By William J. Fielding, Director of Institutional Strengthening at University of The Bahamas
While the recent trend in The Bahamas is that women are acquiring greater access to higher education, University of The Bahamas (UB) research suggests that in the workplace, women continue to face discrimination in the form of lower incomes when compared with men.
Additionally, as a recent Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) report noted, given the high levels of attainment in education, women in The Bahamas have not achieved commensurate representation in leadership and governance of the nation.
Grand Bahama native and current UB senior, Alexis Lightbourne, is the Acting President of the Student Government Association, majoring in Architecture and Art. She intends to break the mould. She dreams of becoming an architect, a predominately male focused career path.
“I thrive off any challenge in a work environment and I believe my involvement in various activities on campus, voluntarily and academically, have given me the drive needed to harness my creative skills in design, innovation and sustainability,” said Alexis.
During her time at UB, Alexis has risen to the top as one of a handful of students selected from the disciplines of Culinary Arts, Art and Architecture to design concepts and create native dishes for Dubai’s Expo 2020. Under the theme, ‘Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity,’ young adults are encouraged to create solutions to challenges faced as a small island state.
Enhancing student creativity as exposed by the Dubai project and divergent thinking are keys to the economic development of the country. Encouraging divergent thinking will require that managers, and those in authority, are equipped to harness positively this divergence, so that the most appropriate actions are adopted, irrespective of their origin - even if it means a radical change of a previous policy direction.
Meanwhile, for parents, the education of their children typically consumes a great deal of their time as they seek to equip their children for adult life. Given that UB, as an institution of higher education, sits at the apex of the education system it has great interest in the entire education system, the environment from which students emerge, as well as the participation of its graduates in society post graduation.
UB’s research demonstrates the great strides that have taken place since independence in educating an ever-greater percentage of Bahamians to university degree level. This success is noted by the many leadership positions in society now filled by those who attended the College of The Bahamas.
Research by UB faculty, published in “Violence in The Bahamas” and the “International Journal of Bahamian Studies,” shows us that success at school - a critical stepping stone to university education - is influenced by the behaviour of adults in households. Violence in homes spills over into anti-social behaviour in schools, which increases the risk of the child failing to complete their high school education.
Recent research by UB faculty on sentenced inmates at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services facility at Fox Hill shows that 25 percent of inmates failed to complete their school education. Therefore, as earlier research showed, the home environment has an important role to play in the education of children. The influences of parental choices can be noted by parents spending more money on educating their daughters than their sons, and in their daughters being more likely to continue their education after high school.
While research shows the matrifocal nature of the family, the notion that the “place of a woman is in the home,” is learnt at an early age. Findings such as this will require further research to understand how education can help to counter these attitudes which run the risk of the continued marginalization of women.
Alexis though, is determined to not be part of the status quo for women.
“I believe through determination there is no stopping what can be produced. I encourage all women to keep on striving because women were built to withstand any trial and bypass all hindrances,” said Alexis.