With Women’s Day upon us, there is a barrage of initiatives, articles and offers that have hit me. This is nothing new. There is heightened awareness on the need for equality and progress for women. While the larger issue of gender gap, equality and freedom for women across different ethos of life cannot be addressed so conveniently, this day is largely celebrated in the educated world as a token of recognizing the need to bring the needed parity.
As I was travelling to my workplace seated comfortably in the confines of a cab, I saw a woman vendor standing tall and doing her job of selling. She was going on about her business as usual with determination. I am sure it would not have been easy for her to meet her needs on a daily basis but the confidence to tackle things head on was something that she was exuberating.
You must be wondering how this narrative is related to Woman’s Day. When I draw a parallel of the hawker woman’s self-confidence to women in corporates of today then clearly that is an area of improvement. While companies boast of employing x% of women in their workforce, very little is done in reality to develop and nurture the talent. While all cannot be in leadership positions, the percentage of women in mid-management is higher, but the transition into leadership and Board roles is abysmally low. For India, this percentage is about ~5% as of last survey in mid of 2017. The road to increase these numbers have multiple challenges. Some of the issues that we face are deep rooted in the ecosystem and will take years of work to break the barriers.
For women aspiring to transition to leadership positions, one of the perennial complaints that has been talked about is the old boys club. Being a keen observer, many a times I have noticed that these are unconscious boundaries/bias that stem from basic human nature. The meaning of inclusivity needs to be redefined in such places. The other barrier is death by assumption or rather conscious bias. By virtue of being a woman, many things are assumed without giving a chance to prove your mettle. I have often heard my friends discussing their gender gap issues in hiring and how they clamor to meet the targets during the end of the year. On the other side, I have seen quite a few job advertisements screaming loudly that women are not welcome in the politest of words. It is a world of paradox that we live in terms of gender gap in employment. The wage gap will take another 217 years to iron itself out. In my view, it is high time for organizations to accept that while you need women in your workforce, you cannot ignore the age old problem of work life balance. The organizations which are extremely successful in employing women are also the ones who recognize this balance and create an environment to enable progress for women. One of the most important things is mentorship and sponsorship for the growth agenda. Programs cannot help drive the agenda. People need to be invested in the importance of this.
While organizations need to pull up their socks, it applies to us also. My two cents on what we can do for ourselves are:
One of main reasons that women do not transition to larger roles is because of lack of confidence and underestimation of their own skills. It is important for us to believe in ourselves dear girls.
The second thing is learning. Learning should never stop. We need to upskill ourselves to disrupt ourselves.
Find your Tribe
The people that you surround yourself with also play an important part in your journey. Find your tribe.
Find a Mentor
Find a mentor that can understands you and can guide you in the maze. The importance of a good mentor is largely underestimated. I for one am still in search for mine :).
The best thing we can do for each other is uplift each other and help each other succeed. This will drive the change in the real sense when women stand up for each other.
The past year has seen increase in global activism with issues being thrown to the face of the world. The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have shown the power of collaboration and people. The #PresstoProgress is the theme for this year for the IWD. We are on the threshold of change and it will take all of us to achieve progress and equality for both men and women.
We don’t need a day of celebration but let this be a reminder that the engines leading towards gender equality has to be built and moved by one and all.
PS: Opinions are purely personal. I would like to hear your comments and thoughts on this.