Combating Gender Stereotypes At The Workplace

by Shreekala Kurup    Mar 08, 2017

women IT

Every woman has had to fight her battles. The battles of men I suppose, are different. Unfortunately, just like life, the workplace too, treats men and women quite differently. While a man can be assertive on his first day at work, a woman is expected to be collaborative and patient.

This subconscious assumption that women are mostly nurturing and co-operating, while men are ambitious and authoritative has had a damaging effect on gender equality in the workplace the world over.

While 45.9% of graduates in India are women, Grant Thornton’s ‘International Business Report’ in March 2014 states that the proportion of women in senior positions in the Indian workforce has reduced from 19% in 2013 to 14% in 2014. This is despite the fact that India has some of the best examples of women in leadership positions in varied industries.

There has been paradigm shift in the way women are treated and perceived in the workplace. The promise of change is evident throughout the business world. Here are some such examples:

1) High priority to Gender Equality in Major Companies

According to Mckinsey and Co., ‘more than 75 percent of CEOs include gender equality in their top ten business priorities’. SAP SE the global software giant has mandated that women hold 25% of all manager roles by the end of 2017, whereas in European countries like Netherlands, Italy, the Norway and most recently Germany, large organisations have been asked to have 30% of supervisory board positions reserved for women.

2) An increase in urban workforce of women

In 2011-2012, women comprised 24.8% of all rural workers, down from 31.8% in 1972-73, while women comprised 14.7% of all urban workers, a small increase from 13.4%. A growing number of students from rural backgrounds are pursuing their careers in metros.The modern indian women is confident, streetsmart and ambitious.

3) Government Initiatives 

On 18 December 2012 Lok Sabha, passed the Companies Bill which seeks to improve corporate governance practices throughout India. Chapter XI, titled Appointment and Qualifications of Directors, states that public companies must have at least one woman director and a minimum of three directors in total. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has begun work on Working Women Hostels for ensuring safe accommodation for working women away from their place of residence. Such initiatives provide much needed opportunities to sub-urban and rural communities.

4) Female Entrepreneurs and go-getters

The story of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who at the age of 25 started Biocon India from a garage in Bangalore, with a seed capital of 10,000, is a clear testimony of courage and determination that women in India possess. Other notable female entrepreneurs who are role-models to thousands of young women include, Vandana Luthra (started VLCC in 1989), and Indu Jain (chairperson at Benett-Coleman and co. Ltd ). The latest jewels in this crown include Richa Kar (Founder of Zivame) and Aditi Gupta (Co-founder of Menstrupedia).

5) The Banking Women of India

The banking sector in India is honored with the presence of some of the best female leaders in the business world. To begin with there is Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chairman of SBI, as well Shanti Ekambaram, President of Kotak Mahindra Bank. Vishakha Mulye, Executive Director at ICICI has done wonders for its subsidiaries. The list should also include, Zarin Daruwala - CEO, India Standard Chartered Bank, Usha Sangwan, MD at LIC, and Chitra Ramkrishna, MD & CEO at National Stock Exchange.

6) Bridging the promotion gap

Companies in India and abroad now recognize the challenges that women face in the workplace and have started taking action to resolve them with time. One issue that surveys have pointed out over the years is the fact men get the majority of the promotions, and the gaps increases with seniority in the organization. SAP employees were asked to attend one-day gender-awareness training sessions, in which there were presentations on brain chemistry and the science of gender dynamics. These exercises are meant to undo unconscious assumptions that men have about gender dynamics in the workplace.

7) Compassion and Involvement - Women lead differently

It has been observed that women in leadership roles in major companies are able to create an environment based on compassion and involvement, wherein all team members are encouraged to discuss their problem (personal and professional) amongst the team. Adobe recently commented, “(our) top executive women make sure that diversity and inclusion are a core part of our corporate mission,’’. Through this they are trying to build a more empathetic and friendly, stress-free work environment.

The business world is now agreed on the fact that, men and women are equally equipped to take on any challenges that a modern workspace offers.

We need to move beyond the association of job roles with gender stereotypes, due to which we associate urban women with the hospitality industry and rural women with handicraft manufacturing. If we could pledge to end this prejudice which stops thousands of women in this country from reaching out a little further towards their aspirations, it would not only empower our women but also do wonders to our economy.

The author is Chief Operating Officer, CrackVerbal

[Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Trivone Media Network's or that of CXOToday's.]