Do Women face Workplace Challenges? Laxmi Todiwan talks about competency as a threat, ego, empowerment and more

Earlier this year, I went to a Talk where women-professionals deliberated on the challenges women face at the workplace. After all, women continue to face roadblocks and glass-ceilings when it comes to advancing in the workplace; in fact across many facets of society. They are just not making progress that they have a right to and that which their hard-work, dedication and efforts deserve!

So the day before this event, I penned my views based on my experiences as a working-woman as well as those of my lady colleagues that I knew about. At most times, we hear such incidents but the pressures of the daily-routine compel us to move on. But when one looks back and arranges all those instances together, the scale becomes apparent. It is like a Pandora’s Box! There were instances where well-qualified and capable professionals had to even quit their jobs, let alone face undue pressures and hurdles. We may wish to think that ‘All is Well’, but it isn’t!

Competent woman is a threat?

Male insecurity is at the bottom of many discriminatory challenges women face. In fact the more accomplished and competent women become, the more they may suffer in the workplace. How many of you have faced this? This is across Indian and foreign-owned organisations. When they are competent, personal likes and dislikes come at the forefront of judging them. I don’t like you, so I don’t let you grow! A woman is not considered for promotions after a certain level.

“In many cases, the company leadership actually supports the people below those women and get the joy of seeing them advance over the competent women-professional.

The thought-process that a competent person, irrespective of gender, is an asset to an organisation and not a threat is still light-years away in many companies.

Power play and ego clashes

Madeline Heilman of New York University and Michelle Haynes of University of Massachusetts at Lowell showed that in mixed-gender teams, credit is more often given to the male rather than the female team member. Women team-members may work hard and achieve the desired results, but more often they may not be given the due credit. In many cases, women team-members were rated as less competent, less influential and less likely to have essayed a leadership role in the task.

“Incidentally, both women and men gave higher marks to the male team member.” 

Some men just can’t handle women doing anything better than them at work place. If your supervisor happens to be a male with such a mind-set, the women professionals will always face difficulties in growing in such organisation. Forget professional growth, just survival in such work places becomes difficult. It borders on toxic!

Gender bias and stereotypes

Women continue to face gender bias in many workplaces. She is often seen as being less serious about her job irrespective of her abilities. Why is that? Who decides these opinions about her? Sometimes even the need for a woman to work is questioned; more so if her husband is doing well professionally.

“It becomes immaterial that her reason to work is her own education and capabilities, rather than whether her husband “allows” her to do so.” 

After all, every career person has aspirations. While married women with children might work with whilst maintaining a work life balance rather than being overly ambitious, her professional aspirations cannot be undermined! The support-system from families, and especially the spouse, is missing in most cases.

Equal opportunities also means equal pay

Women everywhere face significant wage and opportunities gap – not just in developing countries like ours but also in the advanced countries of the West. This is universal across professions! The issue has been raised many a times in sports and films especially, because these two professions have higher visibility and media coverage. But don’t you think it applies to other professions as well? It does and I have experienced it myself. Forget the pay; even the growth opportunities at jobs are not equal.

“That itself is worrisome for the long-term career growth of a professional, given the effort and dedication she puts.” 

At the end, every individual who has the requisite skills, attitude and intelligence for a specific job should deliver similar results when opportunities are provided “equally”. But how many times has that happened with women? In fact, women might just do better because they feel things don’t come easy to them; hence the hunger and urge to perform is higher!

Empowerment and fair representation

In any work culture, relationships are necessary for employees to attain professional success. Women in particular may need the support from people in positions of authority, who can use their influence intentionally to reduce any discriminatory practice. That support and empowerment are essential to ensuring professional development and career advancement. Women may have a lot of mentors but they also need professional advocates, who will give them visibility, talk about their accomplishments on the board and promote them for higher opportunities.

Sexual harassment

Women often face unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes them feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It can be physical, verbal or written. Women around the globe spoke about #MeToo, letting the world know how large and how serious the issue was. Women-professionals continue to face this in many workplaces even today. They are treated differently just for being who they are. Harassment comes in all forms – not giving them the due credit and growth for what they work for is itself a strong reason for mental harassment. The bigger issue is the attitude of such males remains unchanged. Many offices have launched sexual harassment policies to reduce the plague, but it the fear of retribution that makes them changes rather than a change in their very attitude.

Lack of women role models

Last, there are few examples of women role models in workplaces. You can’t be what you can’t see. Research shows that almost two-thirds of women reported a lack of senior successful female role models as an obstacle to their career advancement. Not many women hold leadership roles despite a substantial representation at work place. To the extent India has had to mandate that companies need to induct a women-director. Shouldn’t this opportunity have come on merit? Give them the wings and see them soar and take the entire organisation to great heights.

These were some of the points I collected from my experiences and those of some of my women-colleagues the day before that event. We may have come a long way, but there are still miles to go before there is fair representation and equal opportunities for women. Women dream to get equal opportunities and recognition for their work, which is long due. It is high time we make that dream a reality.

“After all, a woman has the ability to make castle with every brick thrown at her. Do you also think so?”

Written by Laxmi Todiwan, Founder, Indian Women in Hospitality, originally in www.theiwh.com/203-2/

Read her stories at www.theiwh.com

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