We keep talking of how women are now able to reach the top positions in the industries and how times are changing. While that is true, it is not to be denied that the journey for women to such positions is still extremely difficult and not all women with aspirations and ability can make it to the top. I personally would want to talk about some root causes to this concern before we talk about the issues at the corporate level.
Root Cause Analysis
We need to start looking at our homes, families, and the environment that we are brought up in before we start talking about the work place.
This is neither to portray women as weak nor to upset the men who experience just the opposite from their partners. This is not in that context nor do I claim that all men/women are like that.
Whether we accept or not, we still are a part of the patriarchal society where theoretically we may claim to give men and women the same status, same opportunities, same rights but when the situation arises, the expectations to maintain harmony and peace at home is usually from women and hence she is mostly the one who is expected to compromise, succumb, have men win the argument and more.
Women are considered the backbone of the family and hence the total burden of every part of the body lies on the backbone. As women, we tend to accept these as our imbibed values, responsibilities and it becomes our instinctive behaviour. And so, when we are out in the industry, we either behave in the same way despite carrying our aspirations deep in our hearts—working extremely hard and waiting for seniors to notice and reward us the position that we aspire to or try and play a different role which may create conflicts between our personalities at home and outside. It becomes a challenge to strike a balance as a result.
Women who are able to carry the same strong personality, in most case, can confirm how it affects their relationships because of the same reasons which make men find it difficult to accept or manage this side of the women.
The same upbringing unknowingly builds the egos of men and shape what men expect from the other gender and always have the priority. This impacts not just their personalities at home but everywhere. It becomes difficult for them to accept a woman’s leadership and gives rise to work politics. That is not solely their fault to be honest, but the way they were brought up.
Undoubtedly, there are women leaders who very appreciatively acknowledge the support, encouragement and sacrifices of their spouses that made their journey to the top much easier. Hence, such examples support the fact that for a woman, in the current social environment, to make this journey successful, an environment and support primarily from their family is so much equally important than the support from their employers to feel well-equipped and enabled emotionally, mentally and physically.
On the Work Front
The other challenge that is seen is that if a woman successfully reaches the top, there are judgments made about probabilities of her having a bad marriage, bad relationships, or making illegitimate compromises to reach that point in career. Why is that? A successful man at the top leadership positions can have a happy marriage, good relationships and could earn it purely based on his calibre but a successful woman is judged to have only one successful side of her life at a time.
Managers avoid hiring women for the fears that they may leave or relocate after marriage or get pregnant or may have issues with timings at work etc. Wouldn’t they expect their working wives to be moving cities with them or get pregnant and have their families? And the same men, for their own working wives, would have different opinions and expectations from their employers and still be least empathetic about other women working in their own teams. Unfortunately, even women managers are unconsciously biased against women.
How to Turn the Tide
All this creates an environment which makes it so much more difficult for women to be a successful leader than men. To change this for our future generations, it is pivotal that we change the way we bring up our children—bring up individual kids (and not daughters or sons) with the same ideologies, principles, and values, even in practise and develop a society making it excellence-based and not gender-based.
I have personally experienced what it means to have the trust beyond gender. Apart from observations in the industries for quite a few women co-workers and acquaintances, I have had some bitter experience of being politically agonised by peers and seniors to break me during my journey, but I was also fortunate enough to have a manager in one of my previous organisations who trusted me for who I was as an individual/professional. That not only helped me push my own boundaries but also explore myself deeper as a professional. That’s what works and that’s what is needed.