Issues all women face in the workplace today
Many believe we are in the midst of a revolution, that it is the time for women and that massive changes are underway, but I beg to differ.However, I do believe that there is an increased amount of awareness about the general gender inequality that is deeply woven into the fabric of Indian society. Society itself is beginning to make astute observations of how women are treated differently and recognize that the expectations for them are unrealistic. Concrete steps to rectify these flaws are slow and often so infinitesimal that it can be viewed as superficial or in some cases, redundant.
Fundamentals like monetary compensation continue to have significant inequalities. The Economic Times reported that the average gender pay gap in India is 20%. This gap is a glaring example of how even though there is acknowledgement that women do the same amount of work as men, there has been no system overhaul to amend this. There continues to be this unsaid understanding that while this is unfair it is also unlikely to change anytime soon. It is this very understanding that speaks volumes about the how deep rooted the gender gap actually is.
The maternity benefit act 2017 provides many of the female species with hope that procreation is taken as a serious event and that it requires assistance. However, the act is vague on many angles and has bred fear that these rules will hinder employers from hiring female employees. The very fact that these changes breed this kind of evidence of how there is an in grained sense of how women are lesser than men or more problematic than men because they are different from men.
The truth is women face a number of concerns- some obvious and some more subtle- with any professional environment. While there has been progress, perhaps it is imperative to take matters into our own hands and instead of waiting for the world to change, we, as women, begin to change our approach.
It is imperative for women to arm themselves with right foundation in order to deal with the challenges the workplace presents. The fundamentals include self-respect, understanding your own boundaries and limitations, knowing your rights and seeking guidance when needed.
Self-respect is the cornerstone for self-love, acceptance and understanding. If we do not respect ourselves, we will never value ourselves and within the workplace. Valuing oneself is key when trying to maintain a professional and personal balance. In order to develop self-respect an individual must begin by respecting the physical self. If you are over-working without getting any exercise or taking time for yourself you aren’t respecting your body, you are unconsciously reinforcing the idea that your body will adjust constantly and visa-vi so will you. Many women speak about how they feel they have to put in more hours because of their gender, because they want to prove they have what it takes. However, many feel that in the end these extra hours don’t make them a cut above the rest but just at powerful with their male counter-parts. “My boss looks at me and says you are like one of the boys- hard working and diligent. I wanted to scream at him saying I am better than your boys. I put in twice the office hours they do! ” (Reena, age 36). Not maintaining a work-life balance puts one at risk for developing a mental health concern or experiencing a burn out.
Boundaries are extremely difficult to establish for women within the context of Indian society. There is an expectation that as a woman you must give and sacrifice on a continuous basis because “maa” is all an sacrificing being. Many employers are reluctant to support and promote young women due to the fear that they will get married and get pregnant and for some reason they have equated these two life events with the reduction of capability. You shouldn’t have plan your family around your career. Carrying your work home, and taking your home life to work creates prolonged periods of stress which eventually can lead to Anxiety or other mental health concerns like Depression. The two are separate and while each form an integral part of identity, they shouldn’t be codependent on one another.
The best way for women to tackle workplace gender bias obstacles is to change the narrative. Unfortunately, within a professional environment women often do not treat their fellow women with the kindness or understand. “My boss said I once went to a meeting even with severe menstruation cramps; it’s not a big deal don’t use it as an excuse. I went to the bathroom and cried. I just felt so disheartened and ashamed.” (Gina, age 27). Building a good support network for females within a professional environment assists others in dealing with gender biases and other frustrations. It builds positive regard and enables women to speak up and stand up for themselves directly or indirectly.
It is sad that the world media went all out when the prime minister of New Zealand had an infant while serving her nation and the world applauded when she brought her infant to the United Nations. It is sad because even in 2018 there was only one woman in the history of the world who brought her infant to a meeting at the United Nations. Women make up half the world’s population yet we are treated like a minority. The irony is that every man on this planet came from a women- we create the very being that then goes on to have a negative professional bias against the very same gender that brought him into existence. This is why while I do believe it is imperative for women to arm themselves with the skills to navigate a male dominated working world, it is equally imperative to start raising men to see women differently.
This article has been written by Tanya Percy Vasunia, who works as the Psychologist & Case Coordinator with Mpower – The Centre, Mumbai.