Bridging the Gap Between Diversity and Bias: Key to Womens' Success in the Workplace
- Madhur Acharya (Guest Blogger)
- Back to Work, Weekend Reads
- 15 Jul 2017
Thousands of women each year quit their jobs to become trailing spouses, mothers, and caretakers. The road back is filled with both hurdles and opportunities as jobs move from conventional workplaces to globalized ones.
Employers in the IT industry have been making efforts to bring women on a career break back to work because there is a need for diversity. In some cases though, the drive for diversity is an indicator of disproportionate female employees.
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Fewer Women in Mainstream Roles
When I first returned to India after spending two straight years in the United States, the first thing that caught my attention, as I was getting off the flight, was the conspicuous absence of women. I walked through the airport, passed through customs and reached home without encountering a single woman on duty at that hour. It was past midnight. I spent the remainder of my trip, taking note of the fewer women on streets, in stores and offices. This is in contrast to the country I had visited, where waitresses worked late shifts in restaurants past midnight and there weren’t any diversity drives needed, to hire them. It seemed to be the norm.
Despite these conscious efforts by IT companies, women still remain largely missing outside the mainstream roles of software engineers, medical professionals or teachers. And those that do exist are subjected to bias in terms of pay and equal treatment, which, if I may add, is a global phenomenon.
Stereotyping Still Prevalent
Many companies organize diversity drives for technical and customer support jobs, because women are nearly absent in such roles. Women shunned these jobs because they were required to work in shifts. Working in rotational shifts completely throws the body’s natural cycle off balance, resulting in a weaker immune system. In addition, safety is a major concern for women in India. Flexibility is something one has to bid on. Health and family responsibilities still primarily fall on the women especially when it comes to children. I am not suggesting that men are averting their fair share of responsibility, but children indeed are evolutionarily hardwired to be closer to their mothers.
When Safety is Considered a Liability
This results in a difference in pay and lower rates of increase in pay, which women are often afraid to push for. Women’s jobs are considered a hobby or source of additional income to the family rather than a career. Because their safety is considered a liability, employers often consider female employees dispensable. They are often snubbed in their workplace with comments about how a team with more women could destabilize it. The message of the actual need for diversity clearly does not trickle to the bottom of the chain despite the good intentions at the top.
Interdependence is the Need of the Hour
Women often bring better soft skills to the table with the power to convince and negotiate more passionately. Whenever the need arises, compelling them to take time off work, they compensate by working twice as hard. I have seldom seen women taking breaks during work hours or arriving late. Hiring women should not be the only goal of employers; retaining them and appreciating as equals should be the goal. Asking for a raise should be a right based on one’s contributions and not on the number of hours clocked physically at the workplace. With interdependence, we all win.
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About the Author
Madhur Acharya volunteers for the United Nations as Fundraising Strategist. After graduating as an electrical engineer, she started her career at IBM in Bangalore providing remote server support to clients.
She later went on to learn web development in San Diego, but her best education came from "travelling, living abroad and interacting with people from diverse cultures". She aspires to be a full-time content marketer.