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Continued from Previous……
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 is the sixth year’s report which was published in September 2021. [Link appears at the end]
We have seen till now that women in workplace have limited gains and host of challenges. We may sum up as follows.
Gain – some gain can be seen in that women have claimed slightly more space in the leadership arena. This gain is significant but not universal. The gain is patchy because it varies highly between geographies, and it varies highly among various groups of women. Women of color, black women, Asian women, and Latinas are still losing in this everyday battle.
- Women are seriously underrepresented at all levels of management.
- Women continue to have worse day-to-day experience at work. Demeaning, devaluing, and harassment continue unabated.
- Women are more likely than men to have their competence questioned.
- Women face such situations continuously where their authority is undermined.
- Women of color, and women coming from marginalized communities routinely face disrespectful and ‘othering’ behavior.
- Mothers face discrimination as it is considered that they would not be able to take on important leadership roles because of children’s responsibility.
The Way Forward
The most important thing to do is to focus on DEI – Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion.
The companies should take steps to ensure diversity. Diversity by numbers is not enough, companies also need to take benefit of diversity. They should create a culture where all employees, especially women feel comfortable bringing their unique ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the table. Women’s contributions to workplace must be valued, so that they feel respected, happy, and connected to their coworkers.
During the last few years, companies in the developed countries have adopted policies to implement fairer hiring, unbiased performance reviews, and bias training to managers so that they could shed off their traditional thinking. The impact of these policies is positive on an overall basis. However, no such development is seen in many organizations in the same countries and so many other countries.
In Pakistan for example, women have gained higher positions in HR. They are heading the function in large organizations. Even then, they are not fully effective in combating primary issues such as gender bias and harassment. Unfortunately, they also face the same being a woman.
More gain has been seen in the C-suite where representation of women has improved, though it is still below the projected targets.
It is therefore necessary that greater sense of Equality is cultivated, nurtured, and nourished. This is the second area companies must work on.
Inclusion is third area to focus on. Pakistan society does not have the same racial mix up like USA or Europe, but we discriminate freely and unabashedly towards minorities and sects and castes. Companies in Pakistan also need to do ‘bias training’ of their managers so that they keep their minds open and bias-free.
The most interesting and significant finding year after year has been that women leaders have done a greater job than men. The companies led by women performed better and had good track record on honesty. The same companies exhibited greater efforts to bring diversity, equality, and inclusion. It may be said that top performing companies are doing more right things or doing more right things is bringing better performance.
Finally, the value of training cannot be overstated. Topics of bias in hiring, in performance, valuing women’s work, and treating them on equal ground should become part of training calendar.
Women are an equally important partner in workplace. The fact was always recognized in the rural setting and was practiced also without question. It is still the same though a lot many social evils have creeped in. Urbanization has raised questions which were not there before. Most of these are extraneous, superfluous, and prejudice driven. Our progress will be sound and stable when we follow the principals of fairness and justice. We hope to see improvement rather than deterioration over time.
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