Women in the workforce

Let us start by admitting that we are lucky! We do not live in the world our mothers or grandmothers lived in, one where career choices for women were so limited that you could either become a medical professional or a teacher. If you are continuing to read this, you are certainly educated enough to appreciate what the first two lines are trying to suggest.

Most of us are living in a world where at least some civil rights are taken for granted. Painfully enough, we are still living in a world where quite a substantial number of women do not have them.

The numbers clearly tell the story. In the parliaments around the world, there are only 13% women; and only 16% have made it to the Boards in the corporate sector. The numbers have not moved much since 2002 and in some areas we may in fact be going in the wrong direction. Even in the nonprofit world, only 20% women have made it to the top. A research study in the United States shows that more than two-thirds of married men at the top have children, whereas only one-third of married women in the top management have children. It clearly suggests that women have to make harder choices; they have to make a choice between professional success and personal fulfillment.

The moot question is how does one change these numbers at the top? The answer, to my mind at least, lies in keeping women in the workforce long enough, with whatever support they might need. This is the only way to ensure they have an equal chance to reach the top of the rung.

I am convinced that in a significant way the problem has shifted from finding opportunities for women to making an equitable society where they can stay put. Instead, they are rapidly dropping out due to rather trivial reasons.

Women also systematically tend to underestimate their own abilities. If you test men and women on completely objective criteria such as GPAs, men get it wrong slightly higher and women get it wrong slightly lower. Women also do not negotiate for themselves in the workforce. A study in the last two years of people entering the workforce out of college showed that 57% men entering were negotiating their first salary, whereas it was only seven percent in case of women.

This is where the complication is. We have to tell our colleagues, sisters, daughters, mothers and all other women to believe that they have got the ‘A’ to reach for the sky; that well deserved promotion; and the right to sit at the table.

I believe that we will be living in a better world when a half of the countries and a half of the companies are run by women.

– Prachal Joshie