Every year 8th March is celebrated as International Women’s Day (IWD). This critique, my contribution for the March edition, is my tribute to all working women. Before I proceed further, it is imperative to define the scope of this article to avoid any kind of misinterpretation and confusion. In this write-up, I will be sharing opportunities and challenges faced by women working in paid employment in organized sectors.
As per reports published by United Nations, World Bank and International Labour Organizations, “Globally, women are paid less than men. Moreover, the percentage of women working in vulnerable, low-paid, or undervalued jobs is higher than men. As of 2013, 49.1 percent of the world’s working women were in vulnerable employment, often unprotected by labor legislation”. The data projects that challenges faced by women are multifaceted. These challenges can be classified into two categories – INTRINSIC and EXTRINSIC.
Extrinsic – Factors like workplace culture, social environment, external circumstances may encourage or discourage women at work. It is the prime responsibility of government and society to create an environment to work in a profession of her choice without fear and discrimination.
Equal Opportunities – Men and Women are not same. They are born with biological, physical and psychological differences to complement each other. On the contrary, skills and competencies are not gender specific. There are men who are excellent in household chores which are considered as feminine skills. On the other hand, there are women who are doing extremely well in high-risk jobs like maintaining law and order situation, marketing and sales, product development, welding, carpentry that are considered as expertise domain of men. Therefore, hiring must be done based on skills and competencies of applicants, instead of their gender.
Right to her body – At the workplace, women have a right to stop people from touching her or come within the proximity of her body. Just because she demands to be treated with respect and dignity, she cannot be harassed, abused, humiliated, threatened or terminated from employment. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 has been enacted to ensure the safety of women at the workplace. However, the implementation of legislation is facing several operational hurdles. There are many incidents where female employees were discouraged from filing complaints of harassment, were bullied and pressurized to leave the job. Organizations must implement the provisions of the act in its right spirit.
Right to reproduce – To reproduce is women’s right and choice. She cannot be denied a job opportunity because she is pregnant nor can be terminated from work citing performance issues just because she got pregnant. Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 along with proposed amendments of 2016 has made several far-sighted efforts to protect the employment of women during and after pregnancy.
Equal Pay – As per ILO’s Global Wage Report for the year 2014-15, women’s average wage ranges between 4 to 36 percent less than men’s but the gap widens for higher-earning women. As per 2008 edition of the Employment Outlook report by the OECD, almost all OECD countries have established laws to combat discrimination on grounds of gender. Many OECD countries have put in place specialized anti-discrimination agencies. However, only a few agencies are effectively empowered to investigate companies, take actions against employers suspected of discriminatory practices, and sanction them when they find evidence of discrimination. In India, the implementation agencies have been made toothless. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 aims to provide for the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers and for the prevention of discrimination, on the ground of sex, against women in the matter of employment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. It is the responsibility of organizations to execute provisions of this act.
Intrinsic – In our society, since their childhood girls are taught to raise a family and take care of social relations. There are very few who can push the envelope and break that glass ceiling and rise in a career of their choice. In my work experience of over 17 years, I have noticed peculiar behaviors of women, which can broadly be classified into FOUR groups. These behaviors usher in determining the seriousness of women at work.
Non-committal – Women in this category are not driven by ‘passion to work’, they only choose to work to kill time or their boredom. Their priorities change as soon as their situation changes. When at work, they take leave to celebrate the birthday in their neighbors, to babysit their nephew or niece, to go shopping with a cousin of their friend, and to celebrate all festivals throughout the year. They are non-committal employees and are serial job-hoppers.
Supporters – This group usually work for a personal goal and leave the job as soon as their goal is achieved or temporary financial requirements are taken care of. They might work to sponsor own education or education of their siblings or kids, to buy a new house, new car or any other materialistic requirement. Their focus remains on a good salary and not on work. They don’t aim for bigger responsibilities.
Lone Survivors – The women in this category are fighting their battle alone. They have old parents to take care. They are single mothers. They are divorcees. They take care of their dependents while fighting for self-respect, social independence, and financial security. They look for job security, learning opportunities, growth prospects and career advancement. They learn. They attain self-mastery and play as per set rules. They rarely overstep the playground of their workplace. They play by the rule book.
Rebels – They challenge every social norm. They take risks and make decisions. They take a lead. They enjoy winning. They create their own rulebook. They live their life on their own terms and conditions. They aim for challenging leadership roles that pay high rewards. They climb up the hierarchical ladder faster than their male counterparts. They are business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Conclusion – Women’s economic equality is good for business. Companies greatly benefit from increasing leadership opportunities for women. It is estimated that companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all dimensions of organizational effectiveness. It is calculated that women could increase their income globally by up to 76 percent if the employment participation gap and the wage gap between women and men get diminished.
Composed By – Sanjeev Himachali