Corporate India - Inhospitable to Working Women

Rabia Dhody | April 07,2014 06:43 pm IST

 "Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult"

- Charlotte Whiton.

Indeed, it is not uncommon today to find women in most industries; in fact, they occupy top positions at that. They are no longer restricted to stereotyped professions. Deftly handling even the toughest of jobs, ranging from bus-conductors to astronauts, women have shown that they indeed are not the typecast weaker sex. However, studies across the globe have shown that men outnumber women by almost 5:1 at the middle management level and, believe it or not, by 20:1 at the senior level of management. What is the reason for this strange discrepancy? Male ego / chauvinism? Or certain factors typical of women?


A national daily recently ran a news-story saying that at the turn of the century, big names in India Inc. treasure an unwritten code: "Do not employ women." Surprised? Not really, as experts say, that a mere 3 per cent women occupy senior positions in private companies across India. And most of the companies only have 5-6 per cent women employees.


What is more, a national daily quoted Pallavi Jha, former Chairperson of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), as saying, "A study on women graduates of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, showed that more than 70 per cent do not pursue a career." So can we say that the corporate India is inhospitable to working women? The young woman of today is the victim of a double cross. On the one hand, her college training or her work experience taught her to make a living, not to make a cake. So to one half of her being, success has come to mean just what it does to a man - success in a job.


There's one very interesting point we miss out, on which one cannot find 'women' as a singular category in any country or community. In the last decade, women in other parts of the industrialized world have experienced what is popularly known as the 'glass-ceiling' phenomenon. What are the factors that create these omnipresent glass-ceilings? Glass-ceilings that promise the women the sky and the stars but stop them from reaching there after they attain a certain height.


Undeniably, all women go through the torture of balancing their work and family lives. Though a work-life balance is an issue for all employees, irrespective of their sex, it seems to assail women the most. Even with a great spouse and family to support them, the conflicts between office and home do not resolve. More often than not, this drains women not just emotionally but physically as well.


Male representatives of private companies give various reasons for their appalling talks about hiring women. Some blatantly say that they are traditional companies and don't hire women. Others cite safety as an issue. Still others say that maternity leaves are a serious interruption of work.


Few years back, there was a study conducted on why women were not doing as well as their male colleagues after graduation from business schools. The young women that they had interviewed told that despite their getting higher marks than the young men and performing better, they received less approval and recognition from bosses and were slower to be promoted. They felt dejected and disappointed. Or at times, it was all about being a blue-eyed boy of the boss or maybe Favoritism? The predicament of these young women is understandable. And I empathize with them.


Boys are brought up to believe that they can get anything they want and are raised as such. Girls are also told that they can get anything they want, but are raised to have doubts about their ability, to put family first, and to subsume their ambitions and dreams in the interest of family and society. They are never told how tough it is to negotiate their way in a world designed and defined by men and they are not trained for it either.



Rabia Dhody is an MBA from University of Pune, and is currently working as Vice President in for the last 2 years. Prior to Jabong she has worked as Motricity- HR Head South Asia, HR Business Partner with Dell India and as manager with Reliance Capital - Life Insurance Division....