Need for a Profound Cultural Change to Build True Inclusivity for Women at Work
The impact of Covid-19 has been different for different sections of the society, within the same gender. Some women. Like senior business executives, have benefitted by being able to retain their jobs as they could now be done from a home setting, while for some for e.g., the casual workers, jobs were severely taken away. For some other still, who were fairly younger in their career journeys who needed to shift industries because of the business disruption, they were to begin from the bottom. When a team is being downsized or rightsized, the management looks at retaining the ‘fit’ ones who could survive. The fitment criteria differs where some would choose mental resilience or emotional intelligence as one, while the others would cite being relatively available (read less need to commit to home or care giver responsibilities) as a criteria. The overall expectations to go back to traditional roles was high for women which saw a backward spiral of sorts with women having to actively give up roles or the circumstances framed which denied the possibilities of them being able to ‘have it all’. The impact for the same will be seen more in the long term where progressively we will see a greater gender gap at the workplace and a greater deficit of women leaders at the top. To address this gap, we need to understand what is it that women want, and how can organizations play a part in making it possible. I am not writing about policies that government or institutional leaders need to expedite, as I am no expert in that. What I am writing about is how can you & I be change agents in bringing about solutions to this gap by recognizing that there is a problem. Without this change at the grassroot level, D&I will only be a philosophy and the initiatives will only be good to have, and not really imperative to driving a business.
- Bring in conversations about inequality in opportunities with gender in your daily practice of work: It is important to read, be aware, question and discuss why some things are done the way they are done and do they by default exclude the other gender. For instance, while working remotely, does a late-night meeting work better for my female colleague rather than a 9 am one when she may be settling her child in the online school? The question to ask is ‘What can I do to make it more possible for a female colleague to do what she wants to do at work?’
- Deliberate on the subtle messages by style of communication may be giving out: When I address the team or cite examples or make jokes, does it give out a subtle disregard of one section of my team? Do I take some liberties in humour because the other gender is not present? What would the men in the team go back and tell their female partners about our work culture is something that is worth a thought.
- Can we normalize single earner families without a focus on gender? Single earner families have always had an acceptance, irrespective of the financial status of the family, as long as the stay home parent or stay home partner has been a female member of the family. In the dynamic times that we live in, where sustaining one’s career and being relevant in a skill set is volatile, it is essential that families get comfortable with putting the more relevant partner in the workforce. This would be possible when we get comfortable with the idea that women can run businesses, can bring a lot to the table and that each person at the workplace or away from it, has a story to tell.
- Change the way we hire talent: The debate of talent being genderless has also been a long standing one. Even though we may be aware of our biases and be mindful of keeping them away, we find ourselves at cross roads of trying to create a balance between practical expectations from the job and how the gender makes it possible to perform. By changing how we write job descriptions, by being clear of the competencies needed, by making interviews more objective and humane, by approaching talent with a mind to hire them and not with a mind to exclude them, can one really make workplaces conducive for people to contribute to and thrive in.
- Building confidence and capacity simultaneously: It is important to have the talent feel valued and acknowledged for what they bring to the team and to the organization. When building a culture change to include women, it is important that feedback is given on their performance and not their personality or not on gender related variables. This will help deal with positive discrimination as well as help them feel confident of their goods and have space to develop into what would be more valued at the workplace, ultimately making it a win-win.
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Director of Leadership & Learning, Senior Consultant
PhD (Clinical Psychology), MA(Psychology)