Every organization wants to have members in their team who are “ingenious,” an active “team player,” or a “market maven”; but not necessarily imagine their women employees to carry the titles.
The talks about gender balance and equal opportunities at work have been happening for a couple of decades now. Still, when we’re almost nearing the year 2020, no concrete development has been seen on this front.
This is the norm all around the globe. At workplaces, the gap in gender diversity is just worsening the case for women, and it has it a long history to it.
In developed countries of Europe, huge discrimination existed on the grounds of gender. Not only the participation of women was low, but their wages were also lower too. Despite working in industrial sectors that required long hours on the floor, women were active in administrative roles as well. Albeit, recognition and pay were still lacking.
Women workers were also at the receiving end to the decisions harming their longevity at work, as compared to their male counterparts. From being dismissed from work during pregnancies, they were also sacked for being working post marriages.
These forms of gender discrimination have been explored and still prevalent everywhere. India ranks in the bottom section of countries not acting against such discrimination, and that’s heartbreaking.
Indian women workforce also face increased sexual harassment at work along with other forms of unfair treatments. And, these are only being talked about from the last decade onwards. Despite advances and reforms in laws, it is estimated that more than 50,000 women still lose their job every year because of such tragedies.
This International Women’s Day, as global citizens we should aim at identifying the gender gap issue and try finding better means for bringing balance at work.
As per Ms Lakshya Bhatia, fashion designer at OFCSPC, efforts toward female empowerment in the workforce has increased across the retail and fashion industry.
She adds that “people just need to align with this generation-defining social event and movement so that everyone gets a clearer picture of how women have been working in the fashion and retail industry – that’s either shown from men’s or from the world’s fashion perspectives.”
A quarter billion women have entered the workplace worldwide since 2006, yet the World Economic Forum’s 2016 survey shows women make as much money as men did a decade ago. On which Lakshya opinionates as, “from shining light on body positivity to trend forecasting, women have been detrimental in defining the fashion for both the sexes, yet when it comes to equal pay women are sidelined”.
According to her, “a proper balance at work would come when women retailers, merchandisers, and designers would step-up. More than just continuing to work better towards a business approach, being transparent with their Corporate Social Responsibility, from marketing to manufacture, from household to office, from mom to model and so on; they can bring in the difference”.
The challenges for women in the workplace aren’t related to just relegation of pay, there are other aspects too.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), it will be 2059 before women achieve parity should the progression towards equal pay continue to move at the same rate as the past 50 years. (source)
Women represent brands. Which is not just good for your business, but studies have shown that teams with more women tend to perform better. Women led teams have outperformed those without it, and every organization should have a vested interest in creating a workplace that actively empowers and engages female employees in a meaningful way.
That is precisely what Ms Yashika Kashyap, Community Manager (OFCSPC co-working spaces), agrees with. Bringing out her thoughts, she believes that, “since globally, women have fewer opportunities for economic participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. By giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical not only for attaining gender equality but also for meeting a wide range of commercial and development goals”.
As a part of a growing co-working space in Gurgaon that sees a good influx of motivated male and female members, she holds the right education of the girl child and womenfolk as the driving force behind the change.
“Prioritizing girls’ education could be perhaps the single highest return on investment in the developing world. An educated girl is more likely to postpone marriage, raise a smaller family, have healthier children, and send her own children to school. She has more opportunities to earn an income, become an entrepreneur, and do things that she loves doing”.
There are several fundamental assumptions and attitudes about women and how they value work, which further cements the gap at work. Under traditional office setups, women have been “steered” toward lower paying jobs and subordinate roles. Steering is stereotypical and continues to prevail in Indian offices, influencing hiring decisions and deteriorating work environment.
As per Ms Nitka Singh, business development at OFCSPC co-working spaces, four essential factors need to be dealt with to ensure a better balance at work. These are – gender pay-gap, non-availability of mentors, fair evaluation of work, and vacancies.
She throws light on reformations these factors need in order to create better opportunities. “When companies start paying equal wages to men and women employees, they are valuing the productivity and not the gender behind it”, says Nitika.
“Employees should be evaluated on their performance, and not on their style of work. If ever it comes to judging employees it should be judged on their behaviour on an issue and not their personality”. Taking references of leading organizations all over the world, she says that “in developed countries of the American continents and Europe, employers hardly ever consider gender when hiring. Even the law doesn’t allow it to be a factor. However, when it comes to filling the board seats, women are left out because board members are not considered employees.”
As per an S&P report, only 14.2% of the top five leaders in S&P 500 companies are women, and that’s excruciating because as decision makers women can build performing organizations. (source)
The world currently needs urgent support from the aware masses to fight the biased workplace culture that is preventing women from being evaluated fairly and paid equally. Despite hopes for significant improvement in equal pay and the removal of barriers for women to advance in the workplace, progress in these areas has been slow.
It’s time to engage in the discussion, to solicit ideas on what can be better, and create a meaningful space for men and women to share ideas on this topic is an easy way to make a big impact.
Through effectual training, decision-makers can identify the discriminatory actions and equip themselves and others with appropriate skills that allow them to act proactively, fairly.
Activism, recognition, hard work and hope for better is the key for the future.