Gender discrimination is prevalent everywhere, traditionally, our society has been male-dominated. For centuries it has been men who dominated the socio-economic stereotypes. Generations have taught daughters to be docile and domesticated while the son is the one who sets aspirations. The Gender Equality scenario is heavily skewed in favour of males even with woman empowerment making huge strides in the recent past.
Gender discrimination as a term means that the different aspirations, behaviour patterns and needs of the female gender as well the male need to be addressed and valued equally. It should be taken literally as there will always be differences in the physical and mental makeup of both sexes, but it does signify that the rights, opportunities and duties will be equal. This should be dependent on whether the person was born in either gender.
The world faces a serious issue that the successive governments, educational institutions and non-government agencies have been trying to bring parity to. There has been progress but not at the level that is needed.
Sexism is a wide spread prejudice that is defined as a discrimination based on gender. It can theoretically affect any gender, but in our country it’s generally the women who are on the losing side. Gender stereotypes make up the popular belief that one gender is superior to the other.
We face the issue of gender discrimination with women at the lowest level that is female foeticide. There are rules and laws in place that make it a punishable offence, but these are sometimes bypassed and are not fault free in implementation.
Education too sees a similar trend. Even with primary education till the age of 14 deemed a fundamental right, the number of girl enrolment is not as high as male children. The gender discrimination graph widens further when we consider higher education.
Gender discrimnation issues at workplace
We have made disappointing progress as measured by rankings in the Gender Development Index in spite of rapid growth in the economy. In the last decade or so, GDP has grown at an average of 6% while the female labour force participation has dropped to 27% from 34%. The male versus female wage gap has been stagnant at 50% while white collar jobs see a gap of a whopping 27%.
There are movements and progressive urban corporates are making an effort to close the gap and make it easier for woman employees by encouraging diversity in hiring and retention. But there is still a disturbing trend of women missing out on career goals for maternity and child rearing phases. The rural divide is greater and the agrarian work force sees bigger attrition amongst women. The only way to resolve this issue is to encourage flexible work hours, narrow the wage gap and make way to more women in top positions. Equal opportunity and equal pay for equal work is the way men can pave the way to more women excelling in the workplace.
Gender equality as part of the Millennium Development goals
The year 2000 saw the culmination of many goals specified by the UN to be achieved by 2015. One of these was to promote gender equality and empower women. The charter also understood the need to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. These goals are are well on their way to be met in near future with WHO releasing data that shows maternal mortality down by 77% in the period 1990-2016.
The WEF or the World economic Forum pegs the gender gap to be measured across four criteria. They are Economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment. We have narrowed the gap in some categories in 2018, but some areas continue to be dismal.
- We have been ranked 108th in WEF gender gap index, while recording improvement in the wage index at 72nd place.
- The country has been successful in fully closing the tertiary education gender gap for the very first time.
- The economic opportunity index saw us at a shameful 142nd out of 149 participating countries.
- We scored at being the third lowest rank and the least improved nation in the health and survival index. The Government has launched aggressive and inclusive insurance based plans that will bring relief to crores of people in the immediate future.
Much has been done and much more remains to be done. The country may need another 202 years to close the gender gap at the present rate. Crimes against women have increased in the last decade or so, raising grave concerns about safety and security measures for women. Gender equality in our country is still a distant dream and education is a must to close the gap. The gender neutral behaviour and learning should begin at home and schools from a tender age, making both sexes gender sensitive and in sync with the needs of tomorrow.
It is known fact that empowerment of women helps businesses in advancing. The bottom-line improves and advancement in career and pay becomes a reality for both men and women. When leadership teams are diverse and aim to set targets and goals that are equal and attainable. The women networks are strong and encourage men to join in too. This helps sensitizing men to the needs and aspirations of women in the work place.
The interaction helps men by understanding the needs of the mother and homemaker, who is very much a part of the woman who attends work with them. It may help when husbands help with household chores or with raising children. The action creates a virtuous circle that enhances the productivity of the other to deliver a larger impact in conjunction. The culture of trust, purpose, accountability, belonging, as well as flexibility fosters growth. Comprehensive action policies support both genders are family friendly and bias free. This improves retention and loyalty.
Businesses should encourage diversity and inclusivity. Employees must not be asked to conform to a particular dress code or appearance. Innovation and disruption must be encouraged. Options like flexible working hours, remote or virtual working and parental leave should be promoted, as it has been studied that women perform better and have a 30% better chance of career advancement when maternal leave is augmented by paternal leave as well.
Training opportunities must be equal. Gender diversity is the step forward to a happy and inclusive workplace environment. There is a growing need to provide situations that help equality in diversity.