Why Indian women continue to face gender bias and what to do about it
Why give her a promotion when she is pregnant?
Can’t hire a woman because it involves late night shifts?
What happens if you train her and she gets married?
Even in 2020, these are some of the issues that working women continue to face. Avni Shah, a financial consultant in her 30s, runs a thriving financial advisory firm and manages funds worth crores for her clients. But, even today, many potential clients ask her who will manage their funds when she gets married. It takes some assuring and reassuring till they finally get that their funds will be managed by her.
Both milestones—marriage and maternity—are often regarded as career impediments because we are conditioned to believe that women will not be able to perform as well as men. Nobody questions a man about his ability to give his best to his career as a spouse or parent. But, women are often treated differently.
Meera Iyer, who quit her job took a long maternity break, says that the HR head at a prospective company tried to short change her salary wise. But, she dug in her heels and they finally relented. Within a year, she proved her mettle.
However, not all women even get an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise. Rohit Sharma, a mid level manager at an investment bank, refused to have an employee who was back from maternity leave in his team. His reason was that he anticipated that her productivity would be low. When his boss and Director Pooja Singh asked Rohit how the situation was in his own home, she learned that Rohit’s wife did all the household chores, dropped their kid to school, held a full time job and was back home on time every day. She had no support at home whatsoever from Rohit.
Pooja, who is a senior Director at the same bank, obviously calls out against this blatant discrimination. But she is quick to acknowledge that she sees this type of situation often where women who demand concessions at work often don’t demand equality at home. She strongly feels that women need to overcome their conditioning and speak up when they are passed up for opportunities or discriminated against just because they are pregnant or back from maternity like in this case.
Pooja points out that women who demand equality of work should also ensure equality at home. Delegating work, getting nannies, seeking spousal support are areas that we all need to work towards. According to her both men and women need to be sensitised to diversity and inclusion policies. She concludes that many team leaders and managers (both men and women) need the same kind of grooming when it comes to hiring policies or ensuring fairness and merit based allocation of work and career advancement opportunities.
However, the biggest setback for equality and inclusion comes from those who have built-in biases against women. Vivaan Sharma says he refuses to hire women post the #metoo movement because he is worried about false allegations. He feels that women have so much to gain and nothing to lose when they accuse a man. Even if one throws his own logic back at him that women will not be gaining anything by accusing him or people like him who can offer neither wealth nor fame, he stubbornly sticks to his stance. This new argument pushes us decades behind in our struggle for equal opportunity.
However, not all women accept discrimination as their lot. Women like Pooja who work their way to the top, simply don’t see discrimination as a barrier. They push through and try to work around or move away from workplaces that don’t appreciate or value their efforts.
Here are some tips on how to right a wrong or push back against unfair practices:
- Stand up for yourself at home and at work.
- Call out any discrimation in hiring or promotions.
- Delegate/share chores and tasks at home.