By Farhat Zishan
“Any serious shift towards more sustainable society has to include gender equality.”
– Helen Clark, 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Contributions of women in the history of mankind have been profound and magnanimous, yet there are some particular pigeonholes and methods that have always been a barrier to fully execute equal rights among both men and women. Some are quite apparent; others are not so. When the word empowerment is used for women, most believe it to be a ragged war against men or hate against men and a need to get back of rights from them. However, it is completely different from the contrary belief.
Empowerment is a progressive system, therefore, it cannot be given out to people single-handedly. It is an individual as well as a collective process and most importantly it is something to be aware of. Awareness in groups and collective collaboration are important in order to bring in change. People feel powerless in many ways of life and empowerment is the desire to have more control over those parts of life. Empowerment cannot be described in one definition mainly because it has different dimensions and depths, most importantly, this is for the greater good for both men and women to break out of their stereotype roles in the society and to be able to achieve a more free-lifestyle.
WHERE DOES THE DISCRIMINATION HAPPEN?
Now that we are living in the 21st century in all its glory and conscious about things from right and wrong; we have seen progressive development in all sectors of the world and contributions made by women and men equally. There is no longer the old school ideals for women being at home and a man cannot parent a child alone; there are no longer myths that bind us. However, there is no end to the battle of equal rights yet, since some thoughts and barriers still linger.
The need for gender equality in workplaces has been recognized as a crucial topic of importance for decades now; and while we have seen progress, there are still companies that have failed to maintain their standards to the correct proportions. In many places, women are still under-represented within various organizations. Equality of opportunity between men and women is a key indicator of long –term social stability and economic prosperity.
Gender inequality in workplaces continued to be a subject over the past few years, and this is where companies do fail for the systems:
Companies, when recruiting new members, have a tendency to lean to some extent of their preferred gender more for the roles instead of looking into their merits for the job. There have been multiple cases of complaints and lawsuits over the last decade to sue certain companies for such discrimination. For reasons like this, the UK has made protocols to follow for recruitment programs which can be viewed easily in CPID websites. Any candidate needs to be judged purely on merit for job applications unless stated clearly otherwise.
- Paid-Leave Programs
This is probably where all companies hit the ground most of the times. Over the years it has decreased considerably as many international companies have changed their guidelines. The topic of discussion is about maternal and paternal leave for both men and women. There have been many cases of pregnant women being denied flexible work hours and instead offered an unpaid maternity leave until they can join back in completely. There have been also cases where single fathers were denied paternity leave as men do not go through pregnancy. While this norm is shifting to positives, this is mostly where organizations make the most ruckus and get a hefty lawsuit against them.
A lack of support during pregnancy and the difficulties that arise with childcare and work account for many women’s decision to leave a full-time job. It is also difficult to join in after a work break because within the time that was lost, the experience can never be returned while their male counterparts have made progress and promoted to greater heights. This is truly a lost opportunity, for the women’s affected and the global economy deprived of the skills they could have provided.
- Mentorship and Workshops Systems
In a ‘gender parity’ survey done by the Global Women’s Leadership Council, almost seventy-five percent of the employees agree that company initiatives for flex work programs or mentorship aren’t effective. Women are not highlighted in company events and almost three-quarters of this percentage believe that their company takes no initiative for gender parity training for their existing members. There is a lack of female leaders for others to take inspiration from. Until 2010, even Forbes featured 3% women in their 500 CEO highlights program even though women leading in the workplace is 50% in the U.S. The world is progressing and so are females.
- Promotions and Remuneration Programs
As odd and sad it may be, there are many companies both in the first world as well as developing countries that choose to pay different amounts to the same designation of people because of their genders and it is also accepted. Except a few that have been filed for law-suits, most of these organizations get away. An open survey conducted on collective bonuses received yearly, a female employee was denied in the case of most of her bonuses by their manager; which also, later on, turned into heated news in the media and the worker was compensated correctly. Most of these problems are due to being unaware of rights as an employee and not being able to stand up for the rights.
ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE FAILED IN THE SYSTEM
International companies and western organizations set the standard for many others to follow, yet even they have messed up while trying to get the perfect balance for their employees. While some systems are correct and some accusations haven’t seen a positive ending, there are many ups and downs that companies have faced and there is a lot to take in from them.
