International Women’s Day Celebration – Break the Bias
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.“
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Globally, women are under-represented in corporations, stereotyped as weak and submissive, and treated as Second-class people even in the 21st century. This unfair difference in the way men and women are treated is called Gender Bias. Gender biases are often subtle and unconscious, which occur when one individual implicitly attributes certain attitudes and stereotypes to another person or group of people. These ascribed behaviors affect how the individual understands and engages with others, and the subtle nature makes it challenging to observe with certainty.
To define gender bias completely, we first must distinguish between the terms gender and sex. When we use the term gender, we mean socially constructed expectations and roles for women and men, for girls and boys. Specifically, girls and women are expected to demonstrate feminine behavior, and boys and men are expected to act masculine. By sex, we mean differences based on biological and physiological characteristics of females and males, which often consist of primary or secondary sex characteristics. Gender Identity, however, refers to a person’s individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond to the person’s physiology or designated sex at birth.
The socio-cultural prejudices for females have led to the underrepresentation of women and gender biases across institutions of science, media, politics, sports, businesses, medicine, law, etc. Those who fight these norms and reach such positions of power face biases that are often implicit in nature — molded by our culture, upbringing, and personal experiences. A simple example of this bias is when a person refers to an individual by their occupation, such as “doctor” or “engineer,” and they are male. Males, too, are subject to such bias; for example, teachers, especially those who teach younger-aged children, are often assumed to be women. This makes it challenging for men to enter the field of early childhood learning. These notions — however antiquated — are difficult to dispel and can carry over into the workplace.
Though gender biases exist in every domain of society, however talking about gender discrimination at the workplace in India. Some examples of how gender bias occurs at the workplace are as follows:
- Biased recruiting strategies and job descriptions by hiring officials
- Compensation, rewards, and other perks and benefits
- Parental status affects income and career development
- Sexual harassment at the workplace
- Double-marginalization due to race, caste, class, etc
- Women are interrupted or talked over more than men
Some of the statistics according to LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021 show that:
- 22% of working women said their companies exhibit a favorable bias towards men at work
- 85% of working women claim to have missed a raise, promotion, or work offer because of their gender.
- More than 7 out of 10 working mothers say their family responsibilities come in the way of career development.
- 9 out of 10 women said they were affected by COVID-19 regarding job retrenchment, pay cuts, and reduced working hours.
It is the need of the hour for organizations to take several mutually reinforcing measures to mitigate bias and its effects, both by sharing information, offering flexibility, and fine-tuning the hiring process. Some of the steps that can be taken are as follows:
- To communicate the value of women in leadership and heighten awareness of gender bias.
- Organizational leaders should provide a safe working environment.
- New opportunities and upskill women to increase female participation and retain more female talent.
- The “think manager-think male” perspective must change, and the impression of just the women’s token presence should not be regarded as a good step towards gender equality.
- Raising self-esteem and self-confidence of women.
- Building and strengthening partnerships with civil society, particularly women’s organizations.
- Enforcement of constitutional and legal provisions and safeguarding rights of women.
- Building a positive image of women in society and recognizing their contributions in the social, economic, and political sphere.
- Fostering decision-making and collective action.
- Enabling women to make informed choices.
- Ensuring women’s participation in all walks of life.
- Providing information, knowledge, skills for self-employment.
International Women’s Day is a chance to amplify and reinforce the work that is already happening in purpose-driven organizations to identify and respond to workplace bias. A woman is unfettered and full of potential who gets “womaned” by society, subject to misogynistic discrimination. We should empower women to make them more politically active, economically productive, and independent and put forward their opinions. Empowerment can be defined in many ways, and however, when talking about women’s empowerment, it should bring inclusiveness and greater recognition of them into the decision-making process. Steps should be taken to eliminate gender discrimination and all forms of violence against women and enable them to make their own choices through equality and equity. Fundamental rights such as – Access to food – Equal wages – Property rights – Family resources – Freedom of movement and travel – Access to credit – Control over savings, earnings, and resources – Guardianship and custody of children, and their maintenance must be ensured. Gender sensitization training and sex education should be provided in schools, colleges, and other professional institutions for bringing about institutional changes.
As women constitute almost half of the population, how can we expect any country to flourish if it stifles its potential? We at Ingenious E-Brain Solutions strive to ensure equal representation of women at the workplace by providing “menstrual leaves” and flexible schedules for women. Our organization is determined to provide a safe work environment and organize gender-sensitive training programs. Our Director is a woman herself, Dr. Deepti Tayal, who inspires many by breaking gender-based taboos and creating future women leaders. To conclude, in the words of Michelle Obama, “The difference between a broken community and a thriving one is the presence of women who are valued.”