Are we merely paying lip service to greater gender inclusion in the corporate world? Satynmag readers must know. This is about gender gap in the corporate world.
It’s fashionable news – the inclusion of gender on the report card in the boardroom. From the board down to the senior management and of course down the ranks with the flow down effect. But the actual results apparently don’t match up to the rhetoric, or so it seems. It’s good to talk gender inclusion, admit that more women need to be represented on the board etc but in reality, where are they? Women work and women also play a key role in the corporate world.
Gender inclusion –
This has less to do with jaw than making real time changes that are felt in the corporate world. If we seriously are committed to gender inclusion in the workplace, we have to act it out louder, bigger, better. Fundamental to this would be to initiate a cultural change. A kind of change that starts usually at the bottom and goes all the way up. That’s the kind of thinking that corporate must imbibe with an open spirit, way beyond merely paying lip service to something that sounds so fashionable and sort of right -place –at- the- right- time banter.
Flexi hours –
For starters, corporates can embrace the requirements of achieving gender balance in a more meaningful way – bringing in changes such as flexi hours, offering day care and support facilities, work from home arrangements which are all excellent options. Whether you are able to fit them into your company culture is something to be figured out at an individual level. But change happens when we start making the kind of choices that will empower and open the way for gender inclusion in a realistic way.
Fear of maternity leave –
Many may not spell it out but they have unconscious reservations and gender stereotypes in the back of their heads. One cannot blame them because those reservations usually come from very justifiable circumstances. There was once a CEO I met who expressed his honest reservations about hiring women who would then get married and raise a family – he feared the time taken for pregnancy and child rearing and the gaps in between. This was a while ago – before working online became a reality and flexi hours wasn’t even on the radar for many. Others may fear that for the same reasons, women may not be able to reach their full potential and in the process, not meet the success levels required.
Growing family beckons –
The women themselves sometimes confirm this. Many are heard to announce mid-career that they need to give up work to focus on the growing family – justifiably so. But that’s the very time they need the support and the help of the company to enable them to make the transition successfully – a few years down the road, some of them maybe itching to get back to work even though they may not verbalize it. Yet we all know that someday, there comes a time when the children are grown and the mothers find themselves with time on their hands, a brain that still works well and can contribute tremendously to corporate success.
On the part of the women themselves, one of the things they would need to manage transition and career building is sound mentorship without the frills sans mere opportunities to showcase their success. As stated here, sometimes women themselves get off the boat – citing child rearing and other responsibilities, which are downright real and issues that must be dealt with. But we are talking about choosing a middle ground here. Bring more space into the concept of gender inclusion so that we can have a win-win situation that hopefully will spur greater things.
Mentoring can go a long way in building gender inclusion – it would fill the gaps when the women themselves feel they have less to give when the career becomes demanding – and usually at the same time, you have a demanding family at home. Can we ease off a little mid-career, choose options and then perhaps come back when the kids are older and more settled? Such options would boost the chances of actual gender inclusion in a far better and a meaningful way than just talking about it and hoping somehow than change can be embraced with a jaw. Of course, there are many women who have done this brilliantly well, thanks to extended family and a co-operative spouse. It can be done. It needs to sink into the minds of young women starting out.
Gender game –
Those currently serving in key positions would ideally fulfill the role of mentors to younger women – but it needs to be initiated not just as a cultural alteration but also as an all inclusive effort to up the gender game at a corporate level. Otherwise, and unfortunately so, not all women would reach out to the younger ones. There are accusations of women who achieve key corporate positions of becoming men themselves – they lose the gender edge and merge with the boys, which puts them outside the reachable distance of younger mid-career women. If such achievers can come down a peg or two from their ivory towers and mentor the women down below, then it is quite possible that gender inclusion can work well and integrate marvelously. Not that all women in senior positions are the same – there are many who are gracious enough to mentor younger ones but they don’t seem to be in the majority.
Although we have seen some amount of interest generated in gender inclusion at all levels, it has yet to seep down in a way that actually changes the numbers. That hasn’t happened yet and chances are may not happen for a while – cultural transformation and the inclusion of newer, flexible work practices are strategic here to initiate change. The sooner we realize that the better it will be for all.