I have been quite conflicted on the state of women in our society today, certain things fill me up with so much joy, inspiration and hope and some leave me with immense grief and a sense of hopelessness:
Women of Substance: Women have come a long way from being mere passive observers where men held the reins of their life. Not only are they changing their lives but are leaving a huge impact on the world and future generations, be it New Zealand ‘s Prime minister: Jacinda Ardern or Christine Lagarde who is heading the Central European Bank or be it Whitney Wolfe ,founder of Bumble who raised a $2.15 billion IPO or be it one of many extraordinary women you know, who are making a mark for themselves.
Body autonomy: Texas recently BANNED ABORTION resulting in increased financial, emotional and physical burden on women, setting a precedence that even an unborn fetus is more important than a fully-grown woman. Clearly, NO FREEDOM OF CHOICE FOR WOMEN in the world’s primary DEMOCRACY. While, countries like France are making laws(free abortion and contraceptives) that reduce the pressure on women from unwanted pregnancies and giving women financial freedom to have more autonomy on their own body.
Women: People or Objects? Opening the news and not seeing or reading about violence, sexual abuse against women is a rare day. When the #Metoo movement happened, it was a rude but much needed awakening for societies and organizations. With the Taliban taking over ,the thought of women being physically, sexually abused and being treated as mere objects who exist for the sole pleasure of men and bearing them sons is nauseating.
In addition to this, Covid has had a brutal impact on women in particular, due to loss of jobs, increase in unpaid work, additional family responsibilities : elder care, child care, domestic work etc. It will now take more than 135 years to close the gender gap up from 99 years in 2020, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report.
I, being an entrepreneur myself have seen both sides of the coin:
Talent & Skills: I have been fortunate to work with some awesome women and in my experience, I have found women to be more accountable, empathetic, dependable, detail oriented, and as intelligent and hard working as men.
Struggles: But, in certain instances, I have personally struggled and seen some other women struggle while negotiating salaries or pushing for payments, being hesitant to take credit, prioritizing work over family responsibilities, building bigger networks. Even according to LinkedIn, depending on their location, women are 14 -38% less likely to network than men leading to less referrals, missed opportunities, increased gender earnings and promotion gap. Also, a lot of times networking happens socially, outside work in restaurants, bars and at the golf course and a majority of women aren’t usually a part of this.
Funding Disparity: In addition to this, women often face obstacles while getting funding for their ventures, lesser- funding, equity and valuations and these disparities are further aggravated in male dominated fields. Companies with at least one female founder generate 78 cents of revenue for every dollar of venture funding, while male-led startups generate roughly 31 cents. Yet startups with only female founders receive just 3% of total invested dollars globally.
It becomes integral to attack this problem on all fronts : political, economic, sociological etc. and at various levels: local, corporate, national and international. An important aspect of gender equality is representation across different sectors and financial autonomy and I believe Corporations can play a pivotal role, some measures that could be helpful are mentioned below :
Accountability: Organizations need to be accountable to reduce their gap in hiring women, transgenders as well as insuring EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK. Having women as a part of hiring and compensation panels. Sexual harassment committee’s need to be mandatory even in smaller organizations. 98% of companies have a corporate sexual harassment policy, but only 51% implemented new policies or training in response to the #metoo movement. Companies can tie up with cutting edge solutions like ALLY where they could educate their staff on these topics. The inclusive work environment needs to keep on evolving along with the time. Earlier, one might not have even considered how asking someone if they ‘re planning to have kids before a promotion is inappropriate. But given the current scenario it’s very important that we realise our biases and correct them beforehand.
Women Mentorship/Networking Programmes
It allows for more candid, honest and open flowing conversations and can really help women to grow. Having interactions with other accomplished women in different fields will help them break barriers to enter male dominated fields. This can also lead to more funding of women led startups down the line.
Work from Home Opportunity
This allows them flexibility like never before, they can take care of their families and work as well. WFH also saves on travel time, helps avoiding family restrictions etc. But on the contrary if a lot of domestic work responsibilities are on them as well, it may lead to burnout in some cases.
Options for Extendable Maternity leave, Paternity leave, Period leave, Day care for children, Healthcare benefits for employees and families, travel arrangements, Back to Office Programmes, Skills training are some policies that may help in improving their work-life balance and reducing attrition.
Even though things are drastically evolving, societies and people still suffer from years of cultural hangover, where even if women are as educated and talented, they are still not seen as primary breadwinners. I truly believe it’s integral to make all genders an equal part of the world in all spheres of life. This would ensure a more balanced, happier, safer, thoughtful and an empowered world. And even though it’s a tough road ahead full of bumps, women have come a long way and gender gaps and traditional stereotypes are being challenged at every turn, there has to be light at the end of the tunnel. Hoping and working for a better world and the place of women in it .
Saanya Sachdev is an entrepreneur with 2 STEM degrees from India and UK. She believes that this generation will play a pivotal role in implementing the changes needed for women empowerment and reducing the gender gap.
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