Organizations today boast of “breaking the glass ceiling” by hiring women in their top management. From articles spilled across the front-page of business magazines to interviews on leading channels, we see top CEOs talk about how explicit gender bias has widely disappeared from the workplace due to the implementation of stringent policies.
But there is an unspoken truth behind the rosy picture. The hushed talks near the water cooler or the fleeting whispers at the conference room are a testimony to the status quo of women in corporates. The harsh reality is that women continue to struggle when they shouldn’t have to. But whom do we blame for the toxic misogyny that exists in the workplace?
For the past many years, top-notch public companies at Silicon Valley have published their workforce demographics with an effort to increase the representation of women. Following suit were some private companies, but one notable adversary was Uber. Recently, amidst a massive public backlash over complaints of sexism and harassment, Uber has been trying to reshape its image. Uber ex-CEO Travis Kalanick involuntarily (in response to Susan Fowler’s blog post – “On One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber”) disclosed the percentage of women among the company’s technical staff: a mere 15.1%.
Companies have been spending millions of dollars to improve their diversity in hiring, but somewhere there is still a void they’ve not been successful in filling. The crux of the problem is that – companies still haven’t been able to see the thin line that separates ‘hiring’ from ‘inclusion’.
Building a culture of inclusion should be the mission of all organizations by continually introducing and enhancing diversity programs and opportunities. Such programs would not only prove crucial to building strong female leaders but would also ensure an engaged workforce. The need of the hour is to shift the mindset of the employees to enable them to think outside of stereotypes and value individuals based on the work they bring to the table. The radical change in the attitude of the company is vital which can only happen top-down.
Instances of casual sexism and unseen discrimination abound in today’s workplace. Scheduling meetings post 6:30 p.m. and extending them late into the night and then expecting women not to stay out late at night (because apparently our streets are rampant with road-side predators and gangs of eve-teasing goons, that we can do nothing about). Even though MNC’s have taken a step forward in granting more liberal maternity leave, gender stereotypes dictate that it is okay for a woman to take off to look after an ailing kid, but for a man to do it is an exception. Other instances- women’s voices are often not given as much importance in meetings, internal complaints committees often protect senior management and take cognisance of offences only when the woman threatens a police case or has the courage to jeapordise her career and out the offender in the open. Wouldn’t it help if men also thought about lending a hand in rearing the children, cleaning the home and bringing in provisions for the week, on Sunday’s also maybe? Should the Indian male continue to be exonerated for cutting all ties from household duties? What about providing safe office transportation for women who work late in remote office locations? These are just some of the ideas on bridging the competitive disadvantage women have in ther places of work. We want to know what you think in the comments section below. Relate instances of discrimination you might have faced or seen a colleague facing and tell us how you think you could have handled the situation better.
Thinking of it, the Uber fiasco might just be a blessing in disguise- helping men and women to avoid sexism and to take such concerns seriously. Soon we would just be an inch away from pushing back against this status quo and ensuring an all-round sensitivity for diversity and inclusion.