Bengaluru: Companies are pulling out all stops—from extended maternity leave to work-from-home options—to ensure they have enough policies to encourage women’s participation in the workforce. Still a majority of women feel the presence of a gender bias in workplaces, according to a TeamLease Gender Diversity report.
Staffing firm, TeamLease Services Ltd, conducted a survey among 275 women professionals and found that 72% of them feel gender bias still exists.
The figures indicate that there is a heightened sense of the need for equality in the workplace and for effective measures to be implemented towards achieving this objective.
Not just that, there seems to be a dissonance between the measures companies believe will attract and retain women, but the women surveyed don’t necessarily find them as effective.
For instance, 47% women surveyed felt they needed flexi-time options but only 27% of companies felt it was a priority. Similarly, only 16% women felt that sexual harassment policies were important, while 72% of corporates felt it was a focus area.
“This shows that companies are approaching this with a compliance mindset than thinking about what will actually drive equality. This results in their efforts being misdirected,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, senior vice-president and co-founder, TeamLease Services.
This dissonance is only one of the reasons why women drop off the workforce.
Women also end up picking stereotypical choices when it comes to higher education considering factors like marriage and family.
While 60% women picked up traditional stream like arts, science and commerce, just about 8% women chose to study engineering.Their educational choice then goes on to limit their career choices and opportunities.
“Most women end up picking streams like HR and finance, which is a desk job, over a profession like sales as families would prefer women having fixed hours and no travel. It is deeply ingrained even at a young age about what a girl should do,” said Chakraborty.
This goes to show that a gender bias in society induces a corresponding bias in the labour market as education and employment become casualties under the weight of traditional gender roles and patriarchal hierarchies.
The report also shows that women believe men and women have defined roles.
When the respondents asked to pick just one primary responsibility for women and men each, 61% of respondents concurred on women’s responsibility being split between home and work, and men’s being towards work. Just about one-third exhibited a truly unbiased outlook with a belief that men must focus on home and work equally, just as women must.
This reflects years of social conditioning.
“This is the reason why even higher educated urban women end up dropping off the workforce because of the social conditioning,” says Chakraborty.
The potential for the economy if more women enter the workforce is immense. In fact, if India were to close the gender gap, women’s share in the Indian GDP would soar to 60% from the current 16%, the highest potential boost, anywhere in the world, found a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report.
“A strong-willed, sustained, catalytic effort from all quarters—the government, business and enterprise, and social organizations concerned with women’s empowerment—is an absolute need to pull society out of this morass,” said Chakraborty.