Sexism at the workplace is not always loud or visible. Anindita Ghosh identifies the subtle signs that give away
the biases at work
For a woman, it is often not enough to have the right qualifications, dedication, and the ability to work really hard to get ahead in the workplace. Not when you have to battle bias and discrimination from employers and co-workers to get the kind of pay and promotions that you deserve. Rhea Sen, 30, data analyst, was
dismayed to find that her company had totally ignored her for a plum overseas assignment even though she had all the right qualifications. “When I asked my boss, he seemed surprised that I had even wanted to go considering that I have a young child. Given the chance, I would have figured out a way to sort my family issues.”
This is only one of the ways in which women face bias at the workplace. We sought professional advice so the next time you’re faced with discrimination, you can recognise and deal with it. You don’t need anybody’s permission to be as ambitious as the next guy.
Whether it is being passed over for a promotion because you are going off on maternity leave or being
ignored for challenging assignments because you have a child, the assumption that women lose their commitment and focus once they have a child can undermine you in sneaky ways. “Motherhood does not diminish a woman’s capability. Instead, she improves by becoming more thoughtful, responsible and adept at
time management,” says Shachi Irde, executive director, Catalyst India, WRC, a non-profit that works towards workplace inclusion.
DEAL WITH IT: Impress upon your company that you deserve your promotion based on past performance and that you are committed to the organisation and intend on coming back to work after your leave is over. “Talk about your career aspirations to the management. Also when you are on leave, keep in touch with colleagues; call up to find out what’s happening. This is important to ensure that you are not forgotten and that the company
realises that you are invested in it,” says Irde.
Besides motherhood, there is nothing that seems to scare the management more than a female employee’s impending wedding. “When I declared that I was getting married, my boss started behaving as if I had already put in my papers. I was being ignored and subtly written off. I could see that my manager already doubted my commitment to the company,” says Vineeta Chettri, 29, PR manager.
DEAL WITH IT: While it is unfair that your employer should start assuming that you are no longer invested in your company before actually asking you upfront about it, it is important for you to consider if and how things might change after you marry. “Do have an honest conversation with your future spouse and in-laws to explain how committed you are to your job and the kind of time you will have to devote to it. You don’t want any nasty surprises after marriage where you will be expected to manage the house, and need to adhere to family expectations that are in conflict with your job,” says Ir de.
1 Get men to be diversity champions. The onus of removing discrimination lies on them as well.
2 Raise awareness about invisible barriers. The company should focus on ways to shed stereotypes to reduce the impact of outrightb and unconscious bias.
3 Fully commit to being an equal opportunity employer and maintain that position.
4 Push for positive discrimination, especially in leadership roles. We need more women role models.
5 Put every opportunity for growth and advancement in front of women in leadership roles.
This is a tricky one. Remember all the times when your boss allowed you to go home early from work and excused you from all the stretch assignments so that you had plenty of time for your family? Well, it turns out that
having such a benevolent boss might not be such a good idea after all, especially when you find that at increment time you have been given an average rating and not considered for a promotion because you have not been staying back late at work, like the others!
DEAL WITH IT: It’s hard to deal with this because you are not at fault here. After all, you did not ask to be treated with kid gloves. “If you feel that you have performed at par with the rest of the team, have a chat with your boss and explain that while you know he has your best interests at heart, you want to take on more. And also that you will manage your personal life without his help!” says Irde.
Breaking the glass ceiling is often the toughest thing to do even if you have the right qualifications and the commitment. “It is a fact that there are very few women senior leadership roles. There are many women at the entry level and in middle management, but there are just not enough women in senior positions,” says Irde.
DEAL WITH IT: Research has shown that to get ahead, women need sponsors in the organisation— senior leaders who will vouch for them, speak for them in different forums to get their voices heard and take a risk on them. “When you have a sponsor, your visibility increases. And the way to get a sponsor in your organisation is by taking on stretch assignments, networking, making your work visible, speaking about your career aspirations and understanding the unwritten rules of the organisation,” says Irde. “Working away quietly will get you nowhere. Your work should be visible. Your work will not speak for you, you will have to speak about your work.”
MOVIES WITH POWERFUL FEMALE EMPLOYERS:
Anne Hathaway plays an endearingly human and capable CEO in The Intern.
Dame Judi Dench rocks as the meticulous boss M, in the James Bond series.
Helen Hunt holds her own as an ad whiz in What Women Want.