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It's time women break through the glass ceiling

Last updated: 17 May, 2011
Chandnee Fernandes 18:30 IST

There has been much research and conjecture about the challenges that women face in organisations to climb the corporate ladder.

It is to be debated whether the glass ceiling is a perceived concept or if there is an actual glass ceiling that women have to break through, to make it big in their careers. With increasing number of women in managerial and executive positions now, the time has come for women of today, to break through the barriers of the concept of the glass ceiling and move forward.

We need to reassess if the glass ceiling is indeed a real concept for women today. There are several factors that lead us to believe that we are being constrained and held back from achieving and making a career for ourselves. Ours has typically been a male dominated, paternal society. We are often hindered by attitudes and mindsets of ourselves and of other women around us.

To be able to move forward from this, we will need to ride the tide to change our mindsets and propagate this change in attitude to the society around us. Women who have been able to do this have achieved undeniable success in our time and it has become essential for us to follow on these examples.

Some of the factors that have led us to believe in the idea are,

* Women managers are confronted with bureaucratic structures which are male characteristic, leading to disparities in the way a woman is treated at top levels
* Women tend to prioritise on family commitments over their career
* Lack of gender sensitive policies and initiatives for career development
* Sexual harassment
* Wage inequalities
* Stereotyped male characteristics that have become standards of measurement of an employee that women are measured against
* Break in career for maternity
* Popular perception that priority for a female employee is always family and work comes second

There are also several hindrances that we as women place for ourselves and the society places for us that are also responsible for the glass ceiling to exist. They are as basic and internal as a lack of motivation and drive amongst women to pursue a career that demands our best to a lack of moral support from society as a whole even to this day if a woman wants to put her career before her family. A woman of today is expected to strike a balance between family and career.

We are also type cast as being overly emotional and unable to handle stressful situations. These perceptions have or are creating in the minds of the women a lack of self-confidence and the drive to make it big, reaching top echelons in organisations.

There are several innate qualities in women that they are able to bring to their decision making and management. We have naturally good management abilities, multitasking abilities and we have high levels of adaptability to situations. Successful women have been able to overcome and beat these barriers and the perceived concept of a glass ceiling to achieve through these innate abilities.

Change is inevitable with women entering all sectors of business and management. We have been seeing significant changes with the way women are being treated. Organisations are today making an effort to diagnose the issues that are hindrances to provide equal opportunity and promote diversity.

Women are going beyond to explore career options in various fields and changing mindsets that once typecast women as being suitable only for certain areas of work such as education or nursing. Women in the country are today heading some of the biggest corporations and hold very influential positions in the governing of the country.

Although the percentage of these great women is significantly lower compared to their male counterparts, these women are paving the way for this change. It will not be long before the systems will need to adapt to the change and accept the contribution of women to this society and the economy. Although we are seeing a positive turn in urban India, much effort has to be made to include rural India into this picture.

Women are today becoming great role models to the young, forcing change and redefining mindsets which will lead to the creation of equal opportunities, demolishing gender bias in organisations.

Someone very aptly said “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will” and that’s the precise reason that today's women have been able to make a significant space for themselves in the so far male dominated corporate world.
If we go back to the beginning of trade and industry, Indian industries were largely into manufacturing arena.

We were primarily working in factories which required sheer strength or focus which we being the delicate race, where considered to be not suitable for. This could be attributed to multiple reasons some of which could be due the fact that women were heavily malnourished, social pressure to conform to the popular indian image of an ideal women which is to be limiting herself to the home and the hearth. This is the culture most of us grew with and are still living through.

This situation has over a period of time changed and we have slowly seen a change in the corporate world. We moved from hard labour to intellectual work. Corporate India opened its doors to women and the scenario today is a lot different from what it was then. However, we still have a long way to go and we are inching towards a better tomorrow. Corporates are making conscious efforts to ensure right gender mix.

Companies like Ness have made a conscious decision to ensure an ideal gender mix and we are already making much headway here. Having said this, there is still an invisible boundary. These are the lucky ones who made it through but there is still a big population out there which has still not broken through this glass ceiling.

(The writer is Director HR, Ness Technologies)

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