Here are a few over the last decade that are worth mentioning:
- Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
A capital venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers were sued in a $16 million lawsuit by a former employee for gender discrimination. The company was alleged that they overlooked her promotions on the basis of gender and was later on fired as a result of bringing this issue to light. Even though the employee lost the case, it still drew a huge amount of scrutiny to the underrepresentation and experiences of women in this field.
- Google – New York
A former engineer at Google (now working with Slack) had created an open spreadsheet in 2006 that enabled employees to fill out their salaries and share information more broadly within the company that was filled up by 5% of the workers there. At Google, employees can give remuneration as a nod of good work to their fellow employees, while this employee in concern was denied seven of her bonuses by her manager which was all mentioned in the spreadsheet. Other than that, she was also penalized for creating the spreadsheet.
- United Parcel Service – UPS
A former UPS worker’s healthcare ended when the company denied her special adjustments according to her doctor’s prescription where it was written that she was unable to lift 70 pounds during her pregnancy with her daughter. Instead, the company chose to opt for unpaid leave. Later on the same year, the Supreme Court decided on the employee’s favor which now has resulted in UPS making special accommodations for workers with special health conditions as well as pregnant women enabling them to continue working.
ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE DOING IT RIGHT
The gender gap is one of the biggest contentious diversity problems in the work world. These are just a few on many companies that have taken steps to correct the issue and provide their workers with a more open and equal environment for all to help every single employee to their full potential and help the global economy thrive in their skills:
Gusto is a cloud-based HR and payroll software company in the United States. The company started its journey to gender parity when one of their software engineers Julia Lee had asked the co-founder and chief technology officer Edward Kim for a meeting where she identified that she was the only female in the engineering team and revealed how she was dismissed before because of her gender. Kim was amenable and made a point to find out all the root causes of the gender norms of other tech companies and their own.
As depressing as the results were, HR teams came up with strategies to handle the delicate issue. Adverts for recruitments were modified to be open to both males and females so that no words would particularly reach out to any gender biases. They also made sure to hire equal ratios judging according to their merits to ensure no gender is discriminated against, regardless of being male or female. Other than that they also made sure to have a generous remuneration for first-time parents for 16-months to help them with all necessities.
Duolingo’s CEO and co-founder – Luis von Ahn had taken to twitter highlight how the company reached a fifty-fifty gender ratio for new recruits for software engineers. The post was met with angry male candidates instead, who were complaining about how hires should have been based on talents instead of mandating the gender ratio. The co-founder easily backed up this issue as the hires were made from top universities with nearly perfect CGPA scores alongside amazing recommendations and thorough assessment process.
Other than this, Duolingo had stated to continue its commitment to promoting diversity and gender parity in the workplace through all actions, both internal and external.
While examining the pay gap, Salesforce has given out six million dollars in the year 2016 to compensate the imbalance created over the years. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff as a promise made during a HuffPost interview stating – “My job is to make sure that women are treated 100pc equally at Salesforce in pay, opportunity, and advancement.” He also followed up saying he will act correctly on the gender pay gap, for which this protocol was taken. It is a display of how strong the actions of leaders can be in the world, and actions that can be taken to ensure the loyalty of their workers for a company.
Bloomberg’s editor in chief John Micklethwait announced a new policy for employees regarding outside communications or news. It is to promote gender equality both within the newsroom and outside as well. It has become a requirement to take at least one female in any panel for a Bloomberg journalist to participate. “At the risk of stating the obvious, the woman could be you,” Micklethwait specified.
If the terms and conditions are not met, the journalists will be declined unless there are requisitions of an all-male panel with the right reasons. With this, he addressed that it will maintain a standard for all upcoming events excluding a certain few as mentioned before. This has opened opportunities for the female journalists to highlight their skills, even though the proportions are small, it is a leap and a start for standard changes in the organizational system.
Equality is not a one-day procedure rather it takes time and effort from all sides of society, an organization, and a country to help achieve what we are looking for today – an ideal place where all genders are looked into as equals. Slowly but steadily, companies are making approaches to reach a diverse platform where all genders and all races can look past their differences and work as equals in their respective workplace. Some organizations will be faster in the process than others, but we can surely see the visible changes in protocols and policies to help achieve this dream of equality.