Difficult to break the glass ceiling

Gender Imbalance

That the world we live in is inclined unfavourably against the womenfolk, is a reality that is hard to live down. 


Much has been written about how women, be they professionals or homemakers, have to fight in every sphere of life to get their due. Though there are well meaning avowals to ‘empower women’ the bitter truth at the end of the day is that the age-old gender imbalance continues to bedevil the fate of women, especially in the corporate sector.

 And a recent ‘Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia-2011’ (GDBA) survey only confirms this with some statistics. According to the data compiled by the GDBA survey, India ranks as the worst performer among the Asian countries in terms of the participation of women in the labour force, as well as in terms of their career advancement. The report examines the representation of women in junior, middle and senior levels at the selected multinational companies in six countries across Asia.

In India, the survey says, the women strength in the labour force stands at 28.7 per cent at the junior level, 14.91 per cent at the middle level and 9.32 per cent at the senior level in the corporate sector. Apart from being the lowest in the list for overall women participation in the workforce, India ranks at the top in the drop-out rate as well.

The Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, a Dwarka-based college, recently held a national human resource conference based on the theme ‘developing human capital for business excellence’ and one of the topics discussed was related to the workforce diversity and gender equity, as per the survey done by GDBA.

Talking to Metrolife, Sharad Singh, professor of human resource management (HRM) and organisational behaviour (OB) at the college, said “As per the survey, the situation doesn’t seem to be encouraging at all. Also, it is a fact that the participation of women in economic activities is more in rural areas than urban. In rural areas women do the field work and other activities, other than their regular household chores.”

But why can’t we see more women in top positions at their workplace? “It depends on both reality and perception. A lady has to manage both her office and household, which is quite difficult for her. Also, such top positions demand extra working hours and even tours, which doesn’t suit them. This is one of the factors why we find less number of women at higher positions,” said Singh, adding that often successful women professionals give up their jobs to either get married or start a family, which may explain why there aren’t too many in top positions.

In rural areas, the high profile jobs are mostly taken up by the people belonging to the upper castes. “Even if they are poor, they will only go for higher levels jobs and not become a chaprasi or do any clerical work. It is a matter of status for them. Take the example of nursing. Only women from Kerela opt for this job and then women from Punjab, because they want to go abroad. Parents in rural areas don’t want to send their daughters to the city for a job, but they are fine with sending their boys. They are concerned about their security, whereas a boy can survive by sharing a room with three-four boys,” said Singh.

Lakshay Singh, a marketing professional, said, “Girls in my office start cribbing the moment it is 6 in the evening. I don’t say it is unjustified, given the increasing crimes against women, but such an attitude also hampers their professional upliftment. A boss always wants a team, which is available 24X7, and here girls lose their chance.”

Sonia Sharma, a photographer who often has to go for outdoor shoots and late night assignments, says, “My parents initially had an issue with me opting for photography because they knew about its erratic working hours. They always used tell me to go for a bank job because then I would be able to come back home by six or seven. It would also help me after I get married. But, I stuck to my interest and pursued photography.”

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