Gender discrimination exists in many places, starting from home where the male child is given better education, to the office where there is a pay gap. Offices that have the proverbial men’s club, which is not a problem in general, is known to be a gateway for mistreatment and disrespect of women in the office. Beliefs such as reserving household duties only for women makes equality a difficult concept for everyone to grasp. There is a lot that needs to be changed at the grassroots level.
Apart from homes, another space where women have been fighting for equal rights is their workplace. In many parts of India, women struggle to get ‘permission’ from their husbands or elders in the house to go out and work. Why? Because the family doesn’t want to be dependent on women’s income. It stems from a patriarchal disrespect to women as well as the fear that their independence would somehow affect the standing of the man in the house as the bread-winner.
Women at the workplace have not only had to battle inner demons to break the glass ceiling but were also unrelenting to the demands of those in their homes. It would be mighty reasonable to expect that businesses understand this and go out of their way to create an environment that is suited to them.
Promoting equality at the workplace is not that difficult, although it takes commitment from the management to make it a success. World Bank’s recent Women, Business and the Law report 2020 analysed laws and regulations affecting women’s inclusion in 190 countries. Based on eight indicators that included freedom of movement to the ability of women to make economic decisions, only eight countries scored full marks, and India isn’t one among them.
Promote gender equality at the workplace
Establish a policy which ensures that there is no gender discrimination in your guidelines/rulebook/policies.
Ensure that men and women get compensated equally for the work they do. The policy should extend to treatment during recruitment, training, hiring, promotion, and retention.
Do not tolerate any form of sexual harassment. Take all the necessary steps and communicate clearly to your employees about the professional and personal implications of harassing someone.
Make it easy for working mothers to transition smoothly from work to their homes. Provide for onsite childcare facilities, if possible. Apart from maternity leaves, offer paternity leaves for fathers to encourage equal responsibility.
Introduce coaching and mentoring opportunities for women to develop their leadership skills and show them the path to become leaders.
Train your managers to identify behaviours of discrimination, deal with it professionally and how to prevent it from happening again.
This is by no means a comprehensive list; there is always more that can be done with the right intent and action plan. For starters, these are some of the action-based changes that companies can make to promote gender equality in the workspace.
Companies with great gender diversity policies
While we still have a long way to go before we achieve gender equality, there are a few companies which are showing us the right path to take.
Bumble, the dating app, where “women make the first move”, is a company where more than 85 percent of the employees and 80 percent of the executive team are women. Wolfe Herd, its CEO, says, ”I’ve always wanted women to go after the money they deserve.”
Pinterest is another company that has achieved gender balance with more than 47 percent of its employees being women, which includes 30 percent of its engineers.
Salesforce, the CRM software company, has ambitious plans to improve gender balance with its hiring and leadership programmes. By the end of 2018, they had 31.6 percent women employees.
The fact that women in the workplace still have to fight to get their voices heard is a shame to the society that we live in. Equality in the workspace will help not only women, but also men. We understand that taking serious steps towards achieving a bias-free work environment requires a lot of effort, but it is worth the effort, and certainly the right thing to do.
(Edited by Kanishk)