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Biases In The Life Of Women

November 20, 2017



Are you aware of the fact that gender bias starts even before a child is born? How many of you have wanted to ask or have asked someone who’s due for delivery, “Do you want a girl or a boy?’’ or “Will you be happy if it’s a girl or a boy?”While mostly urban parents show gender bias that is based on centuries-old religious beliefs and sayings from ancient times; in rural areas discrimination in the form of denial or ignorance of female child’s education, health, nutrition, and recreational needs are still prevalent. In extreme cases, female infanticide and selective abortion of female foetuses continue to exist.

As a kid, the girl child is instructed what sports to be played or watched. How many girls are seen playing cricket or boxing when young. How many fathers or brothers would allow their daughters, sisters, or wives to pursue Hockey or Football as a career amidst the current scenario?


What happened to girls who pursued sports as their career?

As Diana David, cricketer quotes: “Men are definitely treated better than women in cricket. For every Ranji game, we are paid extremely little, perhaps 10 per cent of what the men would be getting. Most of us continue to play only for the love of the game.”

Again, Sania Mirza’s recent accusation about the All India Tennis Association’s handling of the Olympics selection being based on male chauvinism has opened a Pandora’s Box and renewed the debate of gender discrimination in sports.

Numerous examples can be cited to depict the deplorable state of affairs as far as female discrimination in sports is concerned. For example, the Squash Rackets Federation of India didn’t even recommend Dipika Pallikal, India’s number 1 squash player for the Arjuna award even after she become the first Indian in world top 15.

Indian women’s cricket team skipper Mithali Raj feels they should not be compared to their male counterparts and laments the lack of recognition despite representing a country where the sport reigns supreme.

The veteran player Mithali Raj came up with a snappy response when asked who her favourite men’s cricketer was between India and Pakistan.

“Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?” she said to the scribe in question. I have always been asked who’s your favourite cricketer but you should ask them who their favourite female cricketer is.”

So what are the reasons for such discrimination, one wonders. As one of the leading newspapers recently claimed, “Sports is ultimately about the human body, which is why it is a remarkable barometer of the physical differences between men and women and the social perceptions about these differences.”


Kangana, in her post Queen phase, became the highest paid actress after signing a movie for 11 crores last year and now Deepika has taken over demanding a whooping 15 crores for signing new projects. This has also made her the highest paid actress in Bollywood. All heads turned on the big question of how much Bollywood actresses get paid ever since Kangana came out strongly against the disparity in the pay checks compared to their male counterparts in the industry last year. While the debate did push their salaries up by some crores, the difference still remains quite apparent. But while we applaud the actress for her work, have you thought about the figure Salman Khan, the highest paid actor in Bollywood, commands? It’s four times – Rs 60 crores!

According to IANS, superstars Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar were a part of Forbes first global list of actors. While the fee of Indian actors keeps on increasing with each film, indicating that there is no recession in our industry, it has remained static for the actresses until recently. With a surge in female-centric films and their successful outing at the box office, our female leads have begun questioning the long-standing disparity and sought equality.


For decades, girls lagged behind in school enrolment. Poor families preferred to spend their limited resources on educating their sons. If girls went to school at all, they would be pulled out early to get married. Daughters were expected to grow up to become homemakers, not educated professionals.

An all India Survey on higher education conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources Department in 2013 states that

–          Total enrolment in higher education has been estimated to be 28.56 million with 15.87 million boys and 12.69 million girls. Girls constitute 44.4% of the total enrolment.

–          Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher education in India is 20.4, which is calculated for 18‐23 years of age group. GER for male population is 21.6 and for females it is 18.9.

Year after year, we read that girls outshine boys in Class 10 and Class 12 results across all boards in India. According to CBSE, in class 12, a total of 87.5 per cent girls passed the exams compared with 78 per cent boys in 2017

What happens to these numbers as they enter college and corporate world?  Well, girls become the victim of discrimination in their everyday life. We hear even parents asking their daughters to get married and then study.  Even if they manage to finish their higher studies and enter the corporate world, what kinds of jobs are entrusted to women?

The type of work women are entrusted with, coupled with the conditions under which they work and the opportunities they get to advance, differ widely from what men are offered at a workplaces. From women being overlooked for certain jobs on account of their gender to being offered inequitable wages and development paths, gender disparity presents itself in several ways in workplaces. Patriarchal binaries affect the very system we all function in, and a deep realization of this can be seen in the way it presents itself in the hierarchies established in corporate India.

