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Dear India Inc., It’s Time To Do Away With Tokenism Of Women's Day

Gender inequality is a complex issue that cannot be solved overnight or by celebrating one day.
Dear India Inc., It’s Time To Do Away With Tokenism Of Women's Day
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Dear India Inc., what all activities did you unleash this Women’s Day? Gave gift coupons to your women staff, hosted a nice lunch for them? Perhaps, you got the women together for an intimate chat session? Was there a zumba class, marathon or yoga meditation session? Women’s Day T-shirt—for all? Was there a dress code?

These are all great mood lifters, but did you use this day to actually, really address the issues that have led to the creation of such a moment? 

  • How many women leaders are in your organisation?

  • How many women moved from middle management to senior positions?

  • Are women and men equally paid in your organisation?

  • Do you have flexi work hours, work-from-home options? 

As the festivities die down, let’s pledge to move beyond tokenism. Unfortunately, this isn’t just an India problem.

In China, many women are given a half-day off work on March 8.

In Italy, women are gifted a flower called mimosa blossoms. 

In the U.S. we celebrate Women’s History Month. 

And, of course, every country has a Women’s Day sale. Lots of shopping happens and brands make a lot of money.

A lot of companies are organising talks—on mental health, gynaec issues, financial freedom—which is great. But, when these same women go back to work, are their colleagues and line managers understanding their issues? We are addressing all the issues that women go through without involving men.

Some companies with relatively evolved DEI programmes are getting senior women leadership to talk to the women workforce and share experiences—which is great for inspiring young women, but is there an effort to listen? To perhaps listen to the issues that women in your organisation may be going through. To listen and find how you can make your workplace better for their growth. To listen and find what are the bottlenecks in their career path. Or for that matter, to the crucial issue of gender pay gap. 

There’s some good news that did emerge from Australia, where Katy Gallgher, the Finance Minister, introduced a new bill that states that any company that employs more than 100 people must publish pay gap data. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, in 2020, the national gender pay gap in Australia was 13.4%.

According to the latest data from the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021, India ranks 140th among 156 countries in terms of the gender pay gap. The report found that women in India earn, on average, only 23.3% of what men earn. Is your company actively doing something about this? If not, this should be your goal.

Women’s Day should be about what can be done to make the workspace a better place for women. If you are conducting a mentoring workshop or a career development session, just once a year on Women’s Day—you are not achieving anything. This exercise has to be part of an annual plan.  Recession-hit companies are already cutting down on their DEI and workshop budgets—so companies now need to prioritise how they want to help their women employees.

As the embers settle on Women’s Day, let me leave you with some news and statistics coming from across the world:

  • Women in India are falling off the workforce—from 32% in 2005, to 19% in 2021. 

  • A new report by the National Family Health Survey suggested that only 32% of married women aged between 15 to 49 years are employed. 

  • Women hold only 15% of C-suite roles in India. 

  • Women hold only 17.1% positions in companies' boards.

  • Post-Covid, 17% women lost their jobs and they continue to get laid off even now.

  • 85% of the married women who earn cash say that they make decisions alone or jointly with their husbands on how their cash earnings are used.

  • Women across the world are struggling to balance their roles as caregivers and workers.

  • Women are increasingly facing microaggression and harassment—more than ever before.

  • Women struggle to work at the same pace as men after maternity.

These are all plain facts. Adding to this are some stark headlines. 

  • Women in South Korea are on a strike against being forced to become ‘baby making machines’. 65% women do not want to have children, they don’t want to get married and this is how they are choosing to fight patriarchy.

  • Japan has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, with many women choosing to delay or forgo marriage and parenthood due to economic and social factors, such as a lack of affordable childcare and limited opportunities for women in the workforce.

  • Almost one in three women across the world and in India have experienced gender-based violence—physical, sexual, emotional, or  psychological—at least once in their lifetime, says a WHO study published in 2021. 

  • Women make up 80% of all refugees and displaced people. 

We need to make equity and safety for women long-term commitments: Gender inequality is a complex issue that cannot be solved overnight or by celebrating one day.

Watch the full video here:

Mugdha Kalra is a journalist with over 20 years of experience. She is a renowned inclusivity expert and was chosen as one of BBC100Women, 2021.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BQ Prime or its editorial team.

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