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McKinsey & Company in collaboration with LeanIn.org has been collecting data and publishing a yearly study on the status of Women in Workplace. The 2021 report which is in its sixth year of running has been published few days ago. [Link appears at the end]
Before we see the highlights of current publication, it is pertinent to say a few words about its importance.
Women form a significant percentage of workforce in every country. Even in Pakistan, where traditional forces keep pushing for women to stay at home, the same forces encourage women to do certain kinds of jobs preferably. For example, women are preferred as house workers while men are actively discouraged. Similarly, women are preferred in teaching, as doctors, nurses etc. When we look at our attitude towards women in workplace, we appear to be severely confused and disoriented. Girls are taking over in all disciplines in education, they are occupying more seats than boys and no one is stopping it. But when it comes to using their education for work, we have serious reservations. This is the Big Contradiction of our society which is not resolving.
Secondly, one of our biggest weaknesses is the lack of reliable data. We have a Statistical Bureau of Pakistan which is mandated to collect and publish all kinds of data, and they do it as well. However, the authenticity is not guaranteed, and many sectors are not in focus at all. For example, we have an idea about the male-female population ratio, but we do not know precisely about this ratio in workforce. The reason is that the private businesses are not asked to share employee detail, and when asked they do not give correct figures. The biggest examples are Social Security and EOBI – Employees Old age Benefits Institution. No company, I repeat, no company provides actual data to ESSI and EOBI. The employers do not want to pay for everyone and therefore underreport employees.
Let us now look at the highlights of Women in Workplace 2021 report.
This is report is based on data from USA primarily. However, many findings can be seen in universal perspective.
For this report, data from 423 participating organizations, employing 12 million people was collected. More than 65,000 employees were surveyed, especially women from diverse identities including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities. COVID that started in 2019 is still having impact on workforce and therefore remained a major focus.
The State of Women in Corporate America
Women’s representation improved during last year despite COVID-19 pandemic. This is a good sign, but there is more to the picture which is still discouraging.
Women representation shall not improve only by hiring more women in workforce. Their progression to management cadre is the most critical step that it is still not happening. There is the classical ‘broken rung’ at the first step in the management ladder. Due to this reason, women’s progress to higher level is disrupted early in the career. The rate at which women are promoted as ‘managers’ is much lower than what it is for men. This is a critical gap. If one woman becomes a manager in comparison with twenty or even more men becoming manager, which is the scenario in Pakistan, further career growth for women shall not be possible.
The other issue in USA is that the women of color have even lesser chance of getting upgraded. As the study puts it, “between the entry level and the C-suite, the representation of women of color drops off by more than 75 percent. As a result, women of color account for only 4 percent of C-suite leaders…”.
The other issue is that the pandemic keeps taking a greater toll on women in particular, and employees in general. In this battle, women are losing fast. Women have been facing greater stress since the beginning of pandemic and at greater risk of burnout. As per the study, 4 in 10 women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs.
Women’s representation has increased since 2016, they are still underrepresented in leadership cadre. Women of color even more so.
Asian women have a different set of problems. They are unfairly overlooked by managers and seniors. One reason may be that they are classified among immigrants. Secondly, there are many resemblances among them, and they are frequently mistaken for someone else of the same race. It is also true that Asian women have diverse cultural backgrounds, and none is near the culture of USA. For this reason, colleagues and seniors do not feel the same ease they feel with other women.
To be Continued……
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