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When will we achieve the Great Gender Un-Divide!

Sep 4th, 2020

When will we achieve the Great Gender Un-Divide!

Secretaries, Administrative Assistants, Nurses, Teachers, Cashiers – These used to be the top few occupations for women in the 1950s. This is true.

However, what also is startlingly true, is the fact that a fresh search on the top occupations for women today would still throw up the very same results. The composition itself may not be a cause for alarm for most. After all, one can always attribute higher numbers of workers in these jobs that make up this list. The warning bells are actually sounded by the results of a search on “Men in the Workforce”. Most top results for this search would throw links that either depict comparisons of male and female ratios in the workforce, or delve into a micro-trend of why more men seem to be taking intermittent breaks lately. There are abysmally few studies that dissect, inspect and therefore, even respect, the trends, compositions and history of the male workforce. In essence, most links and hence by default most of us, even today, 2 decades into the new millennium, equate the word “Workforce” as being the same as “Male Workforce”.

In the last decade, the term Gender Diversity has been greatly bandied about as a headline-grabber for almost all organizations.

Unless it does become the business imperative it has been proved to be, the progress on it will be devoid of any meaning. The usual recommendations to bridge the gender divide involve introducing top-level accountability, fair promotions and hiring practices and implementing flexible policies. Top level accountability and action are governed only by whatever directly impacts the bottom line. So the business case for engendering diversity will not necessarily see impetus unless it proves itself to be so! A veritable chicken-and-egg situation, if there ever was one! Promotions and Hiring actions are in most cases knee-jerk decisions taken to plug in short-term talent management and structuring situations. Optimistically though these are the tools that can in the long run attempt to close in the gap.

The C-suite gender ratios receive a lot of focus and strategic action which now need to percolate to the rest of the levels too; especially the middle rungs wherein bias towards women straddling family and work priorities is at its peak.

Flexibility is the one area that is all-pervading and can be a great tool that caters to the needs of working women, while making no distinction between men and women. Virtual work environments (one of the "forced" impacts of COVID!), multi-skilling and re-skilling programs, opportunities for gig workers and flexible benefits go a long way in fostering a culture that is inclusive and respectful to all, when uniformly applied, without marginalizing men or women. The regulation around flexibility too can be standardized and mandated. This is the one area that can see legal and policy framework from the government to give a thrust to parents (gender notwithstanding) re-joining the workforce in an assured, seamless manner. It can legalize the quality standards and upkeep of childcare options and facilities and provide time-bound tax exemptions for early childcare expenses.

Gender Diversity and all the images that it conjures up for any of us in the present, stems from the past; from the history of how it all began and where we are today. The journey has been a long one, and for the mere attention that it carries today, can be deemed as one that has seen adequate progress. When one looks back, it sure feels tempting to congratulate ourselves for where we stand today. But, we are looking at a future today that augurs a whole new realm of jobs and skills that we cannot even fathom. It is a future that is filled with the promise of excitement and the nervous, uncertain thrill that comes with watching new opportunities unfold. There is no room in this future for any age-old uncertainty like Gender Divide. This really is a gap that we all must now feel compelled to conquer and completely eradicate to the point of forgetting about it! Only then would we truly achieve the “Workplace of Tomorrow” that we all talk about with great excitement today.

Author : Rima Naware

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