A More Just Workspace for Women

While we think of a workplace in a gendered lens, it is common but not unusual to have different opinions as the opinions might vary from each of its own personal experience. From various lived experiences of female colleagues no matter which sector in India, it is implied that men and women might not enjoy the same benefits since as opposed to men, women are expected to outdo the tasks that are mentioned in their Job Descriptions to prove that they are worth the position they hold, especially if it is a leadership position, since it known to draw more critics. Spaces are opening up to be more gender-friendly as a result of ongoing efforts and activism, but there is still much room for improvement.

When we talk about gender equality in the workplace, it is frequently perceived as a hurried topic of conversation. Instead of being afraid, why can’t we confront our own biases and work toward a more equitable workplace for women?

Women’s workplaces are frequently prevalent with sexism and misogyny. From not being taken seriously to a gender pay gap, she/they have had it all. This list could go on and on, but there are a few common areas to which women from almost every region of the world can relate; I’ll get to that in a moment.

So what is a just space of work?

Based on my personal observations and conversations with women from various sectors and lines of work during my fellowship and in the days preceding it, there are a few points that must be addressed without regard to the nature of work. Let’s take a look at what those are in the points below:

1) Not just a seat at the table but also to be heard: As inspired by Lilly Singh’s Ted Talk, I realized that most workplaces believe that by giving a woman a seat at the executive table, they are contributing to women’s empowerment. But have they done so?

While reading various research papers and speaking with numerous women at the executive level, it is frequently observed that the majority of their inputs are dismissed or not taken as seriously as that of a male colleague in the same position. Despite exceptions, this is a type of trend that has been observed.

So what can we do about it to bring a change?

Even though HR policies and rules for inclusion and respectful treatment of women employees are becoming more stringent in most places, it is important to note that there is a severe lack of practice – which hasn’t yet been documented through research in India but is easily observable.

All changes begin with a collective effort and dedication to the cause. Taking a woman executive’s or any female employee’s suggestions as seriously as one would take a male employee’s is the first step toward making a female colleague feel appreciated and valued.

It is critical to foster an environment in which women feel heard. This will result in a much better working environment for the company/organization.

2) Do not expect women to do the work that is not in their work description:- In India, as mentioned above, women are casually expected to outdo their tasks and work 2x to prove that they are worth their position as opposed to their male counterparts. Women employees are forced or expected to perform tasks that are not part of their job description (take up work of an employee that’s on leave or of a position that is yet to be filled with little to no extra compensation). A male coworker, on the other hand, is not expected to behave in the same way. It’s all about instinct, the one that makes you want to approach a female colleague rather than a male colleague to request work of a certain sort.

The solution is to not expect someone to complete the duty of someone else, but rather figure out an equitable way to divide the duties unattended to all the employees equally.

3) Maintain a professional boundary:- Again, the boundary is another term that is loosely defined in workspaces. Where exactly should we draw the line?

I mean, it depends. But do not knowingly ask or enquire about someone’s personal details which are more than necessary. Always try to make a comfortable space to work as a team, which will make us women feel that our boundaries are honored and respected.

4) Have strong HR policies and a POSH committee:- To come and work in a safe environment is a basic right that everyone deserves to have. Thus, providing such a safe working environment is the duty of a company/organization.

Having policies that advocate for women and their rights is mandatory. To have it in writing and also practiced is a big win for women, the company, and the larger good of the movement of women’s empowerment.

These are four major points that kept being highlighted by every working woman I came across. Even though there are many other important points to be discussed, I believe we need to start somewhere. And striving together for gender equality and the treatment of women in the workspace can create a greater impact on the society we’re all part of.

5) Address the pay-gap issue:- One step toward addressing the much-discussed issue of gender pay disparities is to consciously strive to pay an employee for their experience, skills, and drive for the position rather than their gender. In every survey that has been conducted, fair compensation has always resulted in increased productivity.

To discuss the statistics, for the year 2013, the gender pay gap in India was estimated to be 24.81%. As a result, it is our responsibility as workers to work toward a world where there is no gender pay gap, but rather fair compensation for our skills and efforts!

Together let’s build a gender-equal world, step by step!

alt=""References:

  1. https://www.springworks.in/blog/how-to-create-a-women-friendly-workplace/
  2. https://www.ungender.in/laws-every-women-should-know-in-relation-to-safety-at-workplace/
  3. https://www.catalyst.org/2021/08/25/women-workplace-challenges-covid/
  4. https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/covid-19-cost-women-globally-over-800-billion-lost-income-one-year
  5. https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/7-reasons-want-women-workplace/
  6. Lilly Singh’s TED TALK: https://youtu.be/9EBkS2kE7uk

Amana hails from Kochi, Kerala. She has developed extensive industry knowledge and academic experience in the social impact sector through her involvement over the last three years. She is a Political Science Hons graduate from the University of Delhi, India. Along with her bachelor's degree, she completed a diploma in Women empowerment and development. She also holds certifications in Human Rights and Legal Literacy. She has worked in a diverse range of impact environments stretching from education, livelihoods, fundraising, relief, communications, corporate engagement, and advocacy. Previously, she has worked on a project named "Let's reach out Kerala", which aimed to offer psychosocial support to guest workers stranded in and outside the state of Kerala, India, during the first phase of the pandemic. After that, she went on to work on a vaccination project to provide Covid-19 vaccines to 200 guest worker families in Delhi-NCR, India. Through her various experiences, Amana acquired considerable skills, such as project management, communications, graphic designing, development of concept notes, collaboration, and research. Amana is a self-motivated and passionate individual who envisions an empathy-driven world.

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