Once a year, a day comes when women all over the world are wooed with offers from establishments and companies showering gifts. In some cases, the party starts a week in advance. 8 March, Women’s Day, is a day when half the world’s gender is made to feel special but is that really the truth?
21.7 million women went out of employment status between 2004-2010 while 24 million men joined the workforce in the same time frame. One might think that the modern woman would prefer earning than be dependent on others but statistics show otherwise. Data from the Census and National Sample Survey Organisation shows that female participation in the workforce dropped from 42% in 1993-94 to 31% in 2011-12.
This grim picture tells us that everything is not hunky dory and we need to make conscious changes if we want to retain women, especially after they marry or attain motherhood. And why should the country even bother about having a higher female workforce contribution? Because the World Bank insists that India’s GDP would soar above 9% if more women step into jobs which currently meanders between 6-7%.
Employers need to be sensitive to the need of Indian women, especially after marriage. The World Bank also says that this growth can only be achieved if employers create safe, flexible and well-paying jobs for women. Late working hours should entail dedicated cabs with verified drivers. Many companies look at marriage and childbirth as a bane and cases of termination are aplenty when in fact better policies are beneficial for their bottom line. A Catalyst report found that companies with higher female count had 42% higher return on sales, 53% more equity return and 66% more return on invested capital.
A Gallup poll found that 33% employees who had a woman as a boss felt more engaged at work, compared to just 27% of those under men. This is noteworthy since studies indicate that just 13% of employees globally are actually even mentally present at work. The importance of having more women at work can definitely not be ignored in both psychological and financial senses.
It is imperative that companies understand the requirement of handling work and house responsibilities by women. Flexible working hours, day-care facilities and maternity benefits are just some of the critical areas that can ensure women aren’t forced to desert their jobs at crucial stages of their career.
Gender bias is an unconscious aspect in most people’s minds. Companies should train people, especially those in hiring and decision-making levels, to be gender-blind and only consider the person’s potential, experience and strengths. It isn’t surprising that even in the 21st century, women in both developing and developed countries are fighting for fair pay and to break the glass ceiling. Studies indicate that women earn just 57% of what their male counterparts earn for the exact same work. The higher she moves up the career ladder, the wider this gap becomes. And you still wonder why they quit? 24% of women make up the workforce at entry-level jobs that drops drastically to 14% in executive positions. Even PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi hasn’t been able to squeeze out of this bias, despite being one of the icons for successful women running companies.
While some initiatives may require shelling out more from the company fund, the least that women expect is to be given a fair chance at anything without being disregarded as incapable due to their gender. Countless women have proved that if given an opportunity, women can do the same, and in some cases even better, than men.
So this Women’s Day, let’s pause and ponder – what can we actually do that will make women feel more wanted at work. Is it just a day to forget or is it a day to start a new thought process?