Girls at Work :The bakers trio, The Voice

Date: January 1, 1970
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Three young women talk about perks and disadvantages of their first jobs at a local bakery in Francistown.

This article may be used to:
  • Examine the portrayal of women in traditional gender roles.
  • To look at how packaging affects impacts on the story.

Trainer’s notes

This article profiles three young women who work in a bakery in Francistown. The article reinforces traditional gender identities because of the type of work women are portrayed in, and the language and packaging used. Because of their low levels of education and skills, the young women are portrayed in a job which places them in the traditional gender role of cooking and cleaning.

The headline of ‘Girls at Work’ conveys the message that adult women are still minors. The use of the term for women in their professional roles demeans the work that they do as frivolous and not as serious as that of men. Note that whenever the same expression is used for males, it is always ‘Men at Work’.
This article’s tone and perspective is based on the stereotype of what ‘nice girls’ should do. This is conveyed in several ways:
  •  ‘Nice girls’ should be happy and pleasing’

    The image accompanying the headline shows the three young women smiling, giving the impression that they are happy and content with their work. They also are introduced in the story as ‘smiling’.

  • ‘Nice girls’ should not complain

    The article highlights that the young women are paid low wages, even though they work long hours on some days, and in the Fact File, the job is portrayed as a dead end, because it has no ‘perks’ and no ‘prospects’. While the women raise the issue of their low pay, they are portrayed as ‘being grateful’ because they have a job. This particular quote also is used as a blurb at the beginning of the story giving it prominence. This sends a subtle message that women should not complain and should be satisfied with their lot.

    The gender issues and workers rights issue of discrimination against women in the work place, are not explored in this article. The women’s low pay is not questioned even though the article indicates that in other bakeries, salaries are almost doubled. This raises questions such as

  • Are labour regulations regarding pay being violated by the management?
  • In bakeries where the pay is doubled, is the majority of the workforce comprised of women or men?
  • What are the gender relations between the women in the bakery and management?
  • Are there men in the same bakery? Are they paid the same wage as the women’s?
  • Do the women receive other work benefits besides pay?
  • Is there a union for workers in the industry? Do women belong to the union?
The article’s approach is to portray women in their traditional gender roles rather than to provide an investigative analysis of an area where women work in Botswana. A gender analysis would provide insight into the treatment of women in the workplace and how their right to earn a living wage, among others, may be violated.
As a series, the two articles in the ‘Girls at Work’ series, The bakers trio and The Beauty Trade, situate women in jobs considered as ‘socially acceptable’ for women. These articles reinforce traditional gender roles, and stereotype women as being limited to certain industries. A more interesting series would be one that focuses on the gender factors that lead to women finding working only in certain areas, and which also shows women breaking through barriers.
Training exercises
Exercise one: Consider the following phrases: ‘Men at Work’ and ‘Girls at Work’. List all the characteristics, phrases that come to mind when they read or hear the phrase. Discuss the following:
1.      What messages are sent about women’s work?
2.      What messages is conveyed by referring to women as girls?
3.      Why do you think the expression ‘Boys at Work’ is seldom used?
Exercise two: Read a copy of the case study, ‘Girls at Work: The bakers trio’ and discuss the following:
1.    How are the women portrayed in the article?
2.    What messages are conveyed?
3.      Suggest a different approach and angle to this story.

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