'I can’t think of a day when my father took a leave from office for he always works so hard for our family and I’m proud of him. My mother is equally deserving of my love because she quit her job only to raise me’.
Does that sound like an excerpt taken from a stereotypical family with unjust prejudices? Sure it does. But that’s not it.
Today with globalization, digitization, and westernization, the sphere of work has changed tremendously. Amidst the pandemic, working from home is a concept that gradually worked up its potential. But whether it be working from the office or working from home, do we see much change in the inclusion and parity of genders yet?
Are both male and female workers finding their potential and skills explored to their best possible extent? Are both male and female workers finding their potential and skills explored to their best possible extent? Have the stereotypes moved on and has the world become an equal place?
The answer to most of the above is intuitive and well-known. So we won’t dwell on the obvious rant-bandwagon. Instead, let’s look at what is still pending and deserves a conscious effort to change so the above questions can gradually melt away. Let’s understand how the workspace for men and women is still different after decades of movements to effect a change.
When men are at work….
Men are expected to be more decisive, analytical & linear in their thought processes. Hence, they are seen in supervisory and management roles more as compared to women. The study reveals that men win more promotions, more challenging assignments and more access to top leaders than women often do. While there is stress and pressure to perform, there is often an all-pervasive sense of confidence that male workers tend to exude. This belief in themselves makes them complete a lot of their tasks clinically without being emotionally involved. Thus men are often found reaching a high achievement rate of about 66% in tasks that are directly correlated with promotions and career advancement opportunities.
Their friendships and associations at the workplace also fall under similarly focused efforts.
Research in the US in organizations with more than 1000 employees showed that men valued pay, money and benefits as well as power, authority and status significantly more than women did. So much so, even their definitions of what constitutes a ‘healthy workplace’ differ in stark contrast.
When women are at work…
“A feminine leader recognizes there is power in deconstructing what powerful means.”
Female workers make up empathetic, kind, compassionate, well-rounded and emotionally intelligent professionals. But they are often seen to be lesser confident and seek approval for their capabilities in others’ eyes. This lack of belief in oneself often lands them in lesser senior roles. In America, over 80% of teachers, nurses, secretaries and health workers are female — this statistic surely speaks for itself.
Women also feel burdened by the responsibilities of family setup and caregiving, often sacrificing their career trajectory in the process. Rarely do they decide to withstand the pressures of marriage, childbirth, elder care and raising a family for their own sake. In developed countries like Britain and France too, almost 70% of mothers reduce their working hours or switch to less demanding jobs to deliver on home-bound responsibility. By the time they are in their middle age with these responsibilities broadly taken care of, it is either too late for them to catch up or the opportunities do not come by easily.
The gaping pay gap
The above differences in choices each gender makes prioritizing one life aspect over the other (In the case of women — family over career) are fair to explain the disparity in the earnings of the two genders. But what about the difference that exists just because you are a woman and your counterpart is a man? It is said that in Poland, women earn 91 cents for every dollar a man does. In countries like South Korea, the difference expands from 35 cents to a dollar.
The reason for this pay gap? Here are some that our research gathered:
1) Lower Education Rates: It seems women still pursue higher education less aggressively than men due to financial constraints of the family or just pure social stigma associated with an ‘overeducated’ girl of marriageable age.
2) Lesser number of working women: A few occupations are considered to be female-dominated — Teachers, nurses, house help. Ironically, women are not trusted enough to work in jobs that involve higher risk, competitive targets, longer hours, geographical flexibility, etc. That keeps them out of some of the highest-paying jobs and even hierarchical raises.
3) Slew of gender roles and aptitudes: Stereotypical gender allocations of the man being the working pillar of the family and the woman being the caretaker of the house is still prevalent. Women often find their wings clipped by social and household burdens, unable to fight the compromised payouts that accompanied these burdens.
4) Lack of regulation: There are no laws that work towards addressing gender inequality in the workplace. While maternity benefits, POSH policies and period leaves are often making headlines, labor laws stay silent on the stark difference between the pay for female and male workers.
5) Women are raised to be wives and mothers: Only a fraction of the population thinks women should work full-time and hence they often raise their daughters to be supporting wives and caring mothers rather than ambitious career women. Since the onus of financially supporting one’s family is on the man’s shoulders, women too often slack in the aggression to lap up higher-paying more competitive roles.
Shall we blame motherhood then?
While being a mother is the greatest virtue of God, it is becoming more and more obvious that the price women pay for that instinct is their career and their financial independence. While some mothers see it natural to make their family a priority, some find it unnerving and unfair as there is rarely such a burden that fatherhood accompanies. The jury is out on whether women should keep asking for equality while continuing to shoulder household burdens or they must give up their maternal instincts completely thus accepting that the quest for equality will outlast their lifetimes.
And what do the men think?
Men are not a spared entitled gender anymore. In fact a growing number of men want their, female partners to work and flourish as they share the responsibilities of family and elder care together. This is a factor of consistent gender equality movements, yes, but it is also a factor of growing aspirations, increasing expenses, deepening uncertainties, and constant instability in today’s times.
The constant pressure to hustle, to be a successful professional, and financial aid to the family has been depressing and anxiety-bearing for far too long for the male worker. He now is seeking active support from his partner and is more willing to give back equal support at home. An increasing number of men now also wish to stay home for days when it gets tiring, when they intend to be a good parent to their child, or just when their mental and physical health needs desperate rest.
Is there hope? Iceland and Rwanda have shown the way
The island nation of Iceland made major strides toward closing its pay gap. In 1975, when the women of the country initiated a grassroots movement to protest against the gender pay gap, the first change became visible right at the policy-making level. In 1980, five years after the strike, Iceland voted the world’s first democratically-elected female president. This inspired many women to contest and win elections and sit in the Iceland Parliament — right where policy takes root.
And they haven’t stopped ever since. In 1981, Iceland passed a law that required employers to provide new mothers with three months of paid leave. That was extended to 6 months in 1988. In 2000, Iceland decided to give its new fathers an obligation paternity leave so that they can learn to contribute to child-raising responsibility from the word ‘go’. As a result, women in Iceland today make about 90 cents on every dollar a man does.
Rwanda, one of the poorest nations on Earth and a hitherto women-unfriendly nation too made large strides against this gender difference. In the 1994 genocide, which saw over 800,000 people being murdered in just a span of three months — Rwanda says a drastic change in its demographic. 70% of its population was now female. The shortage of men now meant that women had to step into the workforce in huge numbers, taking on jobs that a year earlier would have been unheard of. Women in the military or politics now became a necessity rather than a point of choice.
The new Rwanda was now built by women. And hence came a host of new policies aiming at getting women into positions of power. The preamble to the new Constitution included a commitment to equal rights for men and women. Today in Rwanda, women hold 61% of the seats in Parliament, the highest in the world. They have a labor force participation rate of 88%.
And the World Economic Forum puts Rwandan women at 86 cents on the dollar to a man.
As these countries lead by example, irrespective of their socio-economic status, countries like ours stand at a key decision point. Women in politics, business, education, healthcare, and even the armed forces have shown sizeable contributions to make them eligible for an equal eye. Let’s hope the new tech-ade that India is stepping in, paves the way for an equal and inclusive Nation that serves as an example to the World.
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