The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’. This theme is based on the United Nations 67th Commission on the status of women priority theme ‘Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls’.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion help create an environment where everyone is respected and valued regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, caste, religion, sexual orientation, or any other factor. With the culture of acceptance and understanding, organisations are able to attract more talented individuals from diverse backgrounds. The DEI culture has become essential at workplaces to ensure that all employees have a safe and comfortable working environment.
Are we really cultivating an equitable culture? We have made progress in this direction but it is miniscule. Some issues that are a hindrance in achieving these are:
Women are judged
Women are often judged on parameters of efficiency or inability to balance personal and professional lives. We have heard of the biases especially during hiring and many of us must have experienced them too. One being asking the lady candidate if she had plans to get married in the near future if she was unmarried. If married, asking her if she’s planning to start a family. Not sure if men are asked these at the time of hiring. Ladies are preferred only in certain job profiles; some automatically write them off without giving them the fair opportunity.
Women had to shatter glass ceilings to be where we are today, that generation has gone but they paved way for the future generations of women to step out and play their best games.
Women gradually made their way into many professions; today they are everywhere even in combat roles or sailing on the high seas! Sadly hiring is still biased and so is firing. During the pandemic women lost more jobs; we have researches proving it. Whenever an organization downsizes its team women are sadly the first ones to be going out. All job cuts start with them sadly.
Many women strive hard to balance their jobs and family lives, each one needs to figure out what works for her; planning and adjustments is the key.
Women earn less than their male counterparts
In similar job profiles often women earn less than their male counterparts. Women had to fight for job opportunities, then for equal opportunities and the next step was wage parity. In sports, the media or in films also wage disparity exists; highlighting these fields here as when they speak its out in the media and for everyone to see. People are voicing their opinions now and it is having an impact. As they say if you can dream it you can do it! In corporate jobs too women are paid lesser across all levels in the hierarchy for reasons still unknown.
Men and women are unique and complement each other
We have reached a point where women are trying to prove how they can do everything that men can; in fact they try to better them. Do we really need that kind of equality? Then why are we even talking about diversity and inclusion? More than equality we must seek and speak about gender equity. As men and women are meant to have their own set of unique qualities; these very qualities set them apart. Men and women are meant to complement each other and not try to outsmart one another. Each gender needs to embrace those roles and work together with the other thus bringing completeness- be it in the family environment or at work place. We are living in times where we need collaboration rather than competition.
Stereotyping is the game spoiler
Stereotyping is one of the reasons for not seeing women in Senior Leadership roles. It needs to be eliminated; fundamentally stereotyping puts men and women in different compartments. Life needs to flow and flow freely; not remain in boxes of prejudice. The society looks at certain qualities in leaders and there are words to describe those qualities. Unfortunately the words are generally masculine; these further stereotype men to be natural leaders and women are not considered to be good enough to be leaders at the top. Mid levels are fine for any gender but towards the higher up in hierarchy unfortunately preferences are there and women lose out.
Lack of encouragement towards leadership and relevant training also contribute to less women leaders, at times women need to fight for opportunities. Conditioning of both men and women from their childhood itself may be one of reasons for stereotyping. Expectations for women to take on multiple roles often hinder their progress and prevent them from reaching leadership positions and stereotypes bring them undue stress. It’s not easy for a woman to live up to such unrealistic expectations. These very stereotypes have to be eliminated and society needs to evolve. Children have to be raised as children and not as boys or girls. This may also reduce crimes against women apart from giving them fair opportunities.
Mentorship and inclusion goes a long way
Mentorship programmes assist in grooming ambitious young women into leadership roles as they are able to see role models. Mentorship has to be available for all; true to the meaning of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Leadership also comes with accountability and men or women in those roles need to use their power with due diligence, not misusing it in any way whatsoever. There is also a perception that our laws favour women, that myth needs busting by way of doing the right things no matter who the person is – man, woman or any other.
When we are able to steer ourselves clear of stereotypes and are receptive to DEI; can we make a gender equal future in the true sense.
PS: pictures aretaken from Google with due credits, this article first appeared in the ET Hospitality World.