Diversity at the workplace is a big challenge but finding a job is a much bigger challenge for women than it is for men. Study after study shows that over the decades there is a downfall in female labour force participation and women continue to face more bias and are discriminated against in manifold ways.
Other compliances attached to female employment like maternity benefits, separate washrooms, creche facility arrangement, etc, are also seen as increased expenses for the organization. Apart from that, organizations do not want to face any misconduct and POSH cases on their floor, so they steer clear of hiring women employees to avoid such complications instead of fostering a zero-tolerance policy to avoid such instances.
Recently we celebrated International Women’s Day and social sites were full of messages, greetings, wishes, videos, vlogs, and banners, etc. I read inspirational, motivational quotes and watched videos over social sites about women’s empowerment, how women contributed in cultural, social, political, personal, and professional fields, their success stories, etc. It was good to see that we all are acknowledging their contribution to our society. In fact, women’s power has no match. Today, women are leading from the front be it Government sector or private organization, still, as per one recent study titled: Women in the Workforce – India by Catalyst says India’s economy is growing with an increasing GDP and a working-age population is expected to climb over 800 million people by 2050. Despite this growth, less than one quarter (20.3%) of women aged 15 and older participate in the labour force as of 2020 (compared to 76.0% of men).
There is another study published by Statista Research Department which clearly shows a downfall from 1990 to 2019 in female labour force participation. This is a worrying trend for India.
Diversity at the workplace is yet a big challenge and it becomes more challenging when it comes to employment opportunities for women. Let’s talk about some ground realities in India; few organizations still give less preference to hire female employees for multiple reasons like hiring female employees will attract more compliances to entertain, for example, the arrangement of pick and drop facilities for female employees if they work in late hours or they have night shift to work.
Compliance like maternity act, separate washrooms, creche facility, managing POSH committee and leave due to the menstrual cycle are prominent reasons which are seen as an additional cost to the company to manage and organized. Apart from that, organizations do not wish to entertain any POSH cases to protect their organization’s reputation, so they steer clear of hiring women employees to avoid such complications instead of fostering a zero-tolerance policy to avoid such instances
Organizations must practice a zero-tolerance policy against harassment and should have a proper mechanism to respond and resolve the grievance on priority. If an organization does not handle cases of sexual harassment properly, then it is a clear indication that the organization is practising systemic gender inequality and encouraging such instances.
Women face more bias, explicit and implicit bias from both men and women. It has also been seen that women face workplace bullying mostly everywhere which creates more anxiety and mental stress for them. There is a perception that women are not serious about their job and their priorities are different from men. Women do not take their job responsibilities seriously, they never punch on time and give personal excuses, but they leave the office on time. We generally relate the productivity and dedication of an individual towards an organization by the time he/ she puts into the job especially, post-working hours or working on week-offs/holidays. But this practice cannot be possible for everyone to follow.
Women have the competency to adapt and face challenges as they can manage home and office with the same perfection and quality of output, but this general perception has brought discrimination in the hiring of female employees. If I quote an example of vehicle driving, in our society we still have a genderbiased opinion that women cannot drive proficiently like men. If she is driving a car, please leave the lane completely, or else she can hit you. This kind of gender-biased mindset and ideology which exists in our society is somewhere responsible to brought women’s labour force participation index from 30.28% to 20.52% in India from 1990 to 2019.
It is high time now we must change our mindset to enhance more participation of women in the workplace by providing equal employment opportunities and equal remuneration. Organizations should offer flexible working so that women in the workplace can manage personal household activities by setting their own goals and schedules. This act will instil in them a sense of value and content.
Organizations can encourage women to lead from the front. It is noted that the total workforce at the junior or middle level is always higher than the top levels. When it comes to women’s representation in top management and senior roles, figures do not produce good stats. As per the Women in the Workforce – India report by Catalyst, in 2019 women held only 8% of management roles, 9% of business management roles, and were only 2% of CEOs in India.
To improve this figure, organizations can diversify their hiring strategies. Having skilled women leaders in the organization will boost the confidence and aspiration of other female employees to pursue opportunities at every level. Promoting women in leadership roles will encourage them, knowing their skills, domain knowledge, and experience is being valued or recognized by the organization. Organizations should educate their employees to embrace each other’s differences and must ensure to make gender diversity the number one priority.
Organizations must practice a zero-tolerance policy against harassment and should have a proper mechanism to respond and resolve the grievance on priority. If an organization does not handle cases registered under the POSH act properly, then it is a clear indication that the organization is exercising systemic gender inequality and encouraging such instances which is not an ideal situation for working women.
I would like to summarize the whole discussion by saying that we have enough to do to make our workplaces safe for women where she could feel safe and valued, be it private or professional organization. Women face a lot on the personal and professional front due to existing gender barriers and inequalities, hence we need not to treat them with any special treatment but they should be treated and valued equally in the organization as they carry the same skills and education, all they just need is an opportunity to grow without gender biases.
Our manpower staffing strategies must practice equal employment opportunities without a gender pay gap. Prioritize employee’s work-life balance by providing fixed working hours, maternity benefits, Statutory leaves, parent care leaves, and proper medical leaves so that they could perform better at the workplace without stress. Explicitly or implicitly these benefits make a great employee culture.
It is seen that women are avoiding/ delaying pregnancies for the sake of their career progression and also to save their position in the organization. Maternity act is something which is protecting their rights at the workplace but post-joining, they are treated as less productive resources considering they have new engagement in their life to focus without analyzing their performance. Their names are not usually listed in the succession planning list of the organization or they face gender pay gap issues. This is mental harassment which seizes the right of an individual to live the life of their choice.
Wishing women’s day or celebrating the event on a particular day by giving gifts or posting quotes on the company’s social network portal will not attract significant difference, difference will surely come if we foster those policies that open the door of equal opportunity to women at the workplace. These policies should not be taken as just compliance to follow, but the organization should have a platform to spread clarity to everyone who has a question in their mind about the requirement of these policies. These policies like maternity benefits, parents care leave, and equal remuneration etc. are more than compliances and it should be seen as social responsibility and need of all of us because it is part and parcel of our society and nature; this message should be loud and clear.
In closing, Happy Women’s Day to all women, either salaried or non-salaried, for doing their jobs efficiently on the personal and professional front and making our social eco-system balanced with your grit and grace.