Ways to succeed for a women are different
A recent Mckinsey & Company report revealed the challenges women in corporate field face within the workplace. Persistent pay gap, an uneven playing field for female employees, a lack of commitment to gender diversity from corporations, and that women face “greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership.
Based on the slow rate of progress over the last three years, it will take 25 years to reach gender parity at the senior-VP level and more than 100 years in the C-suite
Any talk about women and career instantly sparks concerns of “Oh, they are yet again playing the discrimination card, in order to secure more concessions”. While there will certainly multiple shades of black and white and grey when we discuss this sensitive topic, one cannot dispute the fact that it comes to her career path, it is more of a jungle gym than a ladder.
To set the context, let us consider a few illustrations.
- In a Women run just 14 per cent of Indian businesses, most self-financed. India ranked 29th of 31 countries in the 2015 Global Women Entrepreneurs Leader report by ACG Inc, a consultancy, above only Pakistan and Bangladesh. With 17 points of a possible 100, India fared worse than countries such as Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana.
- Sadly, in China, a women who is smart, successful and moneyed but still not married by the age of 27 is termed as shengnu (leftover women). In the year 2007, the All-China Women’s Federation as well as the Ministry of Education added the term to its official lexicon, thus leading of wide spread use of this derogatory word in social media.
- In Japan, only 8% of senior managers are women. There is a phrase in Japanese, sanshoku hirune tsuki, (三食昼寝付) or “three meals and a nap.” This refers to society’s perception of the leisurely dependence that many housewives live, being dependent on their salary man husband.
The conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) held a stance that if the country’s “baby-making machines “stayed at home then they would produce more babies, and thus more workers. Thus tax laws allowed a man “head of household to claim a tax deduction of ¥380,000 ($3,700) as long as his spouse’s income does not exceed ¥1.03m. The pension system, too, stated that as long as a wife’s annual wages remain under ¥1.3m she can claim the national pension without paying any premiums
- The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010, the female-to-male earnings ratio of full-time, year-round workers was 0.77.Thus women working full-time earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by men working full time. No wonder, the first law Obama signed after becoming President was Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help ensure that women are paid the same as men for doing the exact same work
The Indian Challenge– Marriage, Motherhood and yet, Career Success
In India, families place a high premium on having her girl child attain the best of education. Every year media will do hunky dory about girls topping in Board Examinations.
However, parents also simultaneously want that their daughters to become that nice girl, who no matter how highly qualified, marries a suitable guy soon after entering her professional career, take a well-timed break for motherhood and then take her career as it comes.
Our society often terms her relationship status as ‘Single’ if she does not marry until the age of 27; and after that ‘Unmarried’, more of a social stigma for her concerned parents.
Case in point is our interaction at cajobportal.com with Marwari girls segment of CA Freshers based out of Kolkata. Every year, we are flooded with hundreds of resumes of girls who desperately seek a job in the stagnant Kolkata economy because their parents won’t let them move to a Bangalore or Mumbai or Pune. So they settle for exploitative jobs that pay them a fraction of their earnings potential. A few KPOs who have sprung up in the city are thriving due to the massive supply of ‘non-mobile and hence willing to accept career stagnation or a slower than deserved career progression pace” finance professionals. These would be girls who will curse the city and its job opportunities but can’t move out as their parents want to marry them off first.
A close relative of mine is a Chartered Accountant, who cleared in the year 2004 in the first attempt. A brilliant student throughout her academic life and an equally dedicated employee on the work front, she today earns 15% of the salary her batch mates do. Reason was a marriage two years into work and two kids immediately thereafter, which led to a 5 year career break. A resume with career break written across it made it so difficult for her to resume. There were no takers for someone who was away from work for quite some time. So she finally joined a little start up in Mumbai at the same salary as a CA fresher, is now trying her best to inch her way up the corporate ladder ( already having secured a 100% raise by dint of her performance)
Dial M for Mother
For her, at age 25, success was defined by career success. A few years later, she would rather not grab the brass ring. She thinks of success much differently: Raising happy, productive children, contributing to the world around her and pursuing work that is meaningful.
So the women more often than not “Lean In” at some point in their career; this phenomenal was once described as the “Opt-Out Revolution” in the US. She doesn’t raise her hand anymore She starts leaning back.
Post motherhood and resuming work, she is expected to wear both the hats – CEO of the office as well as the family, with equal dexterity
In case of a married couple, both of them work full-time, the woman will do 30% more child care and 40% more housework than a man. Of all the working families with two parents, and one parent is an at home full-time parent, 4% of those are men. 4%. We don’t really have choice for men. Men are simply not encouraged.
