7 Top thinking patterns in society which explain why women are such a minority at work
All talk and no action ! This is the the state of Women Empowerment today. When you talk with people in society everyone nods in positive for enabling women to equal status and power as men. Then why is the discrimination still taking place ?
Do women get same respect, status and power as men today ? Certainly not.
Why is there a gap between saying and doing ?
What is the real truth ?
What is the real thinking of us society as a whole ?
Is it that majority of us are still trapped in older conventional thinking ?
Or those who are most powerful still want to continue the trends ?
Or is it plainly that we say one thing to look good but when it comes to choices in our own lives we follow the “bottom truth” ?
To know the answers to these questions we did a survey here in India. Sizable number of participants were selected from different age groups, genders and backgrounds to maintain the neutrality. Results and insights we got are presented as below.
Perception Scale and different levels of mindsets prevailing in society today
Different mindsets found in society today in regards to women empowerment are put below. The most conclusive sentence showing the core thinking has been emphasized in bold.
They have been arranged in order from worse to better and a Perception Scale is formed which we use later to quantify the progress of society in regards to women.
- Men are superior, Women are inferior. Women can not do office work. Women are only fit for child rearing and taking care of family. That also they generally do not do properly.
- Men are superior, Women are inferior. Women should not do office work. This is nature’s rule (mentally, biologically and socially). They can do some simple things in office but who will take care of home, children and parents then ? Women are best for child rearing and family care and men are best at work. Besides if women also starts earning she might feel superior to the man. They will have fights and may even get divorced.
- Men are superior, Women are inferior. Women going out is too unsafe. Sure they will bring in some money but what will happen if something happens to her ? No one will marry her. If already married, husband’s family may reject her. Family’s name will get spoiled. Even in office a beautiful woman is too much of a distraction for other male employees. She can get harassed there also. Should I fire all males ?
- Men are superior, Women are inferior. There is simply no need of women going out even if they can do somethings in office. Men can work for money and woman can take care of home. Whole family works under the guidance of man who is the head of the house. Children and parents are well taken care of that way. This is best !
- Men and Women are equal in some aspects, Men are still way better in critical roles. Women can go to office but they can not take critical decision making roles. Only men can do that. Their main talent lies in taking care of children, husband and parents. Job is only a side occupation. Whenever required by latter, former should be sacrificed.
- Men and Women are equal in abilities. Women should work and earn if they want but only as long as family needs or allows it. Women should only work in times of financial crisis, otherwise why should she ? If there is already so much money floating in from husband’s side what is the need to do a job ? If family is not wanting it then she must sacrifice her career.
- Men and Women are equal in abilities. Women are independent as much as men and free to do anything in their life as they please. Each one takes help of other as needed to achieve their goals. There is no interference in decision making. If woman wants to work she can work and if she wants to focus on being a housewife she is completely free to do so. She is not judged in either case. She gets equal respect in both situations.
Perceptions at different places and how it affects women
Roots of a person lay at home. Here only the problems begin and this is the actual place where this problem can be solved.
Still most of families in India fall under the Perception Levels 1 to 5. Child rearing is often considered primary responsibility of a woman and men have nothing to do with it. Few parts of the country women are not even allowed to mingle with outsiders.Few families fall under Perception Level 6.
Most families still maintain the old gender stereotypes that homely duties are a female’s job and going out for work is a man’s job. Most men and women do not appreciate a man doing household chores. He is seen as less of a man. His manhood is questioned and he is assumed to be timid and unsuccessful in his career.
Few samples as gathered in our survey (names have been changed for the sake of anonymity) -
- “How can dad take a glass of water on his own, if his daughter, sister or wife is right there?” — Sandhya, A girl studying in class 12th from a middle class joint family in Jaipur
- “My brother is never asked to serve himself when it comes to dinner or lunch. He is never asked to wash his own clothes or help mom in the kitchen whereas it’s a compulsion for me. My dad eats at 11pm and mom waits for him and serves him whenever he comes. Same is been done with my brother. But when a girl comes home tired from office she is expected to take her dinner on her own and do things on her own.” — Buddhi, A marketing executive in a renowned IT company in Bengaluru
- “My aunt says if a lady does not know how to cook, how to take care of all the elders in the family, keep her house clean then the family’s name in the society gets spoiled. I told her i will change this thinking. My husband and i will balance it out. She challenges me saying we’ll see when you get married.” — Nilanjana, A Chartered Accountant in a renowned audit firm in Bengaluru.
