“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?” — Malala Yousafzai
Women in India constitute 48.4 percent as compared to 51.6 percent of men in the total Indian population of 1.37 billion people.
A good ratio, right? Moreover, according to international non-governmental organization Catalyst, Indian women access higher education at the same rates as men at 27 percent.
But the ratios are not in favor of women when it comes to their participation in the workplace. Research by Catalyst notes that “only about 29 percent of Indian women work compared to 82 percent of Indian men.”
Indian women are in order first and foremost supposed to be a devoted wife, a doting mother and then a working professional. Women in India are expected to conform to traditional and societal norms.
Family always has to come before work. Women in India also have to be present and represent every ritual and cultural function conducted. And the older a female gets in India, the more she is bound in a “double burden syndrome” — balancing home and work.
But even women who get to join the workforce are not free of facing stereotypes and harassment. Women are rarely offered C-suite roles and similarly lofty positions.
There’s a lot that people hold against women in the workplace. It’s time to shatter the myths associated with women in the workplace and help increase their workplace participation.
Myth: Women Can’t Negotiate
The gender wage gap is the highest in India, according to Indian English-language daily Business Standard. Women in India are paid 34 percent less than what an Indian man is paid in the workplace, according to a research conducted by the International Labour Organization.
The prevailing explanation as to why women don’t earn as much as men is that “women aren’t aggressive enough.” People say that women don’t push their employers hard enough to give them a raise or that they can’t negotiate.
That’s not true. Women are as assertive as men when asking for salary appraisal. More and more studies in 2019 are showing that the rate of women and men asking for salary is the same. But, the conversion rates still favor male employees over women.
Myth: Too Emotional or Too Cold
In higher-level managerial positions, women often face a double bind. When they portray female characteristics, they are termed as emotional or sensitive. But when they follow traditional leadership roles, they are perceived as too difficult or too cold.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, the director of Northeastern University’s Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory, said that emotions are not something that we are born with but are rather created according to circumstances. And in India, women are groomed to be delicate, fragile and sensitive to situations. Therefore, it can be said that portraying high emotional intelligence is not biological but rather a social construct.
Myth: Women Don’t Belong in STEM
According to UNESCO, only 30 percent of women in India participate in STEM-related fields in higher education. What’s more disheartening is that the dropout rate among women in technology is even higher in junior to midlevel positions. Across Asia, the dropout rate is 29 percent.
Another reason why women continue to remain underrepresented in STEM fields begins very early in childhood.
Women are associated with arts and languages and men with math and science. When given a mathematical examination, women are under a lot more pressure to succeed than men. When applying this institutional fear toward a workplace full of men, it adversely
Myth: Women Are Only Good at Soft Skills
This is a judgment held against women, especially in the engineering field. Soft skills involve communication, creativity, adaptability, flexibility and teamwork. These are skills that every individual who works with other people needs to possess irrespective of profession and gender. To be a successful engineer, one needs to have both technical as well as soft skills.
Myth: Sexual Harassment Is a Woman’s Issue
The number of registered cases against sexual harassment in the workplace increased 54 percent from 371 cases in 2014 to 570 in 2017, according to the independent Indian English-language news site Scroll.in. But, as it is in most cases, the majority of these reported cases were from women. Due to maximum cases being reported by women, people assume that women are subject to harassment and therefore it’s “their issue” and they should resolve it on their own.
Sexual harassment doesn’t limit itself to a gender. While it’s important to understand that, it’s also important for people to stand by each other when such cases are reported. Men and women should be allies when someone reports against a “higher-up” or report when they have witnessed something.
Instead of holding their social conditioning against them, let’s all try to build a workplace in India where everyone has the same opportunities and treatment irrespective of their gender.