Being a woman in the Indian corporate setup is a mixed bag, and while large companies are trying various ways to retain their women employees, there are several challenges that women still face.
Culturally and socially, India has a long way to go before women are genuinely treated as equals in the workplace. Here are some of the issues that women struggle to overcome in corporate India.
The Infamous Glass Ceiling
Of late this is a term thrown around a lot with respect to women in the corporate sector. The imaginary ceiling up to which a woman can grow in her career is a concept that is taken for granted in the Indian society.
There are several reasons why very few women make it to the top rungs of a firm – family commitments and gender discrimination in the workplace are just a couple.
When two people are considered for the same role, many a time a male employee is chosen over a woman simply because they don’t have as many strings attached like pregnancy and childcare.
Women in a lot of firms are paid 20-30% less than their male counterparts, often without valid reasons. Again, the skepticism of a firm to invest in their women employees is very evident. “What if she resigns because she needs to take care of a parent or a child?”
“What if she quits because her husband needs to move out of the city?” – these are just a couple of questions that run through the employer’s mind. Unless women are paid the same as men for the same work, it is very difficult to retain female workforce.
A lot of times women, especially in the BPO setup and in many IT firms are required to work for very long hours. Shweta Chawla, an employee of an IT firm says, “My company has cabs for us to use when we get delayed, but who’s to say we’re safe even in the cabs at 11 pm?”
There have been several cases of women employees of BPO organizations being raped and murdered by cab drivers in the wee hours of the morning. Security is a factor that is extremely important when a woman makes a choice about working.
Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
Suggestive statements made by bosses or peers, a careless brush of the backside, conversation with sexual overtones – these are not uncommon in corporate India. Organizations usually have a system in place for women employees to report sexual harassment and take legal action.
However, there are two major issues here – inability to recognize sexual harassment in some cases, and fear of career setbacks if they report a superior.
Lack Of Support From Immediate Superiors
Many a time women have a tough time dealing with immediate bosses who are male. This is due to factors like lack of sensitivity of the boss towards the employee’s health concerns or family commitments, and assumptions about her capabilities on the basis of her gender.
Namrata Rao, an engineer in a reputed Telecom firm says, “I wanted to pursue a business development role and I spoke to my manager about it. He started the conversation by saying ‘If you are really serious about your career, my suggestion would be to …’ as soon as he said ‘if you are serious about your career’ I switched off because I was so mad at him.” Incidents like these are not uncommon.
Lack Of Support From Family
While this is not an issue directly at the workplace, if a woman doesn’t have the support of her family, it affects her performance at work.
Spouses and parents in law sometimes are unwilling to share responsibilities at home and with respect to childcare. This makes it all the more difficult for women to focus on work.
Insufficient Maternity Leave
Firms like Infosys and Ernst & Young have women employee friendly policies for maternity leave. But in a lot of other companies, women are forced to either quit or cut short their break post childbirth, depending on their financial condition.
Rewarding Face Time As Opposed To Results At Work
This is a predominant culture in the Indian workplace, where the more you are “seen”, the better you are rewarded. So while measures that give flexibility like working from home or flexi-hours work well for women, they lose out on a lot of recognition in spite of the hard work that they put in, simply because they are not physically present.
Organizations need to understand that unless they put in genuinely effective measures that will encourage women to work with little hassle, not just the companies, but Indian economy as a whole will take a big hit.
Have you faced any of these issues in the workplace? Leave a comment below and let us know your experiences.
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