The workplace is still a challenging place for women – here’s why

By Neha Yaduvanshi

A steady dispute that plagues the workplace environment is gender-based discrimination. Whether we talk about developing economies like India or China, or developed economies like the US, UK and Germany, this bias is common in almost every geography.

However, as times change, a more liberating thought process is developing and more women are marching into the workplace today in comparison with older times, but the road to equality is still long.

Gender diversity in the corporate world has increased significantly but not at the level of pay. There are several positions where companies specify their choice of gender for respective employment opportunities and some positions that involve fieldwork or frequent travel, there is a strong preference for male candidates. Similarly, for desk jobs like that of a receptionist, or in-store jewellery or cosmetic sales assistants, the preference is clearly for a woman.

The point of discrimination does not end here, but goes up to a few critical points like a huge pay gap, leadership challenges etc.

Here is how the gender-based discrimination in the workplace is fabricating a biased environment.

Gender-biased employee payment structure

As we adopt modern approaches, more women are seeking career opportunities in a variety of sectors. Despite their full efforts, the salaries drawn by women employees in comparison with their male counterparts are often lower.

As per some news reports, women in India earn 20 percent less than men, which congenitally proves how gender plays a role in determining the salary process. ‘Monster Salary Index’ (MSI) shows, men earned a median gross hourly salary of Rs 231, compared to women, who earned only Rs 184.80. “The overall gender pay gap of 20 percent is still a daunting number,” said Abhijeet Mukherjee, CEO, – APAC & Gulf.

The report said that as one grows rich in their professional experience, this pay gap tends to widen, where men with experience receive a greater remuneration while women are asked to settle for less money for the same profile.

This biased pay gap is not only seen in India, but also in developed economies like the US, UK and Germany. UK government statistics showed 74 percent firms pay their male staff higher than they pay the women employees, while only 5 percent of businesses with more than 250 employees pay more to women.

The gender pay gap in India is more than China, which stood at 12.1 percent. Other economies that have pay differences include France at 14.1 percent, Germany at 16.8 percent, the UK at 23.8 percent and the US at 17.6 percent.

According to advisory firm Accenture, it will take more than 100 years to close this gender-based wage gap.

India would be $550 billion richer if it just increased its share of women in the labour force by 10 percent, so it is most definitely time to shake things up – for good. – World Economic Forum India

Sectors classified in terms of the pay gap in India ranging from the highest to the lowest:

> Finance and Insurance

> Public Administration

> Scientific and technical services

> Healthcare and social assistance

> Mining oil and gas extraction

> Information

> Retail Trade

> Management and companies and Enterprises

> Manufacturing

> Utilities

Biased environments challenge the leadership of women

As more and more women engage in paid employment, many persistent issues are suffocating women empowerment in India.

What are your marriage plans?

Many young women who are job seekers often came across this question from employers – What are your marriage plans? And girls with plans of an early marriage are the least preferred.

Maternity leave negotiation

Every woman cherishes motherhood, but for working professionals, motherhood often comes at the cost of their career. As per the Indian Maternity Benefit Amendment Act, women working with a staff of at least 10 employees are authorised 26 weeks of paid maternity leave as against 12 weeks earlier.

Government employees already have this relaxation, but private working professionals too have this benefit. Additional benefits include daycare facilities — commonly called creches in India — for working mothers or work from home policies.

However, even after the law was passed, private firms have resorted to removing pregnant employees in order to avoid paid leaves.

The #MeToo Movement

Sexual harassment and exploitation are commonly observed in many parts of the world. Despite The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, little good has come of it. There’s also a national helpline for women that address calls on harassment. The numbers 1091 and 1291 are toll-free.

But this scenario brings a certain level of uncertainty and depression among women who have worked or are working in such an environment. A survey reveals that 69 percent of the victims do not report their ordeal to the management team. This is because the chances of losing a job, and ‘damage’ to one’s reputation are high in such cases, especially in India.

Despite social and cultural progress and wide digitalisation impact, leadership and equality is still a challenge for women in India, especially in semi-urban and rural areas. Major challenges include family-work conflicts, discrimination at workplace, gender-biases, unequal pay, mental/physical harassment and insufficient maternity leave.


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