With the aim of achieving gender equality in workplace, corporate organisations today hire more women employees than before. Organisations with gender equality bring in varied perspectives to a common problem, thereby fostering better and faster decision making process. This, backed with a growing number of women getting inspired to build a successful professional career, has reduced the gender disparity that was earlier prevalent in most of the organisations.
According to Vivek Wadhwa, a tech entrepreneur and fellow at Stanford Law School, in the tech-industry there is overwhelming evidence that when there is more gender diversity, innovation and critical thinking flourishes.
Although there is an upward trend in the number of women employees hired by organisations today, the number is still sluggish when it comes to their representation in the top management. As per a study conducted by Catalyst on Fortune 500 companies, women constitute only 16% of the total board seats and 10% of these companies don´t have any woman on their boards. Therefore, the reality is quite contrary from what most of the media wants us to believe that ‘the women are liberating a citadel of male power’.
The above situation, also known as ‘Glass Ceiling’, is an artificial barrier based on attitudinal or organisational bias that prevents qualified women from advancing upwards in their organisation into senior management level positions´.
Most of the women who have had successful academic track records fail to grow up the career ladder once they enter the professional life. The reasons could be one or more of the below:
Men are still considered as better leaders than women for their portrayal of toughness whereas women’s leadership skills are still considered as being sensitive and soft. Most organisations consider women as risk-averse who cannot handle high-pressure jobs, thereby defying them the opportunities to be a boardroom member later.
Women who have been growing steadfastly during their initial years of career usually take their first break once they have kids. Even those who are willing to get back to work post their maternity leave sometimes find it hard to do so as the alternatives for baby care like hiring nannies, crèches etc. turn out to be quite expensive. From company´s point of view, women going on maternity leave are an additional cost in terms of hiring a temporary replacement, training the new hire etc.
In the process of balancing their work and life, many women self-limit their capabilities of growing up the career ladder. In some countries the prevalence of age-old societal and gender norms expects the women to take care of their family and kids. Circumstances like these lead to lack of motivation in women employees to advance in career.
Top Management and Board Members have been conventionally dominated by men. Inclusion of women in these bodies is seen with a lot of scepticism which makes it difficult to bring in change. Blame on our TV commercials and movies too, where a typical boardroom scene is depicted as men in suits and briefcases with a female secretary sitting in the corner
(i) Be the go-getter: Committed and non-compromising attitudes of employees encourage companies to retain them for company´s growth regardless of their gender. It´s therefore important for female employees to prove that they are an ‘executive material’ for companies. Women should ensure that they motivate themselves to reach out for opportunities.
(ii) Find a Mentor: having a mentor in the top management can help you get the right career advice to grow in the organisation. A mentor´s recommendation comes handy at the time of job promotions
(iii) Fight for your rights: In case women face any discrimination towards their career advancement, it is important for them to fight for their rights and not simply accept set-backs and frustrations.
On the other hand, companies that practise gender equality at workplace are often touted as the best places to work. In 1989, Johnson & Johnson introduced its Balancing Work and Family Program with the objectives of: increasing women employees, two-career families, single parents and the children of elderly parents. Some of the measures of this programme that helped women employees to advance in their career were:
(1) Child Care resource and referral: a service that helps employees find, evaluate and choose appropriate child-care arrangements.
(2) On-Site child development centres: at the beginning of this programme, J&J installed three on-site centres for child-development with more that came up later.
(3) Dependent Care Assistance plans: employees can use payroll deductions to transfer pretax earnings to dependent care accounts administered by the company.
(4) Family Care Leave: job-guaranteed unpaid leave up to 12 months for child care.
(5) Flexible Work time: that includes flextime, part-time, job-sharing and telecommuting opportunities.
In 1991, J&J was rated as having the most family friendly programmes and policies among the Fortune 500IService 500 companies by the Family and Work Institute.
Breaking the Glass-Ceiling requires effort from the sides of both the organisation as well as its women employees. We are progressing towards a world of gender equality in every field of work. It is important to note that a solution to glass-ceiling is not achieved by emulating the male management traits. On the contrary it is achieved by proving how female managerial skills can be an added value to the organisational growth.