- “My Mother asked me to take a day off from office because we had to buy wheat and clean it up to get it powdered. I told her i have important meeting in office tomorrow. Ask brother (fourteen years old) to help you out. Anyways he has his school holidays going on. She stared at me with shock as if i had committed a crime by asking her to take brother’s help.” — Sunita, A Digital specialist in an Ad agency in Mumbai.
- “For my summer holidays mom is sending me to cooking classes and my brother to swimming classes. He also accompanies my dad to the factory. Why am i encouraged to go for cooking classes and not my brother? Will i be cooking and serving the men and guests all my life just like my mother did and dad and brother will be chilling in front of the TV or playing games ?” — Ruchi, A 11th grade student in Kolkata.
- “I get a sense of satisfaction when i see my wife ironing my clothes and cooking for our family. I feel so proud of her being my wife. When I look at her taking care of my parents and kids, keeping the house clean and taking charge of all the household chores, she looks the best. This is the best job she can do.” — Rohit, a real Estate builder.
Due to more awareness and encouragement from government’s side ( for example, present Narendra Modi government has done a lot in this direction) many families are now becoming aware of importance of women’s empowerment and are trying to get best possible education for their girls. But still they want her to focus on her family life more than anything else. These girls often work for few years before marriage and then after marriage either become total housewives or take a sabotage of many years.
“Most parents achieve a sense of happiness when their daughter is working at home and taking charge of all household activities and husband bringing in money for the family.”
However Gen Y does not subscribe to these old ideas and is revolting against these beliefs. Most girls are career minded and want to stand on their own feet before thinking of marriage. Even boys are preferring to marry working girls as they bring financial stability to the house. Young men of current generation are more liberal and often found to be under Perception Level 6.
Sadly, Perception Level 7 is still rare in India though.
Office environment plays second most important role in women empowerment. An office environment which ensures safety, encouragement and equal playground as men in terms of pay and opportunities is a must for women to reach their potential.
However office environment today is split almost equally amongst Perception Levels 1–5, 6 and 7. That means one in every three persons falls under Perception Level 1 to 5 ! Therefore in many offices women are considered less talented, less ambitious and therefore less deserving when it comes to pay and opportunities. Their biological differences are used to treat them as second class citizens making them feel inferior.
Most offices do not have proper policies setup to ensure safety of women from inappropriate behavior. Policies exist for lip service only. They are rarely effectively implemented. As a result third class men in offices get opportunity to harass female employees sexually and get away with it. If the woman reports the matter to senior management she is often told to shut up and go on paid vacations as a compensation. If she insists she is either muted or fired.
Most offices latently discourage women to join after maternity leaves. Even if they come back they are given junior roles or are thrown in some irrelevant teams. Most bosses consider women employees as less productive since they can not stay late in office.
“All critical roles are given to men no matter how competent the female is !”
They do not care that men who regularly stay late in office are poor in their time management. If work done is same, why should the extra hours given so much importance ? And why should staying late encouraged so much ? Life is much more than work for both men and women.
In almost all offices, there exists a huge gap between pay of male employees and female employees. From Bollywood to small town theaters, from IT industry to laborers, from premier universities to small village schools everywhere this discrimination stands as the fundamental reality. Bitter truth which no one dares to speak against !
Few samples gathered in our survey (names have been changed for the sake of anonymity) -
- “One person who is of my caliber, same position is paid three times of what i am paid and my pay will be based on performance is what the HR says.” — Avantika, A software engineer in an MNC Corporation in Bengaluru
- “Same position, same job, same timings and same skills but difference in salaries when it comes to females and males as males are considered the bread earners of the family and women’s income is a side income.” — Sachi, A software engineer in a Bengaluru based IT startup.
