Looking forward to a breakthrough year for women at work
By increasing women's economic independence, we not only enhance economic diversification and income equality, but also assist them to create more jobs, crucial to India's economic and overall success.
Half of the world’s population is made up of women, but most of the world’s richest people are men. When enough has been said about it and a tremendous amount of work has been done around gender equality why do women still have to go a very long way to find their spot in the sun?
If we focus on the corporate sector alone, women face a tough battle due to a variety of factors like gender discrimination and biases, lack of flexible work arrangements, lack of networking and mentoring opportunities. This leads to women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions and pay parity issues.
They also face barriers to advancement and promotions, and maybe passed over for leadership roles in favour of men. Women who are mothers or caregivers may face additional challenges in balancing their work and family responsibilities and perception biases. These can have a significant impact on the career progression and economic stability of women in the corporate sector.
The constitution of India emphasises equal rights to both women and men but there are so many layers that need to be peeled to understand the disadvantages. The unpaid labour of women who are homemakers or working women who work double shifts, at home and outside is completely ignored by society. They are still dependent on men financially. My house help works eight hours in my house and the remaining part of the day is spent traveling or taking care of her own household chores like getting water from the municipal tap, cooking, and cleaning, etc.
While she slogs each and every waking minute, her husband who had lost his job years ago, relaxes at home and waits for her to come back and cook for him. At the end of the month, she hands over the salary to him. Most financial decisions are taken by men and this gives them an upper edge in all decision-making at home and in society. These decisions range from gender selection at birth, preferential treatment to boys in families where education and health care is concerned, early marriage, and much more. Apart from disadvantaging women financially, this takes a toll on their health, both physical and mental.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2022 by the World Economic Forum explores this divide further in four key dimensions - Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment in 146 countries. Don’t hold your breath for gender equality, folks. Yes, it will take 132 years to bridge the gap. India scores an embarrassing 135 in the report, way behind Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Bhutan in South Asia. Needless to say, our region ranks the lowest.
While India has become a prominent destination for new-age businesses driven by ambitious entrepreneurs, are women getting equal opportunities? There is so much holding them back; poor literacy rate, early marriage, violence, and vulnerability are just the obvious ones. In a tough year like 2022 when we had much to fight against whether it is the geopolitical, economic or climate battle, women have been quietly dropping off the job market as opportunities shrink. A sustained effort and collective action is required to reverse this gap at every level; social awareness, economic push and policy-level changes are some of the critical measures that need to be taken.
Let’s hope that the times change for the better and increasing number of women join our workforce and are able to grow and serve as inspirational icons. There are several steps that organisations can take to create a more inclusive environment for women at work including-
- Promote diversity and inclusion at all levels and steps including hiring, growth, and leadership development.
- For the caregivers, work out a flexible approach without hampering productivity.
- Help women in their professional development and advancement by providing mentoring and networking opportunities
- Conduct unconscious bias training. It can help raise awareness of the biases that impact women at work.
- Organisations should implement policies such as equal pay for equal work, parental leave policy
In recent years, entrepreneurship has taken a new direction, and an increasing number of women are thriving and donning the hat of business owners. By increasing women's economic independence, we not only enhance economic diversification and income equality, but also assist them to create more jobs, which will be crucial to India's economic and overall success. It is time to change the narrative and integrate gender equality into every aspect of life. Currently, teams formed by women, led by women, and capable of inspiring other women demonstrate that the corporate world is no longer a man's domain.
Let’s hope that 2023 will be brighter and bolder for women!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan