Monday, December 15, 2014

Gender disparities in the workplace

I believed gender inequality is an issue that is more relevant and confined to Middle east and Asia, but little did I realize that its a widespread problem that exists even in the west in some form or the other. Sometimes too blatant and visible, while sometimes latent and subtle.
A peek through the book "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg is an eye opener for the people who believe
that women in India, Africa or in Asian countries find it tough to make it big in the corporate sector.
The book talks about the challenges that women are facing across the world whether its in their homes or in the board meetings or even in the small office gatherings which calls for decision making and voicing an opinion.

Women have to try hard to make themselves heard and prove themselves as competent as their male counterparts. Personally, I have observed the same in my not "yet so long" corporate career but "long enough" to understand the male dominance in the workplace and it has become more evident recently when I took up the senior role which needs me to take authority and ownership. Women's ideas and viewpoints are often refuted or contradicted with terms such as " Impractical"," Infeasible" and sometimes "Shortsighted" . Their every single move will be monitored , scrutinized and rectified by others to make them feel less capable or as if trying to send a message across that "you are not there yet" . Even though deep inside they know that they are right, they have to keep their lips buttoned . Why men do this? Probably they are not willing to accept that a woman can take charge / should take charge, or may be they have their inbuilt insecurity of losing out their position to a woman.

Why do women keep quiet?  Why dont women assert ? Is it lack of confidence? Is it respect for immediate seniors that they decide not to argue with someone who is more experienced than they are at their current role? Probably its a mix of all these factors.

It is in the blood and the social upbringing that a man can accept losing to a man but not to a woman.
Men, when they were boys were told indeliberately by their parents that "You are a boy, you should not be crying, you should be strong, you need to be working hard on mathematics and science etc " and girls are asked to be docile, soft, non argumentative which tranlates into an accomodating, accepting, a non questioning personality as they grow up.

Sometimes it is a herculean task to fight for what you believe in and more often you may fail to get your point across but you will never fail to be hated for your straight forwardedness direct approach.
As per my observation, women are often delegated to perform the administrative jobs that require follow ups and drafting emails , sending communication, and data entry work whereas men at the same position are given more technical work that require analysis and decision making.
Men will consult other men in the team before taking a final call but women in the team may not even be considered a necessity to be asked for an opinion.

Adding to the fury is the social expectation to get married, raise the kids and juggling between the personal and professional demands, which explains the very fact why not many women make it to the top. Some leave their careers mid way to look after their families while some are not able to cope up with the office stress and demands and some do not have supportive partners. The onus of choosing family vs career rests on the woman. she cannot and is not supposed to have both.

I have often heard of working women lamenting about how guilty conscious they feel inside
because they were not there to see their kids growing up. But men do not suffer from any such predicaments. As long as it is a personal choice to quit work and look after family, all is said and done. But it becomes a catch twenty two situation, when a woman has to choose between her career and family. By career I mean an ambition. Not many women are able to pursue their career goals unless they have an exceptionally supportive partners who are willing to compromise a bit of their own interest.

As Sheryl Sandberg puts it - What would you do if you were'nt afraid ? The question is for every woman. The fear is not just the external fear , it implies the internal fear as well, that constant debate between I , me and myself versus my family,my boss, the society. What would you do if all these fears were wiped out ? Would'nt women be able to reach out maximum potential if the external and internal influences were nullified?
It all boils down to one thing- Self confidence, appreciating yourself for your own achievements. Its a life long battle for what you believe in and not giving up. It may invite wrath of your colleagues, arguments with your partner, jealousies but there is no way to escape it. Because, as they say its "the Man's world".