- “Your overall performance was good and you did come for all recruitment drives on weekends but so many times there was no weekend support so we will see how the appraisal goes is what the HR says.” — Sarti, An HR manager in an MNC in Hyderabad.
- “I don’t want to hire a female employee in my team as she will not be as competitive as men and they have several home issues. They will not stay back till late in office and will not work on weekends.” — Sanjay, A senior financial analyst in an E commerce company in Kolkata.
- “Without even discussing with the female colleague a replacement was found when the lady went for maternity leave and when she came back the position is filled and she was given a junior role in the same team.” — Shilpa, A digital specialist in a renowned company in Hyderabad.
However not all is doomed ! Office environment is still much better than home or general society. Corporate companies are becoming increasingly stringent about gender discrimination and wherever they find loopholes they are prompt in plugging them up.
Recently many companies have openly taken side of their women employee in sexual harassment cases even when C-Level executives were involved. Young generation employees in offices today are generally under Perception Level 6 or 7. They actively encourage working women helping them as much as possible.
Still the situation is far from ideal !
- Society and Relatives(S)
After home and office, society forms the third biggest block of a working woman’s life. At a broader level, home and office are also part of society as a whole and therefore they are also influenced by its thinking.
Majority of Indian society (in villages and small towns) still falls under Perception Levels 1 to 4. Most men and women think that women are inferior to men in intelligence and abilities. Therefore men should work in office and women should take care of home and children. A woman’s world is centered around and limited to caring for husband, in-laws and children. Any woman going out for work is given different labels ranging from ignorant, foolish and unchaste to even loose character !
Most people think that nature has made women only for fulfilling men’s need for sex and producing children. They do not have any intellectual abilities whatsoever. Therefore best they can do is to stay at home and take care of their “natural” duties.
Unfortunately, this thinking has been deeply rooted in Indian society since time immemorial. Result has been the oppression of women class so much so that now many women accept it as their natural fate.
“What people around you think moulds your own thinking in the same way”
They think that being a good mother, sister, daughter-in-law is “the goal” of their lives. They take pride in obeying men of their house and continue to follow what the elders say without questioning it even once.
Few samples gathered in our survey (names have been changed for the sake of anonymity) -
- “When the man brings in good money and woman is working, society says they are educated women why should they not contribute? But when the man is unable to earn enough money and woman is working then society sarcastically comments that poor woman has to work due to financial problems, her husband is useless.” — Aastha, an Artist (Entrepreneur) in Chennai.
- “When there is a function in the family and husband does not attend it is considered ok. People think he must be busy with his office work. But if the wife does not show up, people comment — how can she not show up after all it’s her duty.” — Prachi, Content Lead in a well known startup in Delhi.
- “If someone is sick at home it is only the duty of the woman to take care of that person. She should take leave from office and stay at home. Only then she is considered a good woman or a woman with SANSKAR.” — Rashmi, A Housewife(previously working) from middle class family in Delhi.
- “When all the men are eating and something falls down only women in the house should clean it as if house cleanliness is only their responsibility and not of the men. And if she does not do it people comment — OH MY GOD! what a useless lady — NO SANSKAR NO ETIQUETTE’S.’’ — Rani, An HR executive in a well known startup in Mumbai.
- “When a lady invites her friends at home she has to wake up early, prepare food for everyone and keep it ready before the friends come. However if the men of the family invite their friends at home it is responsibility of the lady to make sure food is ready before the friends arrive and even serve it to them as that is only her duty.” — Hiran, A Housewife from a well known family in Bengaluru.
- “When i asked my dad one day to take his lunch on his own saying it is kept on the dining table, my uncles and aunts came home and gave me emotional lecture about how much my parents have invested in me and i am not helping my mother in house work. Being a girl it is a shame that you do not serve your brother and dad and expect them to take their food on their own. They told me that it is the responsibility of the women of the house that the family members are fed well.” — Srishti, 3rd year student of engineering in NIT Allahabad.
