How empowered are Women in India and what are the hindrances they face?
I still remember the day when I went for my first interview, without even giving a better look at my resume & credentials lying on the table, the first question the employer asked me was You are of eligible age, are you getting married any time soon? I was taken aback at the ghastly inference on my personal life when I was expecting a more professional approach from the firm’s CEO. Well, that was the first time and then there was no looking back! I got used to firms asking me about my most personal concerns like, “how long have I been married?” “When am I planning to have a baby?” In fact there were a few who would go as far as to telling me that I should not be having a baby if I was looking for better prospects in the firm! (Yes this is true!) I am not here to tell you about the downside of Employment attitude in India, I am merely sharing what a girl or Woman comes across while getting Employed in India. Of-course, there are exceptions and major examples of Women excelling in their profession be it finance, marketing, Medical, a sport, an acting career or Media house. Now and again we hear of Women leading ahead of Men in the Urban Market. But my question is, how many? And if that is enough?
As per the 2011 Census statistics, only 26% of Women compared to 70% Men above the age of 15 years are employed in India, out of which the Urban Women comprise of a sheer 17%. Considering the more and more number of Women getting Higher Education these days, My question is, where are all these Women? Why aren’t they working? Why are not they in the Leadership positions in the Corporate Sector?
It is surprising to see such low ratio of Women who are actually better placed and in a powerful position. The reason I feel is the way our corporate structure is set up, where women are seen more of a liability than an asset. We are in need of more and more organization that set up a Women friendly environment and encourage their Women Employees. Organizations that give equal chances to both the genders to flourish and escalate the ladder of Success. Below are a few pointers for organizations where they can foster an environment of empowering women as work place.
Women are no Liability – Do not be Gender Biased
Setting up of an equal opportunity environment without treating Women based on their personal lives, Organizations should focus more on their ability, skills and professional experience to determine their efficiency at work. A women conducive environment will not only lead to more Women empowerment but also an ease at work. Trust me, no women would side-track her career for petty reasons and give upon her dreams like that. Concentrate not on when she is getting married but rather on what she is bringing to your firm.
Give Equal Opportunities- Treat Equally
“We are Going for a Site visit, you better stay back and prepare the presentation while we get the survey done” this was the standard procedure at my firm before I took the initiative and asked my Boss for an opportunity to do a site visit. He was not only surprised that I would want to visit an Industry travelling leaving the cozy office settings, but also ready with a set of excuses as to how I could be bothersome to him and other male employees at the site. Organizations generally assume that Women are not fit to travel far off places or work on odd hours without even bothering to ask the individual his/her wish. Not only that, they would not prefer a Women attending an important meeting, or presenting the proposals, pitching the clients, wine & dining with the clients, getting a promotion, etc. These are few of examples of opportunities that do not come as easily to Women as they do to Men in the same work environment. If you want to create a Women Empowering Organization, giving equal growth opportunities to both the sexes is imperative, including the pay package. Take a look at our Bollywood itself, none of the actresses gets paid as much as the actors do, This needs to change.
Objectification of Women – Curb Sexist remarks and Harassment
Every working Women in India has at some point of time or other in her career has faced objectification, snide remarks on physical appearance or a full fledged harassment, and this is sad but a true revelation. Some employers think that providing a conducive environment for Women somehow gives them an upper hand to behave as they wish with them. Once my Boss permitted me leave to take care of an emergency at home, I was happy that he was being considerate but not for long as the next day itself he wanted me to go out for a Coffee with him. As if that was some kind of compensation. As a society that conducive to Women leadership and Empowerment, Sexism is by far the biggest vice that has to be kept in check by the Management in order to provide a healthy work environment.
Pregnancy is a normal Phenomenon – Women can still Work
In most of the cases that I have come across, majority Women who take leave before pregnancy, somehow never come back to work. Child-care is an important aspect and I totally agree to that, however that does not mean you stop working after having a baby. In most scenarios however, the reason of sudden drop from work is the change of attitude of the Management towards a Working mom and her woes. Most private sectors in India are not pregnancy friendly. By pregnancy friendly I mean they do not provide the 3 months paid-leave to Pregnant women, not only that but the overall work environment is neither ergonomically nor emotionally encouraging for pregnant women, which ultimately forces them to resign as soon as they start finding it difficult to work during pregnancy. Whereas Women abroad have seen to be working till they are in their last days before delivery and they are quite happy doing so. The work environment is all that matters.
Apart from these basic shift in mentality, Organizations can start introducing Empowerment ideas such as special training for Women at work, Introducing a Sexual harassment policy, Employing a special human resource that could take care of all the complaints and manage such scenarios, training your Employees & Management support for such issues, have transparent work policies including the appraisal system & promotion opportunities, introducing Pregnancy Leaves & related Insurance policies for the benefit of Working Women in your firm. With all these in place and a conducive work environment, I am sure we shall see more and more Women in Leadership roles & powerful positions. After all #EveryWomanIsALeader she just needs a chance to prove herself!
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