A few weeks ago, I sat back and observed with a touch of curiosity and amusement as the picture of a female aircraft mechanical engineer, Fatima Ajus, went viral on social media. A picture of Fatima working on a plane caused a massive reaction in Nigeria and other African countries.
One headline screamed; “A female engineer who works as an Aircraft mechanic! Got her photo trending online apparently because her type of job is majorly handled by men!”
Another quote stated’ “The pretty lady is an experienced Aircraft Maintenance Engineer with a demonstrated history of working in the airlines’ aviation industry.”
The response to Fatima’s picture served as a stark reminder that we have not really moved past treating women as equal to men.
It’s 2017 and the only thing a man can do better than a woman is growing a beard.
A woman’s achievement should be regarded as equal to that of a man. Why do we have to dwell on the fact that she is a woman? What’s next? Pictures of men feeding babies or working as secretaries going viral?
Picture the opposite headline; Handsome male mechanical engineer works on an aircraft! Wow! A picture of a man in the same place will not go viral or be celebrated.
By singling Fatima out as a woman who should be recognized because she is an aircraft mechanical engineer, we are making a fundamental assumption that a man has a right to be a mechanical engineer, not a woman.
Little boys and girls need role models. An aircraft mechanical engineer, male or female is an excellent role model. A role model our kids can look up to and recognize the rewards for using our God-given talents, skills, and brain. God did not design one gender to be smarter or better than the other, we are all equal.
Some called Fatima “pretty” or “beautiful” in the same sentence while describing her achievement. I happen to believe that such labeling in this context is actually degrading to women. It feels like we are patronizing women by saying, “Aww, you did so well as a woman. And oh, you are pretty as well.”
Fatima excelled because she worked hard, studied hard and probably beat out the competition by her own merits. Women are not fragile glass dolls who need to be praised and given special attention for achieving a higher status in life.
Women are every bit as good as men and deserve to be respected and treated as such.
I get it, the benefit of celebrating the accomplishment of the likes of Fatima is the promotion of role models for girls and other women. It sends a message that being a woman should not be an excuse for not trying to be all you can be.
However, in doing so, are we not perpetuating the long-held discredited belief that women are not equal to men? By celebrating one gender’s accomplishment over the other, are we not propagating the discontent between them?
I am not naïve and I am privy to the fact that inequality still exists in many parts of the world, Africa included. There are still many barriers which prevent women from progressing in certain roles.
Pointing out the achievements of someone simply because she is a woman accomplishes the opposite reaction. A reaction which suggests that men are the only ones who can ascend to the difficult spaces and roles which requires higher learning and intelligence.
Fatima is an amazing human being who worked hard and became an accomplished mechanical engineer. Her achievement had nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman, in my opinion. We should single out and celebrate Fatima for her hard work, dedication and astute focus on achieving her goals in life.
I have a daughter who is 11 years old. Should she become an aircraft mechanical engineer one day, I will celebrate her for not wasting her God-given talent and opportunities.
I will not celebrate her accomplishment because she is a woman. I will be a proud dad of an intelligent human being who worked hard and achieved her goals in life.
By Kwadjo Panyin
Kwadjo Panyin is a Ghanaian born relationship and lifestyle blogger located in Los Angeles, California. He holds three degrees; a Bachelors degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey, an MBA from Franklin University in Ohio and a Masters of Science degree from Northern Kentucky University in Kentucky. Kwadjo is a business professional who blogs for fun. His articles are about the challenges of dating and relationship anomalies. Writing, blogging, world travel, and photography are his favorite hobbies.