Hillary Clinton, the democratic US presidential nominee once called women the least untapped resource in the world. She was right and her not being able to beat Barack Obama in the 2008 US presidential nomination process was just another example of women coming across a glass ceiling in their professional lives.
Gender discrimination is common at the work place and Clinton’s life is an example of how prevalent it is – in the so called ‘developed’ world as well as the developing countries.
Women entering the professional sphere have to ensure that they are not being discriminated against.
Here are some pointers:
Women often accept and are paid lower salaries as compared to their male counterparts. This happens irrespective of the job profile or capabilities. An employer in several cases sets different gender-based benchmarks following unstated beliefs. Rather than being gender-based, compensation must be set based entirely on experience, qualifications and performance of the employees.
In an extension of the bias, responsibilities at work are divided amongst team members depending on gender. A woman can be equally skillful at developing software as a man, possibly even better. However, software development is always viewed as a male domain while software testing is handed over to women. Similarly, women are overlooked for work that requires physical strength. How can gender decide whether a woman can unload sacks or be a bouncer at a nightclub?
The Glass ceiling:
A glaring example of gender bias is during performance appraisal and promotions. This spills over from the hiring phase and also comes into play when deciding who will climb the ladder. Men often are given preference over women. Even if she has worked harder to outperform her male colleagues, the woman may end up lagging behind. Appraisals should assess performance and skills of a candidate. The worthy candidate should be rewarded irrespective of gender.
Inappropriate interview queries:
Women candidates often have to face a barrage of inappropriate questions at interviews. “Are you married? How many children do you have? Do you plan to have a baby in the near future?’’ These certainly are not issues that could hinder a candidate’s performance at work. Besides, the personal life or preferences of a candidate should not affect the outcome.
In the extreme case of gender bias, issues like eve-teasing, passing of lewd or sexist comments are prevalent. Women are also asked for sexual favours to further their careers. The recent case of an Edelweiss executive ( financial services company) accusing a senior male colleague of demanding sexual favours is one amongst hundreds of such incidents in India and abroad.
However, with increasing awareness, and new laws in place companies have set up committees to tackle these issues against sexual harassment. There is no doubt that the bias still exists and it can only be eradicated by awareness and acceptance of the right of a woman to work.