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In an ironic way, Prince Kofi Amoabeng, founder and Chief Executive Officer of UT Bank was quite right in his cynicism about the authenticity of the First class qualification status of a beautiful woman who applies for a job in Ghana. In fact, I think he is fully justified in his suspicion.
Are you angered by this declaration? Have I stirred up strong emotions with my stance? If I have succeeded, then I am pleased. Please hang with me while I explain my reason for this stand.
Kofi Amoabeng made a true statement but he did not articulate it properly. He missed a key ingredient to the elements that led to his conclusion . He should have phrased it this way.
“We, the men, who wield power in eradicating the social economic and financial roadblocks most women face have exploited this power to the extent that, I used to tell people that if you are a woman and come to apply for a job with a 1st Class and you are VERY BEAUTIFUL, I suspect the [authenticity] of the First Class. So we have to find a way to test whether it is genuine or not.”
He could have also said:
“Most men have successfully created the unfortunate situation and an environment where a beautiful woman has to worry about a university professor soliciting sex in exchange for good grades. This situation is so bad that I used to tell people that if you are a woman and come to apply for a job with a 1st Class and you are VERY BEAUTIFUL, I suspect the [authenticity] of the First Class. So we have to find a way to test whether it is genuine or not.”
He could have also put it yet another way:
“Most men have succeeded in creating a generation of women who are desensitized to sexual harassment that most beautiful women face frequently in the universities and ultimately, their search for employment. To the women it is as if it is to be expected. This harassment is so prevalent that I used to tell people that if you are a woman and come to apply for a job with a 1st Class and you are VERY BEAUTIFUL, I suspect the [authenticity] of the First Class. So we have to find a way to test whether it is genuine or not.”
A few weeks ago, while out to lunch with a lady friend in Accra, she received a text message. A cynical smile crept on her face as she read it. She nonchalantly placed the phone down and proceeded to sip on her drink. I asked her the reason for that smile. Her response was “Oh, it’s something someone I recently interviewed with for a job sent me.” My curiosity got the better part of me and so I asked what the message was about. She was gracious enough to show it to me. It was an x rated clip and the text attached read, “I want to hire you. But first, can we do this?” I was stopped dead in my tracks! I was equally baffled by her nonchalant reaction. “Oh, this is normal.” She explained with a smile. ‘It happens to my friends and I almost every time in our job search in Accra.”
I am not going to compare how female job seekers are treated abroad versus how they are treated in Ghana. A comparison is not needed or warranted in this case. I want to speak more about pure decency and the genuine desire to consider a fellow human being for her abilities rather than our need for pleasure.
Men are the cause of this deplorable state of affairs. I am not excluding myself neither am I excusing myself from the fact that, some men have made it acceptable in our society for a female to think that it is normal for an employer to solicit sex in exchange for a job. I am not excusing myself from our failure as men to protect our women from these shameful practices. To be respectful of our women and their abilities. To treat our Queens with the dignity they deserve in the education and employment sphere. No, I cannot excuse myself when we have spurned a generation of women to expect that a male employer may not offer her a job if she refuses to sleep with him.
I refuse to ask how some men will feel if their daughters or sisters were subjected to the same treatment. I refuse to ask that male employer who sent the video clip to my friend how it would feel if I sent the same clip with the same proposition to his daughter or sister. I refuse to ask because the approach of asking men to consider their sisters, daughters and mothers while they exploit women does not work.
The only true change to how poorly women are treated in the education and employment sphere will come when the men gather the courage to speak up about this problem. The true change will come when the men stand up and declare that this practice of placing our women in a position to choose between sleeping with a male employer and a job is absolutely sickening!
My friend Abena Tenkorang was absolutely right when she stated, “In a country where you will hustle before finding a proper job, how many women will expose a boss who demands sex?” There is a bigger argument to be made about an economic system which offers few employment outlets to an applicant pool five times the size of the available opportunities. Given this insurmountable situation most young women face landing a decent job, should some of us men add to their woes by exploiting them for sex? Don’t these young women suffer enough in this patriarchal society?
Kofi Amoabeng is right. As a man, he knows the torture a beautiful woman has to endure in her interactions with some male university professors. He understands the powerful temptations of using her body for a 1st class status. He is smart enough to know that a woman, most of the time, does not willingly offer herself to a man twice her age for good grades. He knows that even if she does offers herself first in exchange for a favor, it is most of the time a last ditch effort or a decision made out of desperation.
My personal wakeup call came about 15 years ago while I was a college student. In a heated argument with my then girlfriend who just arrived from Ghana a month prior, it came to light how she acquired a visa. She disclosed how she had to close her eyes and picture my face while a big burly man was profusely sweating on top of her for about an hour. Her desire for a better life abroad, a life with me and to provide for her family led her to make such a decision. She did not make this decision lightly. After months of holding off this man who held the key to a better life abroad, she gave in after she came home one day to find her mum, brothers and sisters outside their residence with all their belongings. The landlord had kicked them out for non payment of rent. This is a decision that she profoundly regrets every single day. That particular day, my eyes were opened as a man to the deplorable state in which we have placed our women. I knew then that there was a better approach. An approach where we treat our women with kindness and dignity.
If you thought my take on this matter is exaggerated, I will like you to read the piece below from Maame Adwoa, a dear friend of mine.
Kwadjo Panyin has touched on a sensitive yet important topic. Sexual harassment against women is entrenched in our society. It occurs in the workplace, in our educational institutions and infact in everyday encounters. The scenarios Kwadjo recounted are personal experiences of his female compatriots, myself included. Allow me to share some of my personal experiences with you.
I had the unfortunate experience of failing a paper in the course of my studies at the tertiary level. I had to retake the paper and guess what, I failed once again because I refused to “go see” the lecturer in question.
The thought of a bald headed man my father’s age if not older making a pass at me behind closed doors was simply revolting! I paid a price for my ‘insolence’.
I was lucky to pass narrowly on the third try but my grade point average (GPA) took a hit. One can only imagine what my final GPA would have been had I gone through a few more such experiences.
Post graduation I landed a marketing job. I recall holding my breath and saying a prayer every time I had an appointment alone with a male client or a potential male client. Depending on what I was faced with ranging from flirting to groping, I had to quickly conjure an exit strategy. This was quite frequent and after a while it does put a damper on a woman’s drive to excel on the job.
I do not need to bore you with more harrowing stories to drive home a point. While some of us were, are or have been fortunate to have an excellent support system that makes it easier to reject or ward off such demeaning advances, there is a greater number of women who have not been so fortunate. These unfortunate women have had to yield to such propositions to make a grade or get and keep a job necessary for survival.
It is in this light that I join Kwadjo Panyin in the call to our men, to appeal to their conscience. That they stand up and speak up against this unfortunate trend. It is in their power to do so for their wives , for their sisters, for their nieces,for their daughters, for the queens of the nation. As it is in every story, the coin can be flipped. There are some men facing similar situation at the hands of female employers. It is only right to speak out against this too.
Edmund Burke sums this beautifully in his quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Kwadjo Panyin & Maame Adwoa..
Author: 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.