Something interesting happens across workplaces throughout the world. On 8th March, International Women’s Day, offices, workplaces including multinational companies take part in this global celebration by organizing events like seminars, conferences, luncheons. These focus on women-centric topics and discuss themes such as career opportunities available to women, portrayal of women in the media, importance of education, empowerment, better work life balance etc. A more informal approach to this is often, screening movies that are based on women’s issues or taking the workforce for an outing or keeping cupcakes at desks for women to feel special. Some go the extra mile and organize cooking sessions by men for women [role reversal], or so one may think.
Then, comes March 9th & wishes fade away, unused thank you cards get staked away, and life as we know it goes back to expecting more or less the same things we did on 7th March. People don’t change, our sub-conscious and conscious biases don’t go away!
What women experience at their workplace every day, is starkly different as compared to what men in the same organisation experience. But that is not what we are here to put forth. Today, let us analyse two simple questions that are often ignored.
#1. “Do we really need one specific day?”
Well, the main idea behind International Women’s Day was to commemorate the movement for women’s rights, in political, economic and social spheres. When it was first celebrated, it was a time for the rise of women to become equals to their male counterparts. With women gaining their right to vote, this movement gradually gained a worldwide status. But this was many decades ago. Since then, women have proved their mettle in the field of law, arts, education, business, medicine, media, technology and almost everywhere possible.
#2. “Does it really help to find concrete solutions?”
Surely, it is a great first step. But if theories are not brought into practice, if knowledge isn’t internalized and practically applied in day-to-day working, workplaces will still be far from achieving what the International Women’s Day set out to originally accomplish.
Let’s take a quick reality check, shall we?
- Gender pay: A research by the UN points out that on an average, women receive between 30 – 40 percent less pay than what men earn for the same work. Factors contributing to this include unconscious biases, occupational segregation, lower starting salaries, and positions for women among many others.
- Workplace harassment: This is extremely common at every level of any organisation, but often goes unreported. It isn’t limited to just sexual harassment and doesn’t necessarily preclude harassment between two people of the same gender either.
- Promotions and credits: A large share of women feel invisible at work, compared to their male colleagues and believe that they don’t get credit for their share of work, or that their contributions aren’t recognized. A lot of women also feel that often promotions are affected by an unconscious gender bias.
And of course, the age old ‘Battle Of Sexes’ continue. If equality is what is being debated, then why don’t we celebrate International Men’s Day with the same enthusiasm in our companies? Because somewhere, we know women have been cut a raw deal.
International Men’s Day, celebrated on June 17 every year, aims to address all problems affecting men and boys around the world. If we are talking about equality, it is only fair to say that issues that focus on men, such as health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, work pressure, and discrimination need just as much attention. Should our laws not change to include POSH for men? We should be celebrating International Men’s Day with the aim of bringing to light these lesser known issues with the same level of enthusiasm and passion, to bring the same level of equality to men as well.
A wise man once said, “When women are empowered, a society with stability is assured.” The force rides on the waves of change and the force is already with us. Gender diversity at workplace, policy changes, and awareness about rights as workers are steps that can strengthen women’s positions in organisations. And that is the equality we ought to seek!
So if you are wondering what is left to celebrate, here’s an action statement: Celebrate Behavioural Change and not an agenda/ or a tick mark in your KRA. Celebrate the beginning of a new era.