"Oh you are Mrs?" said one of my coworkers one day before I was leaving. It was the first time I had met this particular coworker, and we didn't even get to the moment of exchanging names. Yet, after his first glance at me and catching the sparkle of my "wedding ring," his immediate interest in me was in the state of my eligibility.
Being the only woman at my newspaper internship gave me a new perspective on gender inequity globally. In the USA, I had felt many times that I was taken less seriously than my male counterparts. I would sometimes get asked out in the middle of an interview or get called "sweetie" or "sweetheart." Unfortunately, even some professors told me that in the journalism industry, with my specific field of interest, a man would most likely get the job. Being in a different culture and work environment I was eager to learn what it meant to be a woman in the journalism world beyond the USA.
Working at the Today newspaper was like being in the Boys Club. As the only woman and the only foreigner in the office, I sometimes felt ignored. All the men communicated with each other in Twi and only spoke with me regarding an assignment, or, more commonly, regarding my relationship with my significant other. They also pressed me on my plans to have children. Plus, even though I wore a fake wedding ring, they often asked if I would like them to find me a Ghanaian husband.
Although I had been forewarned that Ghanaian work sites generally require considerable initiative by foreign interns, I felt that I was more neglected and faced more challenges than a male intern likely would have experienced. Male coworkers seldom engaged in serious conversations with me and gave me inadequate instructions for completing a task. As an example, one day I was assigned to go to Parliament. I asked my editor-in-chief if I should wear anything specific or bring documentation. He told me no, that I was fine. The following workday I dressed more conservatively than usual and went to Parliament along with a coworker. When we arrived the security guard gave me a disapproving look and asked my coworker if I'd brought a jacket. The security guard never once spoke to me. Though my coworker and I were there equally to report, the security guard somehow felt a need to direct all questions to my male coworker. I ended up in the security office due to my sleeves not being long enough, though no one had instructed me that my arms should be covered.
My workplace also lacked certain material resources for having females on the staff. There was only one washroom labeled "MEN," and, without going into detail, the men's restroom was not adequate for the needs of women.
Straight up, I have mad respect for all the women in Ghana who go to work every day, as I see how hard it can be at some workplaces. I heard secondhand horror stories of sexual harassment and how some men claimed this was normal in the culture. Being a woman in a room full of men is almost always difficult, but a more patriarchal culture can pose even greater challenges, at least in my observation. As more women enter the workplace and take on leadership roles, I am hopeful for positive changes in the professional world for women in Ghana and globally.