Hiring has become a real challenge for employers and entrepreneurs in today’s Lagos.
First, the candidates don’t really want to work. But they want to be paid. And paid well. Many young people, either post-secondary school or university graduates, are poorly orientated. Their priorities are wrong. Their values are wrong. And thanks to poorly trained and poorly motivated teachers, the students’ education is sorely lacking in quality.
Admittedly, these shortcomings are not the students’ faults. But the situation is what it is. And so, there are many cases of university graduates who can hardly string 2 sentences in English without error. Official letters and proposals are of course out of the question.
Unfortunately, what this means to the financially stretched entrepreneur, is higher training costs. So if all other requirements are in place, an entrepreneur looking to hire must be prepared to train his new staff, most times in basic communication and business skills.
It’s a boy, no it’s a girl
Fast forward several steps. You have decided on the requirements of the new hire for the gender-neutral position. Do you go with the female applicant, or do you hire a guy? Not too surprisingly, there is really no straightforward answer. In fact, in the more developed countries, the answer is industry biased. And so for instance, there are more women in teaching positions than men in many European countries. And traditionally, professions like nursing remain mostly female dominated.
Meanwhile, recent research from the US suggests that there are now more women working in STEM positions than ever before. STEM stands for ‘Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics’ by the way. According to the report, employment in STEM fields now clearly favours women.
In fact, female applicants are now twice as likely to get hired than equally qualified men! And if this is happening in historically male-dominated fields, what is the status of things in the areas of business and humanities?
Back to the matter
So, what is the situation here in Nigeria? Are women also getting the nod over their male counterparts? Yes and no. In the corporate world, it would appear that more and more women are in top management positions in various professions. However, there are still very few women in the sciences and in engineering. Again, there is a historical background, as many of these fields were considered ‘masculine’ and therefore not suited for the womenfolk.
This historical background has a name: discrimination. Any system or policy that actively seeks to hire one sex or group over another is said to be discriminatory. And this brings us back to where we started – should an entrepreneur hire a man or a woman? To avoid the tag of discrimination, it shouldn’t matter what sex a new hire is. What should matter is their signalled ability and suitability for the job. But that’s on paper.
What is the reality on ground?
The reality is that many small businesses in Lagos prefer to hire women. As long as the position is gender-neutral, small business owners are more inclined to take on female staff. Now, this is, of course, a very unscientific conclusion as it is based on a small sample size of 6 small-business owners. However, the trend is strong enough. And the reasons alluded to for this state of affairs are even more telling: small business owners not only believe that women are more trustworthy, they are also considered more loyal.
Men are from Mars
Let’s face it, the typical male staff is ambitious. He wants to run his own ship. And as far as he’s concerned, he is only in employment to learn the ropes long enough to set up his own business at the first opportunity. In truth, there is nothing wrong with ambition.
But for male ambition, there would never have been corporate giants like GTBank, Access Bank, Forte Oil, and of course, the almighty Dangote Group. These companies were set up quite simply by male ambition. And the world is a better place for it.
But This Is Nigeria, TIN-TIN (the second TIN is for emphasis)
Rightly or wrongly, Nigeria is considered to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Some will argue that Nigeria is as corrupt as it is today because the system permits the otherwise ‘un-permittable’. We encourage impunity. The Nigerian system emboldens criminals and celebrates criminality .
The offshoot of this is that Nigerian youths simply do not understand the concept of hard work or delayed gratification. We have become a nation of shortcuts. In most cases, those shortcuts are criminal paths to wealth and status.
And which sex makes up the vast majority of the criminal elements in Nigeria? The men. The get-rich-quick-at-any-cost mentality is almost exclusively male. Aspiration in Lagos has turned to avarice – excessive greed for gain. So it is the male staff who is more likely to make a copy of the store key so as to sell company goods illicitly. It is he who would steal money from the till to buy choice alcohol at a cost 3 times his monthly wage.
And so business owners are suspicious of male staff. There is poverty in the land. And there is impatience for wealth. It’s a potentially dangerous combination which cannot bode well for employers of labour.
Women are from Venus
A woman duplicating the keys to the store in order to steal company stock will be thought of as being quite mad. It will be so out of character, mental illness will be seriously considered to be the problem. Graft by women, even in Nigeria is still something of a rarity. Petty theft, yes. But a grand scheme to defraud an employer is unlikely. And where it does happen, most investigations lead to a man controlling proceedings from behind the scenes.
It is true – women employees can be fiercely loyal to their bosses and to the business. They embrace their roles more readily and quickly adopt the business as their own. All of this, of course, lends credence to the theory that women are more emotionally driven than men. It is also why Pentecostal pastors do so much better with the womenfolk. Men, on the other hand, are more logical in their thinking. Apparently.
Emotions: now this is where things get interesting.
For the male entrepreneur who hires female staff, you better be ready for the mood swings. And where it’s a female employer, there will likely be clashes. Apart from everything else, women in close proximity tend to have synchronised periods after, well, a period. And this is scientifically proven.
So, now we have strong emotions, fierce loyalty, close proximity and hormonal issues. This heady mix can, and often times leads to office affairs between a male employer and his female staff. On the rare occasion, it can also lead to office romance between a female boss and her male employee. Either way, it usually spells doom for the business.
Profile the hirer
Hiring is a difficult and risky task. The success of a business depends on the quality and calibre of the people who work at the business. Hire the wrong person – in terms of temperament or ability, and you may bring your small business to a crashing end. And so before delving into the matter of gender, the entrepreneur must arm himself adequately.
Without the help of expensive HR consultants or a dedicated HR manager, the multitasking entrepreneur must know what to look for in an employee. He must develop his own temperament and knowledge base to put himself in a position to manage staff effectively. To motivate them, and get the best out of them, regardless of creed or gender. He must, in other words, develop the patience and discipline essential to managing staff.
The fairer sex have it
In case the answer to the question has gotten lost in the article, it is this: hire a woman if your business does not require heavy lifting or hard labour. It’s sexist, it’s politically incorrect, it is in fact, discriminatory. Yes, it is all these things and more. But it is your business. It will be ludicrous to have a business with women only staff. The presence of a man adds balance to staff. It lends a sense of security to the female staff. And frankly, a little muscle is not a bad thing in a small business in Lagos. It can be the small deterrent that keeps the bad boys at bay.
So, let us refine the earlier position:
The smaller the company, the more women you should have in your employ. A large organisation with structures in place can better contain the ambitions of an impatient young man, and can also restrain his potential excesses.
Remember: TIN-TIN. This is Nigeria. More importantly, this is Lagos, where every next person seems ready to rip you off. We are surrounded by sharp thinking bold-faced hustlers who appear to have mortgaged their collective conscience at the altar of Mammon. If you are a hardworking and passionate entrepreneur, it is safe to assume that your business is literally your life.
Why risk it?