So why don’t women make it to the top ? This has been a much debated topic ever since Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean in” was released. Many of the Lean in theories are based on American culture/values and may not be applicable to the Indian context, as patriarchal tendencies and cultural stereotypes are deeply ingrained in our DNA and it might take 5X effort to empower an Indian woman when compared to an American one.
Outside the corporate
According to world bank, only 26% of Indian female population (age > 15) are employed as on 2014. The reasons for this could be poor economic development in the country, lack of opportunities and most importantly patriarchal mindsets. This is a long term issue which requires major effort in a country like India. The only way to resolve this is through education and awareness, which I believe the government and NGO’s are already striving for.
Within the corporate
What can organisations do to resolve these issues?
I don’t believe women should be treated like candidates of a reservation quota. We often say “Men and Women are equal”, and I believe that women should move up the ladder purely based on merit. However, knowing that biologically we are different from men there are certain stages where we might require support in the form of women centric policies. The organisation can play a major role in supporting women during maternity and a few years following that phase.
Many organisation talk about these policy changes on media and other places however nothing much is implemented when it comes to reality.
As an example,we often hear, “35% of our workforce comprise of women”.
Well, 15% might have been freshers, 15% new hires who came in through diversity hiring and remaining 5% must be the ones who have stayed and survived. The need of the hour is not a “Diversity hiring campaign” but strong “Women Retention Measures”. What is the point in hiring new women while the existing ones drop out since they could not sustain. To reduce the dropout rate, there are some areas where major work is required
- Mentoring and on-boarding support post maternity leave: Women who go on maternity leave often find their positions replaced and don’t know what to do next. Companies can help a great deal in this aspect by means of mentoring, upskilling programs and long term career planning .This may not be easy in the IT industry where business is very dynamic, however it can be implemented if they are assigned strong mentors, men or women who are ready to advocate for them.
- Work from home/ flexi time policy: May not be feasible for all kinds of roles, however companies should explore providing a remote connect option to all women 6 months before maternity leave and for about 1 year once they are back.
What can women do to solve this issue? – Strive for continuous progress !!. You can’t expect your organisation to do everything for you. Staying relevant and visible is the key.
- Women have to get better at networking within and outside the organization so that they constantly create opportunities for themselves.
- Learn to voice their opinions openly during organization surveys and all hands sessions rather than cribbing and ranting offline or during lunch breaks.
- Don’t be someone who simply follows instructions and works like a machine. Think, analyse and participate actively in meetings rather than being passive listeners.
- Get trained on new technologies or acquire skillsets based on market trends and figure out your niche.
What can men do to resolve this issue – Get over the gender stereotype
- Be more supportive at home and participate in household chores. Nurturing and baby-sitting is not only a woman’s job.
- We often find that men at work tend to favor obedient non ambitious, non opinionated women who just take orders and speak in a squeaky voice. On the other hand women who dominate and try to be leaders are often seen as masculine and somehow suppressed till they walk away. These are subtle behavioral traits and I can’t really think of a solution to change people.
- Don’t be caught in a time warp. Advocate for women, train them and sometimes learn from them !!
With this I wish all women a happy women’s day!