Making Inroads for Women: A Qualitative Study on Constraints and Opportunities of Women’s Equal Participation in the Roads Sector in Malawi

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The study aims to understand the constraints to women’s equal participation in the roads sector inMalawi to inform the development of interventions to promote gender equality in the sector. The study adopts a career cycle approach that allows to identify and describe the barriers to career progression for women in the roads sector at each stage in the career cycle focusing on: attraction, selection, retention, and advancement. The study employs qualitative research methods consisting of focus group discussions with women and girls along the career cycle in the roads sector and key informant interviews. The study has yielded insights into the multiple and overlapping factors embedded in the socialization, learning and hiring processes that result inhigh rates of attrition of women in the engineering and roads-related technical field at different stages of the career cycle, often called the “leaky pipeline” in policy discussions about women in STEM. From secondary school through university and vocational schools, female students report less confidence and aspiration in engineering and vocational training in the roads sector. At the selection stage, women face gender bias in hiring and difficult work environment, representing an exodus of talent among women who could otherwise become the next generation of architects, engineers, and roads sector contractors. At the retention and advancement phase women confront a difficult work environment where women are sidelined from career advancement opportunities, face sexual harassment and have difficulty balancing work and family obligations in a sector wheremany of the opportunities are in remote locations. The roads sector in Malawi offers opportunitiesfor women: opportunities in the forms of generating substantial incomes, designing transport infrastructure to foster socio-economic development, and providing role models for the young women of the future. Increasing the gender balance in the roads sector requires a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach and one that needs to address the underlying causes that subtly results in gender stereotypes and gendered occupational cultures and career choices. The table summarizes the key study findings and core set of actions to help women overcome the obstacles at different stages of the career cycle targeting women at all age groups.
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World Bank. 2019. Making Inroads for Women: A Qualitative Study on Constraints and Opportunities of Women’s Equal Participation in the Roads Sector in Malawi. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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