That being said, society is becoming better now though improvement process is very slow. There are many people falling under Perception Levels 5 and 6. They understand that in today’s society there is no difference between a man and a woman when it comes to work. In fact, many are now encouraging their sisters, wives, daughters, daughters-in-law to go all out and achieve their dreams !
However the number of such men and women is extremely small. Even amongst them, many have ulterior motives. They encourage their women to work simply to get extra income from their salaries. Actually they act more out of greed for money than real respect for women. Almost in all cases, husbands and in-laws expect woman to simultaneously take complete care of the house and children (like a housewife) and also do their work in office. Is this easy to do so ? It will be a good exercise if husbands are given this challenge for few days to realize how tiresome and challenging a life it is !
Perception Level 7 is still very rare in society.
This perception of society is the root cause of all crimes against women !
Formula of Women Empowerment
“You can not improve what you can not measure.”
Therefore here we are proposing a simple formula to measure women’s empowerment in any given society. Actual formula could be much more complex but here we were interested in a general quantification and this formula serves our purpose very well.
As we saw earlier — Home, Office and Society are three distinct zones affecting a woman’s life. Each of them has been allotted different weightage in the formula to calculate the overall score for society. This is given as below.
Home = 50%
Office = 30%
Society = 20%
At the end of the survey, each of them has been given a score on basis of survey done according to Perception Scale listed in the beginning of this article. Then the overall score for Women Empowerment in Society(WE) is calculated as per formula given below.
Woman Empowerment(WE) = ((H*5 + O*3 + S*2)/(10*7) * 100
H = Score of Home Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7)
O = Score of Office Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7)
S = Score of Society Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7)
All H,S and O are also weighted scores.
For example, if 60% households are under perception 2 and 30% under perception 3 and 10% under perception 6, then overall score O is -
H = (.6*2 + .3*3 + .1*6)/(1) *(7) = 3.9
Results of the Survey
So, Overall Score of Home Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7) =
= (.32 * 1) + ( .14 * 2) + (.12*3) + (.21 * 4) + (.21*6) = 2.52
So, Overall Score of Office Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7) =
= (.06 * 1) + ( .28 * 4) + (.28*6) + (.39 * 7) = 1.18 + 1.68 + 2.73 = 5.59
- Society & Relatives(S)
So, Overall Score of Society Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7) = (.17 * 1) + ( .17 * 2) + (.05*3) + (.35 * 4) + (.17*6) + (.11 * 7) = 3.08
So now here as found in our survey,
H = Score of Home Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7) = 2.52
O = Score of Office Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7) = 5.59
S = Score of Society Environment on the Scale of Perceptions (1–7) = 3.08
Woman Empowerment(WE) in Current Indian Society = ((H*5 + O*3 + S*2)/(10*7)) * 100 = ((2.52*5 + 5.59*3 + 3.08*2)/(10*7))*100 = (12.6 + 16.77 + 6.16)*10/7 = 50.75%
Home situation is worst when it comes to supporting women to work. Society is little better since there are few people in society who are more liberal and support women to work. At office we can not say that situation is the best but it is still much better compared to home and society.
Wake up Society !!
Everybody should be loved, cared and encouraged to do what they want to do irrespective of their gender. If a girl shows inclinations towards career, she should be encouraged to do so. If the girl wants to do the household chores and take care of the family, it should absolutely be her choice. There should not be any compulsion or force on her to do certain things which others think she should do.
Families should not discourage their girls. If she does not want to cook, do not force her. If she does not want to knit, she should not be made to feel bad about it. Let her do what she likes to do. Flame the sparks where they are. Development of the society comes when everyone is happy and doing what they like doing. Let’s make women happy !
Looking at above figures we have far far way to go. Let’s join our hands and take a vow to not allow any more suppression of women in any form. Let’s give them the respect they deserve as an important contributor to society. All the best !!
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