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India Must Tear Down Gender Inequality In The Workplace

31/10/2016 8:44 AM IST | Updated 01/11/2016 11:39 AM IST
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Girls and women constitute almost half of the population of India, yet they are deprived of access to resources and opportunities in comparison to their male counterparts, often becoming victims of discrimination due to their gender. Almost every Indian would agree that of all the women they know, most are a victim of discrimination in their everyday life.

Women below the age of 30 earned 23.07% less than men, while those in the age group of 30-40 years earned 30.24% less than men.

Gender inequality is a global concern and does not receive the kind of attention it deserves. According to World Bank, in 2014, the total participation of women in the labour force was pegged at only 24.2%. Even though the figures were expected to increase, the astonishing reality is that there has been a 23% decline in the female labour force participation in our country over the last 25 years. In a country where women constitute almost half of the population (48%), these numbers present a challenge that we as a society must aim to overcome.

The type of work women are entrusted with, coupled with the conditions under which they work and the opportunities they get to advance, differ widely from what men are offered at a workplaces. From women being overlooked for certain jobs on account of their gender to being offered inequitable wages and development paths, gender disparity presents itself in several ways in workplaces. Patriarchal binaries affect the very system we all function in, and a deep realization of this can be seen in the way it presents itself in the hierarchies established in corporate India.

The hard facts

The gender pay gap in India for the year 2013 was recorded at 24.81% by WageIndicator, and a curious stat is that this gap increases with age. Women below the age of 30 earned 23.07% less than men, while those in the age group of 30-40 years earned 30.24% less than men. There's a clear gap in growth charts in a career for a man and woman in India. Surprisingly, educational qualifications also end up increasing this wage gap.

The inequality women face at the workplace is but a symptom of the broader issue. In rural India, the average salary received by regular employees was ₹428.66 per day for women compared with ₹550.23 per day for males (during 2011-12). The discrepancy—₹609.7 and ₹805.52 per day for women and men respectively—was evident in urban areas too.

One of the biggest reasons why women occupy fewer leadership positions is the lack of support after marriage, both professionally and domestically.

There is also a dearth of women in key and senior leadership positions in India. In some cases, even though there are women members on the board, organizational policies that are governed by gender equality still have a long way to go to create a space which encourages women to advance their careers. One of the biggest reasons why women occupy fewer leadership positions is the lack of support after marriage, both professionally and domestically. Although times are evolving and there are even cases of women being the "bread-winners" and men the "home-makers", women are still subtly pressured to make professional compromises for the family. Biases in performance appraisals and difficult work-life balance choices make these issues that much more challenging. Wider power structures that impede this equality are ignored by organizations, betraying the deeply embedded nature of these hierarchies that ultimately skew equality.

The way forward

Work-life balance in today's context is especially important for married women with children. Even though technology has facilitated telecommuting and the ability to stay connected irrespective of someone's location, concrete steps to better work-life policies are still under-developed. However, to shape and mould an equal hierarchical structure, it's important to change mind-sets of individuals within organizations. Conscious and unconscious biases must be eradicated in a systemic manner.

The leaders of corporate India, especially the large number of men that find themselves in their position, must take steps to address this inequality. Mechanisms must be promoted to address patriarchal biases and policies must be established to abolish gender inequalities in the workplace. Most importantly, a free space for dialogue should be created where employees can speak about discriminations they face while working in an organization.

Mechanisms must be promoted to address patriarchal biases and policies must be established to abolish gender inequalities in the workplace.

The term "work" should be redefined with the concept of equality forming the bedrock on which organizations are created. Informal cultural norms need to be constantly re-examined, helping India move towards its goal of being an equal, holistic workplace for members of all genders.

India presents a unique set of challenges that are rooted in diverse cultural, religious and social stereotypes, and collective action must be directed towards establishing parity in gender roles and women in the workplace. India's women and girls have the capability to be powerful community leaders, and the onus of change lies on every one of us. Gender inequality is a real issue that grips modern India and our quest to establish a truly equal society must pick up pace.

Oxfam India has partnered with Global Citizen India, a social action platform that comprises a distinctive mix of events, grassroots activism, media campaigning and online activation, to catalyze India's 15-year journey towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and to bring about the end of extreme poverty.With Global Citizen India, Oxfam India believes that gender inequality is a key barrier to India's development and is committed to motivating young Indians to address critical challenges through collective action. More than 400,000 young Indians have already taken action on the Global Citizen India platform on issues such as women's safety in cities and rural communities, aiming to drive a perception change about the role a woman plays at home and at work.

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