Article (March-2020)


Women at workplace Opportunities & challenges

Sanjeev Himachali

Designation : -   Principal Consultant and Talent Strategist

Organization : -  Ecliptic HR Solutions Private Limited, Pune


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We have had enough of talking and discussion about the dismal condition of gender diversity in the corporate world, still, there isn't any progress worth mentioning. Though the participation of women at top-level management has seen some rise in the number still the number is far from equality. What makes the situation even worse is the constant assurance from big companies that they will make sure that they bid their goodbyes to gender bias at top leadership and still not being able to present any significant change.

Not the "Glass Ceiling "but the Broken Rung"

Over the past few decades, it was found out that it's not exactly the glass ceiling but the broken rung which is the mainframe barrier restricting women participation at the top. Fewer women receiving promotions as we move upwards in the hierarchy is the essence of the broken rung. When a reduced number of women are promoted at relatively higher management there can never be equal participation of women. But this phenomenon has undergone considerable alterations in the past year or two, the findings of the reports are presenting a strong case for women being likely to receive a promotion if they are worthy of it. Moreover, it is better to have corporate sponsors who can advocate your side and present your case more firmly before the management.


This report by McKinsey & Company and is made after receiving feedback from around 600 companies and consulting a million employees, so the facts presented by this report are backed up by extensive research.

1. A mere 22% of women representatives at the C-suite executive. The ratio is almost equal (with 48% women employees) at the entry-level, but as we move to the top in the hierarchy ladder, we find that the gap is wide enough to attract attention. As per the report, there are 38% of managers, 34% of senior managers or directors, 29% of VPs and 23% of SVPs as far as the percentage participation of women is considered.

2. Every second woman at the senior level management has fallen prey to sexual harassment. To be precise 55% of women employees at senior posts have reported some or the other kind of sexual harassment. This percentage is 35% with women in full-time corporate sector Jobs and 45% with those in technical fields of employment. It is believed that this percentage, in reality, is way too high than it appears, it's just that many of them fear to accept that they are being harassed.

3. 49% of women reported that they never happened to indulge in any conversation with senior-level management during their course of working with the company. This figure is about 27% with men. This communication gap though not directly but indirectly has effects on career advancement opportunities.

4. Women are having 18% fewer chances than their male counterparts to receive a promotion at the entry-level. Motivation and promotion desire have nothing to do with this statistic, women also have the same level of the urge to receive a promotion.

5. When women were asked about their peers or working companions, it was found out that 20% of them were the only female employees in their group. This ratio is 40% when we talk about senior-level executives. This again is a highly discouraging statistic.

6. Close to 50000 women have to quit their jobs or they are forced to do so when they are expecting a child. At the majority of small-scale private companies, there is no such concept of maternity leave, they don't sanction any remuneration to the female employees during their maternity leave and it's quite difficult to make a comeback to the same position.

Other hurdles

Women of colour : Only if it was not enough to experience parity against a particular gender, we have instances which confirm that there is further discrimination among women based on their colour. Women from foreign countries working in the institution are more likely to fall prey to this. The voice of coloured women is likely to be ignored by corporate managers.

Wage pay : Women are likely to earn only 76 cents for every dollar earned by a male employee of the same grade. Women are not paid on the same grade as men are paid, although they are expected to perform the same duties.

Gender a barrier to advancement : The McKinsey & Company report revealed that as many as 27% of women admitted that their gender will stand as a barrier between them and a promotion. The reasons for such feelings can be varied and we are not getting into it. But give it a thought that hoe discouraging it is to find out that just because you are not of the dominating gender you will end up not receiving a promotion.

Probable future challenges

  • Though automation and artificial intelligence are against the workforce as a whole but women are a tad more exposed to it. The reason being the majority participation of women in the workforce being in the lower- and middle-skilled jobs. It's known to all that due to automation most un-skilled and semi-skilled workers are likely to be axed. The OECD has forecasted that in the coming two years automation will render 11% of women who are currently employed jobless which is 180 million female jobs.
  • There is a visible global gender digital divide. Women in the workforce are not well versed with the internet. The percentage of women using the internet Is 12 percent lower than the proportion of men using the Internet worldwide. This percentage goes down even further in underdeveloped countries. In underdeveloped countries, only one in seven women is capable of using the internet. It is almost next to impossible to stick to your job unless you are not backed by sound digital knowledge.
Few probabilities ahead

We have another year to try and get over gender parity which is the topic on which consensus is reached very easily at every woman empowerment debate.

1. The stigma of Sexual harassment will continue to be there : Though it isn't pleasant at all to accept, the harsh reality is that there aren't enough measures adopted to combat the causes of harassment. This is where the whistle-blowers and journalism industry will come into play. It will fall on their part to join forces against it.

2. Employees will be more vocal regarding their demands : Over the recent past, we have witnessed a trend that co-workers are standing tall against any kind of discrimination with their mates. We will witness protest methods like Public walkouts and open letters to management more often. Most of the managements fear such mass protests, they find such protests against the wellbeing of their organization and try to solve them.

3. Absenteeism : This has remained as a primary area of concern for the employers. Women consider their household as their primary responsibility and are committed to it. This often leads to absenteeism. It is almost certain that the problem of absenteeism will remain, and we will continue to experience negative work attendance.

4. Job pay : Women receive lower pay than their male counterparts, this has been a trend in the past. As per a report, a woman gets 76 cents for the same job for which a male gets a dollar. Though this practice is harming the interests of the working class still we expect that it will remain like this. There is no such huge dissatisfaction among women on this topic which can erupt in the form of a huge movement.

5. Luring career fields for women : The career fields that were once male dominated are now opened up for women as well or we can say that women have presented their firm candidature for those fields. Clerical positions, administrative jobs, nursing, teaching, social work, and retail positions are the fields where we can see the domination of women and this will be a common feature in 2020 as well. But here's a catch the overwhelming participation of women in the aforementioned fields has turned those fields less appealing and thus less paying.

6. Women-owned businesses : Women have their flexibility expectations from their respective jobs which are often not met. This serves as a strong motive for them to switch to their businesses and that will be experienced increasingly in 2020.

7. The gig economy - an appealing alternative to formal employment : Women always complain about inflexible working hours and tiresome weekly work routine. The gig economy presents them with the opportunity to furnish their part of responsibility with the organization they are connected, remotely. Some examples of such opportunities are online education portals and women drivers. In such cases, they are their bosses and can effectively cater to their household needs.

What leaders have to do?

With leaders, we meant the top-level management of any institution. It largely depends on their will that women will be a mainstream part of their organization or they will continue to act superficially.

  • Corporate leaders should not only consolidate Gender-disaggregated data but also take meaningful insights from it. This can be ensured by practicing pay-gap dashboarding, having strict training, re-skilling, and up-skilling programs.
  • Women entrepreneurs need to be encouraged. Women-owned businesses around the world should be provided with an ample amount of resources and funds wherever needed.  We Connect International is doing such funding for years.
  • Job absenteeism for women is an area of great concern and also a big stumbling block in the road to their success. Employers should provide them with flexibility in terms of working hours. This can be achieved through job-sharing, part-time employment and work from home arrangements for women wherever possible.
  • Sexual harassment has emerged as a serious issue that seeks immediate address. Employers should constitute dedicated departments to look into such affairs and make sure that they provide women with a safe working environment.
  • Employers always have the excuse that they don't receive equal female representation at the time of onboarding. For this particular issue, they need to organize Employer-sponsored training and education programs that will enroute them for a befitting career in the field best suited to them. May be in the technology-related positions too.