Exploring the effects of patriarchy on women in corporate

Aditi Chakraborty
Workplace and Women
6 min readNov 21, 2023

There’s hardly any women on the board of this company

There are no women leaders in my organization

We don’t see a lot of women in leadership positions

Have you heard people say these lines or have you found yourself saying these lines when talking about different organizations? Unfortunately all of these are true and need active attention by leaders and changemakers to actually make a change.

But what do I mean when I say patriarchy might be the underlying cause of it. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the challenges women face in a workplace. With my limited experience, I am exploring situations in white collared jobs as against daily wage workers, gigs and other forms of employment. But I am sure some of these challenges will be applicable there as well! Breaking down some major challenges, causes and possible outcomes because of this.

Breaking into the industry — Men are often preferred for roles that have longer work hours, considered more difficult. Women are often not considered for roles such as these and they are considered more for people management roles, roles that involve less tech. Basically it is more difficult to break into STEM roles for women. It probably starts at a very young age where women are not given enough support to take up anything in STEM. Fear is largely the reason given for women in taking up safer roles. Fear of failure, fear of being judged or often fear of being compared against others.

Networking — Since the industry has been largely dominated by men for ages, it is a common practice for them to go out and often take business outside. It could be clubs, drinking, parties or meetups in general. Women are often at a disadvantage here. It’s probably okay for younger women to join the group though there is definitely an awkwardness due to the fact that most seniors or leaders are men. Now add on the responsibility of marriage and/or kids to the equation and it often becomes impossible for women to socialize as much as men. A lot of women have reportedly said that major business decisions have been made outside office beyond office hours and they could do nothing much about it! Men have often said it’s not been intentional. But do you see the gap?

Pay packages and differentiated treatment — An article in Forbes states — “Women are still paid less than men, even in the same job.” While I understand times are changing and women are being paid fairly in a lot of scenarios , there is a huge but. It is a fact that only women who ask for it, argue or fight about it often get the same or more compensation. It shouldn’t have to be a struggle for women everywhere across any roles. According to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the gender pay gap in India stands at 27% as of 2023. This means that, on average, women in India earn 73% of what men earn for doing the same job.

Asking for more — It has now become a woman’s responsibility to ask for more if she wants. This may indicate that women are not naturally considered for positions or not given the same respect as men in similar shoes. This might also highlight that only “aggressive”, “outspoken” and “overambitious” women tend to get jobs in leadership positions because they asked for it and might seem to be committed to the role. Any other woman might get a chance when there aren’t competent men around. Radhika Gupta, CEO of Edelweiss Mutual Fund, India has reportedly said that she got this role because she asked for it. There are so many women out there who are afraid to ask or do not believe in their potential because that was the norm for them, growing up. Never speak out of turn, behave themselves, be happy & satisfied with what they have.

Lack of diversity initiatives & lack of support by partners and families — Most workplaces take great pride in calling themselves inclusive and having Diversity and inclusion programs (DEI). But often most of them are at surface level and do not go deep in supporting women. Granted, women get a 26 weeks maternity leave in most organizations, what about after that? So many women drop out of careers especially during this crucial period because it is expected from them — partners, families and demanding workplaces. TCS, an IT firm in India said that they saw a huge number of resignations from women when they made WFO mandatory. WFH was a revolution for women, especially for mothers. Diversity should have included this. Diversity is not just hiring new employees to the workforce but supporting who are already there in ways that actually matter!

Gender bias and discrimination — More than 25 years ago the social psychologist Faye Crosby stumbled on a surprising phenomenon: Most women are unaware of having personally been victims of gender discrimination and deny it even when it is objectively true and they see that women in general experience it. Many women have worked hard to take gender out of the equation — to simply be recognized for their skills and talents. Moreover, the existence of gender bias in organizational policies and practices may suggest that they have no power to determine their own success. When asked what might be holding women back in their organizations, they say:“I just feel less of a connection, either positive or negative, with the guys I work with. So sometimes I seem to have difficulty getting traction for my ideas or getting more support.”

Discriminated role identities — You rarely expect women to be in CEO roles and are often surprised by it. Traditionally HR and people management roles have been led by women whereas sales, finance and revenue based roles have men leaders. Again, it is up to us to question why this happens. It is normally a stereotype where women choose HR roles vs. Finance or Investment Banking known to be traditionally helmed by men. You look at marketing and HR roles dominated by women and very less, perhaps in Finance and Operations.

Most important reason — Workplaces do not have policies to support women during childbirth. Like Indra Nooyi says — “The biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other.” When it’s time for women to have babies they are often at crucial stages in their careers, probably in mid- management positions and they often have to let career take a back-seat while their kids grow up. Only families that support women whole-heartedly and workplaces too, can rise without any breaks. A special mention here where often partners have been known to not help with the daily responsibilities because they become sole earners and often need to spend extra time at work. It takes a village to raise a child, and that includes workplaces and family, relatives.

It seems to be a vicious cycle. Women are expected to take care of their family and kids and because they have to do this, they get penalized on the work front by losing out on opportunities, missing on career progression and have to often leave their jobs and roles or in most cases, almost start from 0 because very few companies have re-hiring programs that can get them jobs at the levels they left in. India seems to rank really low on women in leadership roles. Less than 14% of senior or leadership roles have women in it. (Source: Image below)

In top levels of the organization, since there are so few women and they face a lot of bias, stigma and criticism most women often tend to become risk averse. They try to stick to what they know instead of exploring newer industries roles and growing.

I don’t know if it is societal conditioning or if women are born to be nurturers naturally. The world does not seem to have a place for the role that women and mothers play in shaping lives. Not just having children, but supporting families, husbands, women are often the backbone of the house. Patriarchy or situations that favour men. If workplaces do not start becoming actually inclusive and I mean provide all the support needed, without removing any incentive off the table, we will continue to have a world where women are overworked, tired, and under-appreciated. There is no one in the world who does not know that is a recipe for unhappiness across the world.

Less than 14% of senior or leadership roles have women in it in India.

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Aditi Chakraborty
Workplace and Women

A freelance Web designer. I help people start profitable side-hustles by offering key marketing skills — Social media management, web design, copywriting & more