According to the NYT, women often request flexitime when starting a family or adding to their family and “this gives employers a reason to view them through the lens of motherhood, prompting the strongest form of gender discrimination because mothers are seen as less competent and less committed to their work.”
Well these there could be exceptions. Take recent movie, Ki & Kaa, where Arjun Kapoor, plays the role of an IIM Bangalore, who opts out of a career and becomes a home makers to facilitate career advancement for his spouse, played by Kareena Kapoor Khan.
So what lies ahead?
There is this amazing quote by Alice Walker —
‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.’
We have to break down the institutional barriers women face. One of the best ways to do that, and the fastest way, is to get more women into positions of power, so that they can do it.
When Sheryl Sandberg, the COO at Facebook, then a senior employee at Google, got pregnant, she realized it was really hard to walk from the back of the parking lot all the way to the front. She walked into Larry and Sergey’s office and asked for pregnancy parking. And Sergey looked up and said, “We sure would do. I never thought it. I never thought of it either”
Retaining their “feminine mystique”, women must project gravitas in order to advance at work. They must ask for flexible work options – that allows women, including the best and brightest, to continue contributing to the workforce and the economy. This could be telecommuting, flexitime, alternative schedules, job sharing, and compressed work weeks.
A Bain & Co report states that women who work flexibly are equally—if not more—serious and committed to reaching their full career potential than those who don’t
In India, options like Tata Second Career Internship Programme, ‘Bring her Back’ by IBM, Renew: Career Re-entry Initiative for Women Professionals by L&T have paved the way
I can share a personal example where at cajobportal.com, we are engaging an all-women team which works from home. Powered by some cutting edge technology in terms of work flow management and project monitoring tools, they get virtually the same experience as that of an office. So, our girls, who otherwise, would not have been able to step of their homes, due to remote location, kids, parents illness, are able to deliver a fantabulous performance.
Silver Linings – Women are naturally “wired” for career success
Women must leverage the chemical differences of the brain to their advantage.
- A recent survey by RSA, the UK based executive search firm, found that 62% respondents felt that women contribute differently in the boardroom, compared to their male colleagues, they “bring empathy and intuition to leadership”
- New brain research and findings from gender studies reveal that women are naturally “wired” for career success. That is, they have female attributes that can give them a significant advantage in the workplace — especially in today’s global marketplace, where cooperation, collaboration, and communication–all female strengths — are just so important.
Walt and Barb Larimore, in their 2008 book entitled His Brain, Her Brain, provided an explanation of the chemical differences between Men and Women. Both have six chemicals that impact their
|Sl No||Chemicals||Impact on interaction with others|
|1||Oxytocin||– increases sensitivity and empathy|
|2||Serotonin||– increases feelings of well-being and happiness|
|3||Estrogen||– increases feelings of self-esteem and enthusiasm|
|4||Progesterone||– increases feelings of calm, well-being and contentment|
|5||Testosterone||– increases aggressiveness, competitiveness and assertiveness|
|6||Vasopressin||– increases aggression, territorialism|
Women have a higher quantum of the first four chemicals. This drives them to look for solutions in conflicts, keep calm in stressful situations, connect with people, and extend empathy towards stakeholders; and they are able to do so more naturally than men. When faced with a deadline, women will complete a project a week ahead of time in order to avoid the pressure and increased arousal a deadline brings. Men however, will wait until the last minute so they have the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine actually push them to finish.
If we compare the fear response of the amygdala; when the signal of fight or flight is triggered, women respond by gathering in groups – the trend and befriend response. Women are much better at reducing stress and feeling safe by connecting. Men however, tend to withdrawal to themselves. To quote from the book, Mean Girls at Work, “men are from the combat zone, women are from the support circle”.
With the combination of brain structure, hormones, and neurotransmitters, it implies that women look for ways to compromise and serve the needs of others while men look for ways to come out on top.
Imagine the world we would have if all women en-masse would have ruthlessly chosen to pursue their careers just like men; it would endanger the very future of humanity.
If women—who account for half the world’s working-age population—do not achieve their full economic potential, a Mckinsey report states that the world could lose out on $12 trillion of global growth
So it is very important for us to balance the two goals, none of which are any less important.
In the same country, China, where terms such as shengnu (leftover women) are used, Forbes reported that 11 of the 20 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese. According to a Grant Thornton Business Report, 19% of Chinese women in management positions are CEOs, the second highest percentage worldwide (after Thailand’s 30%).
In fact, so undeniable is the rise of women in China that there is even a phrase for their sudden blossoming: yin sheng, yang shuai, which means the female (yin) is on the up, while the male (yang) is on the way down.
I would like to end by quoting Sheryl Sandberg, from her book ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.
“Ladders are limiting. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym. The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.”