As I drove towards the corporate office of a large food company to speed-mentor three dozen women on gender-bias challenges for women’s day earlier this year, I thought about the many issues I’d seen some of my rather competent female colleagues face, in getting their due. From the questions that my mentees asked, I realized that while we’d made some progress in this direction over the years, it was only minuscule. Negative stereotypes of women are still quite deep-rooted, even in the most progressive of companies and environments.
Since my father’s death in my teens, my mother single-handedly raised my brother and me in such a manner, that all I saw was her courage, endurance and self-sacrifice. So from an early age, my perspective of women was that they were no less than men, in any way.
I’ve worked with, observed and partnered with many women in the industry – entrepreneurs, managers, chefs, hostesses, bartenders & servers – through gender-related challenges that they’ve encountered, and still do.
Here are what I see as the primary problems:
All 3 barriers in fact, stem from deeply misplaced mindsets in our society. Unless level 1 is conquered or at-least dealt with, the other 2 levels cannot be overcome. If level 2 is also stable, the woman will most likely excel. Level 3 is when she helps herself, others and society at large.
Still, there is reticence in providing women their due, whether they’re entrepreneurs pitching for an investment, managers asking for a raise or front-line employees (women-servers, saleswomen, etc.) working towards a promotion.
Upbringing and peer pressure (sometimes by women themselves), are common causes of injustice towards women.
I don’t for a moment suggest pursuing a correctional gender-balance mandate within a company, by compulsorily hiring incompetent women at the cost of competent men. I believe that meritocracy is the most objective and rational way a company should hire & nurture its talent, and that women should simply be given an equal opportunity, without prejudice.
About half our planet comprises of women. That’s half our talent pool... under-leveraged. So possibly, our world today is only half of what it could be and thus I see value in partnering with women to leverage earth’s full potential.
Each adopters (men and women) of the belief that women have equal rights, must recognize and commit to transforming dated mindsets by building awareness and provoking affirmative action in some way, each day.
Changing mindsets and habits, whether in oneself or in others, requires a worthwhile reason, great self-awareness & discipline, and a firm gentleness backed by tenacity.
Some steps forward may be followed by some steps back and that’s alright.
In this instance, government intervention to build environments that are enabling and enhanced financial incentives like tax rebates for businesses that abundantly employ & empower women, will also help.
As per the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report of 2017, which measures the disadvantages of women compared to men (in health, education, economy and politics), it’s going to take humanity, over 160 years from now to reach a point of gender equality in these areas. Now this can remain just a data point... or industry and society could choose to act upon it.
There’s an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
I’d love to see my daughter being un-stereotyped and have as many opportunities as my son, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who thinks that way.
I believe that honestly working on these action areas will fast-track women’s inclusion and pass on a healthier and less biased legacy for the next generation to build on.