Women’s day and bringing balance

They are actively seeking to change their fate lines and find balance. They are silently changing their world and our world. Raise your hand to acknowledge and support their endeavour.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2021 (March 8) is #ChooseToChallenge. And, from challenge comes change. You see a raised hand of woman challenging gender bias and inequality. If you look closely, one will notice determination behind the smile and resolve that has changed the fate line on her palm.

The pandemic has made us see women up close and understand their essentiality in our life’s order. It is a long way to go for the women of the world in aspects of human civilization. However, there is a movement towards progress with more hurdles than opportunities.

One aspect is about financial independence that comes with a career. It has been noticed in India that during lockdown, work from home boosted gender parity and emerged as a great equalizer in terms of gender diversity with increase in female representation across key sectors. Flexible work hours of 2020 opened the opportunity for women to rebuild their careers and start afresh.

Seen along with this development is another sentiment which indicates positiveness in attitude and a silent revolution pursued by the women.  Nearly two-third of India’s working women (66 per cent) feel that gender equality has improved compared to their parents age.

A research study by professional network LinkedIn showed that more than seven in 10 working women (71 per cent) and working mothers (77 per cent) feel that managing familial responsibilities often comes in their way of career development.

 “Reduced and flexible schedules, more sabbaticals, and new opportunities to upskill and learn are critical offerings that can help organisations attract, hire, and retain more female talent,” says Ruchee Anand, director, talent and learning solutions, India at LinkedIn.

Telecommuting or Work-From-Home has also been appreciated by women across the workforce in India during the pandemic, and it is seen as the top-ranking demand for women in the workforce today, along with other flexibility programmes, according to the ”LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021”. As per the report, women are actively seeking employers who treat them as equal (50 per cent), while 56 per cent are looking to get recognition at work for what they do.

Lockdown and the pandemic also seem to have dealt a blow to women empowerment. The LinkedIn report also showed that 9 in 10 or 89 per cent of women were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Highlighting the unequal playing field for women, the damning report said that as many as 85 per cent women in India have missed out on a raise, promotion or other work offers because of their gender. This is significantly higher than the regional average of 60 per cent in Asia Pacific.

The report said that while many women in India have the flexibility of working from home, they face other barriers including lack of time and discrimination for family care. Lack of time is the topmost barrier for working women. One out of two, or 50 per cent, women feel that gender is a barrier when it comes to attaining opportunities. Two in three women have said that they have faced lack of guidance through networks. Seven in 10 working mothers have faced workplace discrimination because of household responsibilities — 71 per cent feel that familial responsibilities come in the way of their career.

As many as 63 per cent women think a person’s gender is important to get ahead in life. Compared to that 54 per cent men think so. Around 22 per cent women in India feel that companies harbour ‘favourable bias’ towards men, which is significantly higher than the regional average of 16 per cent.

Despite all the efforts and significant progress, India’s working women still contend strongest gender bias across Asia Pacific. The report said that 37 per cent women feel they get fewer opportunities and get paid lower than men. Only 25 per cent men agree with fewer opportunities while 21 per cent men agree with lower pay part.

But women choose wisely. Even though job security is critical for working women across India, women are laying emphasis on the type of employer they choose to work with, the recognition they will receive for the work they do, and on the skills that will be utilised on the job.

Over 50 percent of women seek employers who treat them as equal and 56 per cent want recognition at work for what they do. More than 1 in 2 women and working mothers in India expect organisations to offer reduced or part-time schedules (56 per cent) and robust maternity leaves and policies (55 per cent) to make the transition smoother

This kind of choice making ability is forcing companies to change and tweek their maternity policies and flexibility programs.

A touch of feminine balance is what the world needs to understand current uncertainty and keep eyes focused on progress.