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Glass doors, low ceilings

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It seems that women’s rights are not taken seriously in Cyprus, worst of all by women themselves.

The argument about narrowing and eventually closing gender gaps in the workplace, business, public service, and community leadership still has a long way to go.

Politics is an arena where women have an opinion but often shy away from defending their views, even though they account for more than 50% of the voters.

And yet, look at the mess our male politicians have made, at all levels, with women absent from leadership decisions by their own choice.

Women are not challenging key positions or vying for election at party conferences.

And not because some caveman at home has his wife tied to a post and forbids her from leaving the house.

Those days have long gone, but the mentality remains.

A single specimen of a female House Speaker in 63 years and (simultaneously) party leader is shameful, if not embarrassing.

A handful of female MPs is ridiculous.

If men’s opinions about gender equality cannot be changed, then women need to be far more vocal and demanding, starting from their own families.

Lighting up the occasional government building in orange, as was the case on November 25 to mark the Elimination of Violence Against Women or any colour on any other day, is not a solution, merely a social media opportunity and ticking off a ‘to do’ list.

And let’s not forget the pre-election pledges of the incumbent President, who, in his wisdom to satisfy his supporting political parties, does not have as many women on his Cabinet as promised.

Filling the posts of junior ministers with more women is simply keeping up appearances.

Professional young women are not given opportunities to realise their dreams, which is the result of men maintaining medieval ideas and women tolerating this discrimination.

Even corruption has become a male-defined activity.

Cyprus has yet to see women in its military leadership because women are not allowed to serve.

Very few apply for career posts or as non-commissioned officers.

Yet, we’ve already had two female commanders of the UN force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) with an equal line-up among ‘blue berets’ and civil police.

Cyprus police have seen only one senior officer within its ranks, with fewer following up the ladder.

The uptake from academy cadets is not on a fifty-fifty basis, while outside professionals and crime busters are not hired simply because of the delay in long-overdue reforms that would have allowed the police to hire experts on contract.

At least in academia and the private business sector, women are hired on merit, or if rejected, this is based on other reasons unrelated to gender.

In the wider government machine, women seem to be content with what they do and their rank, with few seeking a promotion.

Most mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers take children to private tutorials, gyms, dance schools, and sports activities.

These women tolerate “girls do ballet, boys play football”.

In fact, the violence in football is exclusively male-driven.

We do not have enough female coaches to train young girls (and boys), and the women’s football league is often laughed upon.

Even locker rooms at stadia do not differentiate between genders, with a women’s team recently having to change behind a glass, see-through door.

And let’s not forget the national girls’ basketball squad that was overlooked by the (male-dominated) basketball federation; their budget was cut, and initially banned from playing an international fixture.

The Commissioner for Gender Equality recently conducted a media survey and confirmed what we already knew.

Men’s football accounts for nine out of ten mentions, with even worse results in other sports.

Women’s rights must first be campaigned by women, among women.

It is the first step in breaking the glass ceiling; we are already very late.