Source | Neha Bagaria – Founder, JobsForHer | LinkedIn
Gender biases play out every day in the workplace, where women are overshadowed or overtaken by men in the journey to the top of the corporate ladder. Women are often overlooked for promotions or more challenging roles because they have young children to look after. This indicates an implicit bias towards women employees because of their perceived traditional role as the primary caregiver.
We’ve spoken before about the Motherhood Penalty – a proven systemic disadvantage that working women encounter in terms of pay, perceived competence, and benefits relative to childless women and men. This is precisely because the role of the mother has adapted and changed over time, going beyond that of primary caregiver and becoming a breadwinner in the household too. However, the perceived responsibilities of parenthood continue to mostly lie with mothers, when some of the load should, logically, be shared by fathers.
JobsForHer was started to reverse female brain drain in India. In just two years, we have grown to 1.5 lakh visitors a month and have worked with over 2,200 companies in our quest to bring more women back to work from their career breaks.
In an effort to understand just how rampant gender bias is in India, we conducted a small survey. We asked an equal number of men and women if they had been subject to any sort of bias, where they spoke up about it, and why they think it happens.
Results show that 41% of respondents had been subject to gender bias. Promotions, leave sanctions, involvement in important company decisions, and business travel were the most common instances of gender bias or situations in which respondents felt they had been subjected to gender bias.
What Can Companies Do to Address This?
Companies can implement several policies to address gender bias in the workplace. First and foremost is to shift from women-friendly policies to family-friendly ones, where fathers are afforded equal paternity rights in terms of leave and compensation, to balance out the onus that maternity leave places on women.
Another way that companies can chip away at gender biases in the workplace, is to invest in sensitisation and training for frontline managers in particular. Such initiatives make managers aware of the unconscious biases they may hold, and enable them to engage in open and honest conversations to retain women employees in the long run.
In our survey, 59% of respondents said they never spoke up against the gender bias they faced at work – indicating that an open line of communication still does not exist between female employees and their managers. When companies enable this for managers and employees, gender biases will slowly but surely fade away.
Compensation is also key to recognizing and addressing the gender bias that exists in the workforce. If a woman takes a career break, whether because of marriage or to care for young children or elderly parents, she is still of value when she takes the plunge to re-enter the workforce. Compensation and pay scales for women returnees should be at par with those for other new hires – of course, depending on the level of experience and skill that the returnee brings to the table.
The point is, though, that women should not be penalized for taking a career break. At JobsForHer, we’re working with women returnees across the country, helping them to reskill and prepare for their re-entry.
It’s time that companies also met us halfway in our endeavour.
Neha Bagaria is an entrepreneur at heart, a Wharton grad, a wife, a mother-of-two and a woman who restarted her career, thus founding JobsForHer. JobsForHer is not Neha’s first entrepreneurial venture.
She founded her first company Paragon, right after she graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Paragon, an educational centre based in Bombay, introduced the Advanced Placement Program for high school students in India, with Neha also serving as the College Board Representative of India. When marriage brought her to Bangalore, she started working with Kemwell, a contract pharmaceutical manufacturing company, in the fields of HR, Finance and Marketing strategy. Neha took a break in her own career when she had her children. During this personal journey, she became aware of the various difficulties a woman faces in order to re-enter the workforce. She then became committed to the cause of enabling women to restart their careers and founded JobsForHer.com to help them achieve their full potential.