in the areas of human resource management, organisational behaviour and qualitative research methods and is a Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. Her research interests cover equality, diversity and inclusion in the labour market and organisations. She focuses particularly on gender, ethnicity, class and migrant status and their intersectional influences in the lives and careers of women, particularly African women on the continent and in diaspora.
In that context she sits on the boards of companies and brings her expertise in her teaching and research areas to enhance the strategic management of those organisations. Dr. Cynthia is the chairman of the board of Allstar Insurance Brokers Limited, and member of the boards of Calbank Plc and Africa Partners Medical Ghana. Dr. Cynthia is also interested in promoting the leadership of women in all sectors through professionalism and the provision of skills training for women to gain access to income. She has extensive experience in training leadership & management and EDI using innovative approaches that promote self-discovery in participants’ own learning.