Today throughout the world we see that more and more women are joining the workforce. Yet statistics shows that it is not a desirable figure and we are yet a long way away from where women occupy equal number of positions throughout the work arena. Just to make a point, the World Bank data shows that at 53 percentage points, our country, India has one of the worst gender gaps (disproportionate difference between the sexes) in the world when it comes to labour force participation.
It is not just that lesser women join the workforce. One of the other reasons for the disproportion is also that when it comes to advancement in their careers women face many impediments leading to early retirements or leaving the workforce prematurely.
Let us look at some of the major barriers for women’s career advancement:
- Social Mindsets Regarding Domestic Responsibilities:
The biggest deterrent towards women’s career advancement is still the mindset of people and the overall attitudes where women are still expected to take up more domestic responsibilities than men.It is still viewed that it is more a woman’s responsibility to take care of the household chores. To juggle between both work and household responsibilities becomes a tight rope walk for most women. As one advances in one’s career the work responsibilities increase multi-fold and at such times it becomes really difficult to maintain a fine balance between both,work and home.
- Social Mores about Child Rearing and Child Care:
As long as it is the woman who is the child bearer in the human species, the woman will not view child rearing and child care in the same way as men do. They will feel more responsible towards their off springs and rightly so and hence the way they prioritize their children, and their needs and requirements and responsibilities around it, will always be different from the way men do. If women need to advance in their careers, then what would need to change essentially are the work policies to allow these dual priorities to be met. It is organizations and of course individuals who make up these organizations that need to change their thinking and make work-life integration a reality, thus helping women to be able to advance career wise too while doing justice to their role as the primary care giver of their child.
- Male Dominated Corporate Culture and Values:
Traditionally, men have dominated the workforce. Hence it is but natural that the leadership prototypes and models are typically masculine. The qualities that a leader should have are predominantly masculine qualities. Women think differently. Their thought processes, communication and interpersonal approaches, decision-making processes, risk taking approaches, consensus building ways are all different from men. Many women workers are not fully understood when they approach problems in a different manner than what the usual and typical leadership approach would be. If women need to advance in their careers and in the corporate world it would be important for everyone to start looking at this diversity of thinking in a more holistic and balanced manner which is inclusive of the essential different approaches of men and women towards problem solving and leadership.
- Poor Support and Informal Networks:
Men working together, especially when they move up the hierarchy, have different ways of bonding which go beyond working hours. There are more chances of connecting over parties, family dinners, or a game of golf or cricket. Many business ideas get floated and accepted in these kinds of informal settings. Unfortunately, women are not yet a part of these kinds of networks and hence many a times they feel that they are on the back foot in board meetings when men show more openness and acceptance to other men’s ideas but not to theirs.
- Fewer Role Models:
Due to the above mentioned challenges that are prevalent during the course of their careers, there are fewer women who advance and reach the top leadership positions. Hence there are fewer role models to look up to,for other women who would want to aspire to reach top leadership positions.
Shital Ravi is the Founder Member of Disha Counseling Center and is also a Senior Consulting Psychologist at Psychometrica. The article presents the authors personal views.