The hard facts

The gender pay gap in India for the year 2013 was recorded at 24.81% by Wage Indicator, and a curious stat is that this gap increases with age. Women below the age of 30 earned 23.07% less than men, while those in the age group of 30-40 years earned 30.24% less than men. There’s a clear gap in growth charts in a career for a man and woman in India.

The inequality women face at the workplace is but a symptom of the broader issue. In rural India, the average salary received by regular employees was ₹428.66 per day for women compared with ₹550.23 per day for males (during 2011-12). The discrepancy—₹609.7 and ₹805.52 per day for women and men respectively—was evident in urban areas too.

One of the biggest reasons why women occupy fewer leadership positions is the lack of support after marriage, both professionally and domestically. There is also a dearth of women in key and senior leadership positions in India. In some cases, even though there are women members on the board, organizational policies that are governed by gender equality still have a long way to go to create a space which encourages women to advance their careers. One of the biggest reasons why women occupy fewer leadership positions is the lack of support after marriage, both professionally and domestically. Although times are evolving and there are even cases of women being the “bread-winners” and men the “home-makers”, women are still pressured to make professional compromises for the family. Biases in performance appraisals and difficult work-life balance choices make these issues that much more challenging. Wider power structures that impede this equality are ignored by organizations, betraying the deeply embedded nature of these hierarchies that ultimately skew equality.

The Glass Elevator effect

In a recent study it has been noted that that more men are entering female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing, in an effort to achieve job stability, financial security and more time for family life. This employment shift has accounted for nearly a third of men’s total job growth from 2000 to 2010. However, while it’s good for men and potentially good for families, it’s a bit more complicated for the women in these fields.

From closed door to open door women have slowly taken over male dominated jobs. But, they suffered a glass ceiling effect, the unseen barrier that keeps them from rising to senior-level management. There is yet another big obstacle, the “glass escalator.” While women climb the ladder in female-dominated professions, their male peers glide past them on an invisible escalator, shooting straight to the top. It has been noted that men entering female-dominated professions tend to be promoted at faster rates than women in those professions. Hence, the representation of the senior management is one sided with male domination

Sticky Floor

Social norms in India place the burden of household responsibilities disproportionately on women Recruiters prefer men than women while hiring. Women are perceived to have career breaks or interruptions. But as women move up the ladder with more work experience, the reliability is higher on women.

Common Gender biases at work that women face

  • It starts right from hiring –“Are you married? When do you plan to start your family?” With the intention to know if the person will go on maternity leave immediately or not.
  • Lower appraisal rating for a lady on maternity leave as compared to another peer who has performed for 12 months
  • “Since your husband also earns you may not be desperate for that hike.”
  • “You have the luxury of leaving early from work.”
  • If women leaves her job to start her own venture, it is considered as a time pass activity.
  • Wrongly assuming that if the lady is pregnant or is a young mother, she will not be able to handle that promotion and the new role.

The way forward

Work-life balance in today’s context is especially important for married women with children. Even though technology has facilitated telecommuting and the ability to stay connected irrespective of someone’s location, concrete steps to better work-life policies are still under-developed. However, to shape and mould an equal hierarchical structure, it’s important to change mind-sets of individuals within organizations. Conscious and unconscious biases must be eradicated in a systemic manner.

The leaders of corporate India, especially the large number of men that find themselves in their position, must take steps to address this inequality. Mechanisms must be promoted to address patriarchal biases and policies must be established to abolish gender inequalities in the workplace. Most importantly, a free space for dialogue should be created where employees can speak about discriminations they face while working in an organization.

Mechanisms must be promoted to address patriarchal biases and policies must be established to abolish gender inequalities in the workplace.

The term “work” should be redefined with the concept of equality forming the bedrock on which organizations are created. Informal cultural norms need to be constantly re-examined, helping India move towards its goal of being an equal, holistic workplace for members of all genders.

India presents a unique set of challenges that are rooted in diverse cultural, religious and social stereotypes, and collective action must be directed towards establishing parity in gender roles and women in the workplace. India’s women and girls have the capability to be powerful community leaders, and the onus of change lies on every one of us. Gender inequality is a real issue that grips modern India and our quest to establish a truly equal society must pick up pace.

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