So many buzzword articles are published around gender issues but the real talk is lost in jargon. We see a lot being said about gender equality and representation of the fairer sex in the corporate world, but there is so much untold. Two such topics that need more articulation are the achievements and challenges revolving around working women:
- Achievements: At the start of the industrial revolution women were mostly wage laborers in textile and small industries, rarely ever getting an opportunity in the well-paid administrative jobs. Law & Medicine were professions where women seldom found scope, finance was another domain where women were only assigned accounting/book keeping roles. But today women have proven their mettle in different roles, functions & sectors, not only are they seen as leaders in corporate environment, but also in top International Organizations such as IMF & EU. A big chunk of influential and powerful roles is being effectively managed by women leaders.
It is important to discuss the secret sauce behind this revolution that has brought women from the fringe of corporate employment to the heart of corporate policy, and in several cases now a seat at the board.
Variety of Skill Set – Working women in most nations are already breaking stereotypes and this is possible only through years of competing with men and having to prove themselves equal or better at each turn. This has resulted in women becoming more competitive, more astute towards balancing cultural backgrounds with corporate expectations. They are now multitasking moguls that bring in a variety of skills and inter-disciplinary experience on their resumes.
Emotional Balance – The expectations are different from men and women in even the most developed nations, take this to developing countries and you will be appalled at the mindset gap. The challenges faced in such environments have made women more resilient emotionally and this balance becomes a strength that is in demand, especially in the VUCA world.
Better Team Dynamics – Women are natural team players, union in strength is a virtue we all practice. From a young age women are conditioned to work in a cohesive manner, a social compulsion that has resulted in an economic value.
Employee Loyalty – Women are statistically less prone to leave for greener pastures, as they value stability and security over short term gains. A friend of mine is always looking to hire working mothers in his team because he says they are more productive and dedicated. They have multiple roles to play, they want to finish their work and get back to their families.
- Challenges: The women achievers in different sectors globally have inspired more women to pursue their careers. But as they say nothing comes easy, many glass ceilings are yet to be broken.
Equal Pay – From the beginning of time, women have had to fight to get rewarded in proportion to their contributions. In most societies even today, the value that women add through their skills and labor is taken for granted, hence the negotiations are never fair and the pay rise is disproportionate. It is surprising that women are good at bargaining while shopping but when it comes to negotiate for themselves they are not so confident. A well-renowned Total Rewards professor in USA once shared that in her early career, during a salary negotiation she asked for something much lower and she realized this only when she received the offer that paid her an additional $2000 per annum.
Harassment – As more women march onto the turf that was first an exclusive all boys club, some men are seeing this as a threat. More instances of harassment are becoming known. Sometimes you wonder if the gender violence is new at all, or women are braver now to speak about it. This is one number that keeps going up.
Career Opportunities – Despite research suggesting that globally women have $11.2 Trillion buying power and in Japan alone, closing the gender employment gap would increase their GDP by 13%, we yet have miles to go. Unconscious Bias plays a big role, as they say birds of same feather flock together and people end up hiring and promoting their mini me versions. The result of the 2016 USA elections is an example of the highest glass ceiling. Major corporates’ global priority is to have more women in their senior leadership roles.
Maternity – Body clocks are ticking, the emotional desire to become a mother takes priority and the Catch-22 that comes with it can be a make or break situation. While corporate benefits are getting better, the mindset around mothers with career ambitions is yet to change.
Work-Life Balance – It is assumed that woman must sustain the dynamics to keep the home & family intact. This adds emotional pressure which is beyond measure in today’s competitive world.
The achievements and challenges of working women are plenty, and one cannot exist without the other. However, there is no denying the basic reality in both the corporate world and the socio-economic systems, which can be summed up in four words “The Future Is Female”.