According to a recent report compiled by LinkedIn titled the Opportunity Index 2021, it was found that 4 out of 5 working women (85 per cent) missed out on a raise, promotion, or work offer because of their gender.
The survey was commissioned by LinkedIn and conducted by the market research firm GFK. The respondents were between 18 to 65-year-olds, and they replied to questions online. In total, there were more than 10,000 survey participants from across the Asia Pacific region: Australia, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. The survey covered 2,285 respondents specifically from India, out of which 1,223 were males, and 1,053 were females.
The report further outlined another curious issue. While there had been several previous studies which had shown that the gender pay gap exists in both urban and rural Indian workplaces, and there is an apparent disparity in opportunities women get, this is perhaps the first time we see men not acknowledging the extent of the gap, and that is indeed problematic.
According to the report, while 37 per cent of India’s working women believe that they get fewer opportunities as compared to men, it isn’t a belief shared by many men. Out of those surveyed, only 25 per cent of men agree to this existing disparity, while others didn’t. Similarly, as far as equal pay is concerned, more women (37 per cent) said that they were paid lesser than their male counterparts, while only 21 per cent of men believed it to be true.
A more in-depth analysis conducted during the survey indicated that more women in India had experienced the impact of gender on career development when compared to women in other countries of the APAC region. Why is that the case? Why do women not ask for the raise and don’t get the promotion they deserve? What kind of corporate policy interventions are required when it comes to childcare? These are questions that psychologists, behavioural scientists, feminist economists, as well as corporate advisory firms, have been trying to address for a while.
Changing The Yardstick of Appraisal System
Pallavi Pareek, the Managing Partner of Ungender Advisory, pointed out that one-sided benefit to women does more harm than good, and the existing appraisal systems in most corporate organisations are gamed against women, rather than including them and evaluating their work and contribution fairly.
“The fundamental flaw in one-sided benefits and policies is that eventually, it does not benefit either. Take the example of companies where women are given the benefit of going home or closing work by a specific time or not being called to work on weekends. But if the work is continuing, who is doing it? It is the men. And when the time comes to select and nominate the top performers, who are going to get nominated? When peer review is conducted, who is going to be nominated? The men who were around slogging and completing the targets for the companies during long nights or on weekends, or the women who were not there? This is the flaw in the system right now,” observed Pareek.
“The culture of rewards and recognition will remain selective and one-sided as long as the above continues. Corporate workplaces will have to make policies that incorporate the needs of all genders and fix the round the clock work culture toxicity,” she added.
Incorporate behavioural changes
Mitali Nikore, the Founder of Nikore Associates, an economic policy thinktank, pointed out that any change in the gender disparity in Indian workplaces can only happen when behaviour and work culture change, along with HR policies.
“Indian firms are in a unique position to influence socialised attitudes of their male employees towards childcare and domestic work. It is important for male leaders to step up and set an example,” said Nikore.
“They should have sessions with their team where they talk about how they handle unpaid work responsibilities at home and encourage their employees to do so. Team managers should be sensitised to the double burden on their female team members. Men and women should be encouraged to share their care work responsibilities with their team so that they can be adequately supported by the organisation,” she added.
Gender-neutral childcare policies
Nikore further explained that corporates need to set an example and move away from solely offering maternity leave. “The recent example of P&G offering gender-neutral shared parental leave is commendable. Firms and industry associations of MSMEs can come together to set industry standards around shared parental leave, longer paternity leaves, in-situ childcare facilities and family leaves or shorter work-days for care responsibilities to both men and women.” She added.
Moreover, the economist explained that women have to be made stakeholders in the policies that are being framed for their benefit. “firms need to ask new mothers and pregnant women before making policies. When a pregnant Sheryl Sandburg walked from a distant parking spot to her office, Google instituted a policy of providing pregnant women parking closer to the entrance (Criado-Perez, 2019). It had never occurred to them that pregnant women would face this challenge. Therefore, we need to get rid of top-down culture and design policy by asking its potential beneficiaries! “she claimed.
She Is Asking For It (at least most of the time, anyway)
Clinical psychologist Priyanka Varma explained that several research pieces suggest that men will push much harder than women do when it comes to a raise or promotion, but the question we need to ask is why is that the case?
“I feel trans-generational trauma plays a role here – women carry on the burden through the covert messages sent to us from our upbringing. The fear we carry about being perceived “negatively”, the constant battle between assertive versus aggressive, weighs in. An assertive woman is often misinterpreted as aggressive in India. These factors hold back women, while men don’t have to deal with that trauma and preconceived notions,” she added.
Natasha Mehta, Sr Counselling psychologist, pointed out, “It is not that women are not asking for it (a raise or a promotion). They do ask for raise and promotion, and it is not for the lack of ambition that they often fall behind in the corporate ladder.”
There are several implicit as well as explicit biases that work against women in workplaces since the very beginning. Recruitment managers and HR often ask questions about marriage plans to unmarried women and pregnancy plans to married women candidates because they consciously or unconsciously carry the bias that a married woman or a new mother would either not continue to work or not work as hard. Therefore, even before a woman sets her foot into a corporate company, her competency is questioned. These kinds of preconceived biases of recruitment authorities also have to be addressed.
Mehta pointed out that such unconscious biases of the recruitment authorities often hinder women’s growth in an organisation and deter them from occupying management position.
Ruchee Anand, Director of Talent and Learning Solutions, India at LinkedIn told News18.com that, “The LinkedIn Opportunity Index report suggests that working women are increasingly looking for employers who treat them as equals. Therefore, there is an immediate need for companies to follow stronger diversity and inclusion practices to level the playing field for women at work.”
“Helping women gain new skills, and recognising their work are critical steps that businesses should take to help women gain equal opportunities and advance their careers,” she added.