For many years, gender bias against women has been a widespread global issue, and although many reforms, movements, and efforts have taken place, the urgency to combat it remains unshaken. Sure, we have come a long way. But with the number of stereotypes, judgements, and struggles that women of every generation go through, it seems as if we have barely scratched the surface. How do we deal with this?
On International Womenʼs Day 2022, we attempted to raise awareness of women’s empowerment with our panel of subject matter experts and industry leaders who got candid with us and helped us understand where we stand as a society. Throughout our discussions, we addressed the common biases faced by women in the workspace and the solutions for changing the paradigm of gender bias, covering community efforts, institutional policies, and workplace initiatives.
THE CONVERSATION AROUND TOP BIASES FACED BY WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE
1. Bias Surrounding Maternity and Period Leaves
It’s the 21st century and we still think that a woman’s competency at her job is directly related to her biological clock. Managers often view menstruating employees as a liability due to their need for menstrual and maternity leave. This perspective is not only biased but also fails to recognize the value that women bring to the workplace and the unique challenges they face in balancing work and family responsibilities.
Women are expected to grin and bear their health issues in silence or are expected to sweep them under the rug. Many workspaces as well as nations are tackling this deep-rooted antithesis of women’s empowerment by including period and maternity leaves in their organization’s policy. We discuss the specifics of these policies, their significance and their impact on women in our panel here.
The entertainment industry has played a significant role in shaping the biases and stereotypes faced by women. For decades, films, TV shows, and other forms of media have portrayed women in narrow and often limiting ways. Women are frequently depicted as objects of desire, with their appearance and sexuality being the focus of their character development.
In our discussion about the unfair treatment of women in the entertainment industry, we dived deeper into these stereotypes and unfolded how female characters are often portrayed in traditional gender roles; such as the caregiver or the love interest, which reinforces the idea that women’s place is in the home and in supportive roles. The need to promote inclusive and equitable representation of women in media was the focal point of the discussion.
3. Rethinking Work-Life Balance Biases Against Women
Let’s gain some perspective here. Society expects and nurtures women to take on the roles of a mother, daughter, wife, homemaker, and the bearer of the community’s pride and virtue – all at once. Yet, there is huge segmentation of people in the world that believe women cannot multitask when it comes to balancing their personal and professional lives. When we say it all together, it almost sounds comical. When it comes to hiring women, is it really necessary to ask them personal questions?
Sexuality, marital status, and family background should not affect employment tenure. Our panel discussed the importance of shifting from collecting personal information to creating robust professional support systems. Both companies and employees must remain cautious, regardless of gender. Sharing personal details with colleagues can create a false sense of intimacy, leading to harassment or exploitation. It’s crucial to be mindful of what personal information is shared with whom to prevent unwanted situations.
4. Equity vs. Equality: Why It Matters?
Equality is necessary for workspaces, but it is not sufficient on its own. Without equity, it can lead to equality bias. Our panelists strongly emphasized why companies cannot use the ‘one size fits all approach’. Women and marginalized communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, require equity in workspaces. By considering equity, we can create a more inclusive and just society. With our expert panelists, we had an opportunity to dive deep into how to mitigate these biases.
To ensure that everyone has a fair chance at success, it’s crucial to acknowledge and address existing disparities. This means implementing policies and practices that promote equity, rather than just treating everyone equally. When considering whether to prioritize merit or diversity, it’s important to strike a balance between the two.
5. Sexual Discrimination Against Women
Women’s worth is tied to their appearance and behavior, rather than their skills and qualifications. When a woman faces sexual harassment at the workplace and decides to report it, she is often met with skepticism and doubt from colleagues, superiors, or even law enforcement. They may question her behavior, dress, or character, rather than holding the harasser accountable for their actions. This stereotype is rooted in the societal belief that women are responsible for their own safety and can be blamed for any negative experiences they encounter.
Challenging and debunking this bias, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, a Bollywood veteran shed light on many stereotypes faced by women. When it comes to building a bias-free workspace, all employees should be treated equally, and harassment should be strongly condemned. Discussions with our subject experts on the panel highlighted that this is achieved through policies and training programs that promote a safe and inclusive work environment, as well as by holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and providing support and resources for victims of harassment.
6. PoSH: Notions and Stereotypes
Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) is a critical policy that is designed to provide a safe and supportive work environment for all employees, particularly women. Unfortunately, many untrue notions about this policy that undermine its effectiveness and the experiences of those who have faced harassment.
Workplaces need sound policies and frameworks to help prevent sexual harassment against any employee irrespective of their gender. There is a need for prompt actions and the right infrastructure to dismiss the ‘he said – she said’ notion and bring the right justice. To address instances of misconduct, the work environment should prioritize creating a reporting culture, instilling a sense of safety in victims, and advocating for consequences for the offender.
7. Bias surrounding financial management
Women are not taught financial management as extensively as men. One reason could be the traditional gender roles and stereotypes, which often depict women as caregivers and homemakers, and men as breadwinners and financial decision-makers. This can lead to a lack of confidence and interest in financial matters among women.
Women need to be empowered to make financial decisions and manage their finances. Prathiba Girish, the founder of Finwise Personal Finance Solutions, discussed why women it is important for women to learn how to manage their own finances. Financial management is an important aspect of adult life that women are often excluded from learning and participating in. To address this issue, corporations are taking steps to provide financial planning workshops. It is the responsibility of all individuals to create a diverse and inclusive workspace that promotes equality.
To download Invaluable insights from our panel discussion at IWD 2022 please click here.
We at Team KelpHR are grateful for the opportunity every International Women’s Day provides to engage in meaningful discussions with our diverse panel of experts. We strongly believe that conversations are the key to exchanging ideas and finding solutions. We are committed to doing our part in addressing women’s issues, not only by identifying challenges but also by actively seeking solutions. With each day, we strive to learn and grow, and to make a positive impact in the lives of women.
To know more about KelpHR’s offerings in Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH), Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (D,E&I) and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call +91-9500129652, visit www.kelphr.com