The road to gender equality in workplace passes through home.

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Quite a few panel of experts and task forces have been set up to strategize on how to increase women representation in workplaces. What does not get due attention is the glaring gender inequality when it comes to sharing household chores at home. Women are not only struggling with the gender gap at work but also with chores gap at home. Traditionally home and children responsibilities rested with a woman and that was fair when women stayed home full time to look after home and children. Even as women are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the workforce, women still do most of the household chores and childcare leading to working two shifts – one in office and second at home.

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Social structures, Attitudes and extreme Gender stereotypes .

Gender inequalities in all areas are rooted in social structures but also in attitudes,” As per Professor Gillian Robinson, of the University of Ulster. For centuries women have been seen as care taker of home and children. It is very hard for larger part of society to break that stereotype mould and see a woman as a person with her own career dreams and ambitions. The problem is acute in socially conservative countries such as India where a man spends only 19 minutes per day on household work . In India, if a husband helps with household chores and with child care, the mother-in-law does not appreciate it because she thinks it is a woman’s responsibility. Though the new generation is changing and supporting women pursuing their careers, the older generation is sticking to the stereotypical expectations from daughter in law to take care of home and children irrespective of working full time in a job.

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Few ways in which chores gap could be closed:

Be assertive. Set the ground rules on sharing household responsibilities in the beginning itself.

Whether it is arranged marriage or love, you keep the views on sharing household work as fundamental principle on which both must agree. If any man is just and fair, he should have no reasons to not agree to share the workload at home if both the partners are working full-time. Unless you ask for it, why would anyone let go of the privilege a man has been awarded to sit and be served hot meals on the table. It is a check at ideological level and compatibility on this shared value is key to continuing your career in future stages of life with increasing load of additional responsibilities. On a lighter note, if it works as any incentive to a man – it is said  that no woman argues with a man doing household chores.

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This data is for US households. For Indian households, time spent by men on household activities is just 19 minutes per day.

Outsourcing household work to third-parties.

If at all, you are in a situation where due to any reason, your husband can not share the workload at home, next best option is to outsource the work to a third-party, if you can afford it. It is still better than doing the unequal share of work at home. Though parenting and overseeing household management can not be outsourced and would need to be shared.

Social Messaging has to get right.

Only women are shown doing household chores such as laundry or cleaning dishes. You take any advertisement of any product used in household chores, you would invariably see a woman doing it. The correct and fair messaging showing men also doing house chores can play a positive role in closing chores gap at home. Lately there have been some advertisements(Ariel #ShareTheLoad, a very good one) showing how unfair it is for working women to do all the work at home in addition to their office work. Even if it doesn’t change anything immediately, such constant messaging through popular communication channels would increase the awareness and possibly wake up the conscious of men, leading to a favourable change in attitude towards sharing chores load at home

 Raise children teaching the value of equal allocation of work at home

Sons are being raised as they have no responsibilities at home and daughters are being raised as it is going to their duty to take care of everything at home. Real change will come when children would see both the parents doing household chores. A new study this year showed that daughters are more likely to envision working outside of the home if their dad did household chores.When young boys and girls would see their dad also cooking, doing laundry and dishes, they would automatically internalize that this is how household work should be managed between a husband and a wife. Children always believe what they see rather than what you tell them. Creating an equal and fair environment at home will go long way in raising children with right values and a society which is just and fair to all.

Closing gender gap at home is key to closing gender gap in workplaces

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In a fair and just world, house responsibilities should be equally shared between man and woman, if both are working full time. But it is not the reality, men are yet not volunteering to share the workload at home though it is changing slowly. Many a time, a woman has to leave her job and exit the workforce to take care of home/children full-time because she is not able to manage both. The path to gender equality  in workplaces passes through the gender equality at home. Till we don’t close the gender gap in managing household responsibilities, working women would be overburdened with responsibilities of work and home. Women would be forced to make compromises on career, aborting their ambitions and letting go of opportunities to fully realize their potentials. We are not going to see more women in corner offices and boardrooms until we see men more in kitchen and laundry rooms.

How Technology Disruptions are Empowering Women

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Technology disruptions are transforming how we live our lives. Even if we may realize or not, we are benefiting from the breakthroughs in technology. As a woman, I feel blessed to be witnessing the technology disruptions and experience it in our daily life. In the last decade or so, there have been many groundbreaking business disruptions enabled by technology such as smartphones, high-speed internet, taxi apps, social media apps and so on. These innovations have not only transformed lives of billions of people across the world but also empowered women by making their lives easier, safer and more productive.

Here are key technology led business disruptors empowering women specially working women and are contributing indirectly in closing gender gap in workplace and society.

1. Taxi hailing apps. [Uber, Ola] Increase mobility. Affordable and safe travel.

2. Digital wallets.[Paytm, Freecharge]  Money at your fingertips rather than wallet

3. Online Retail. [Big Basket, Myntra]Freed time from shopping. Better work life balance

4. Social Media apps.[Facebook, LinkedIn] More business and networking opportunities

5. Freelancing apps. [ Upwork ]. Flexible work time and work type opportunities.

6. Free Blogspace [ WordPress]. Blogging revolution – food, fashion, you name it blogs

7. Messenger apps [Whatsapp] . New ways of selling. New business opportunities

8. Food  ordering apps[ Fresh Menu] : Less time in kitchen, more time for yourself.

9. Wearable tech [Fitbit]. Helps in staying fit and watching your diet.

10. Location tracking and safety apps[Staysafe]. : Track location and SOS calling.

11. Home and Local services apps [Urbanclap, Housejoy]. Order online, get serviced at home

Here is how these technology and business disruptions have empowered women:

1. Making day-to-day travel easier, safer and affordable

Before Uber and Ola, Autos and public transport buses were the only refuge of women for day-to-day travel. Public transportations do not give you flexibility of traveling at your choice of time. Autos are not safe and reliable. Hailing taxi through an app on your smartphone is relatively safer(not completely though), highly flexible and affordable. Taxi apps have made women more independent and in control of their day-to-day travel plans.

2. Improved work life balance for working women

It is a reality that working women are managing 2 full-time jobs, one at home and another at office. While there is little scope for maneuver to free time at office, one can work to save time spent in managing daily household chores. The boom of internet companies offering products or services delivered to your home have empowered women by helping them save time spent in managing household responsibilities. Online ordering and home delivery of key recurring purchases save time spent in physically visiting stores and shopping. This extra time gained can be spent with husband, children and on themselves. .

3. Improved safety and ability to get help in case of emergency

All smartphones are equipped with GPS and there are many safety apps which tracks your location and enables you to make SOS call in an emergency. Similarly school buses have GPS installed and you can track location of buses in which your children are traveling.

4. Flexibility in work and choice of new career opportunities

Women need flexibility of work hours, location and type of work during different stages of life. New economy jobs has empowered such women. There are many more options of part-time work through freelancing job marketplaces such as Upwork which enable women to work online and choose place, time and hours of work which suits their needs. Women are also able to choose and pursue new careers such as blogging through free blogspace providers such as wordPress. New channels of sales and marketing such ass Facebook, Instagram and whatsapp have empowered women running small businesses.

Some desired futuristic innovation and Tech disruptions which would really empower women and make their lives better.

1. Artificial Intelligence based products in following roles:

  • Virtual assistant : Assist us in running our daily lives. Take care of reading emails, sets reminders, reminds us for urgent tasks, tracks school buses , makes to do list and so on.( a la advanced version of Siri)
  • A virtual friend, philosopher and guide : Somebody who can keep us company all the time, somebody we can talk to and share our feelings( a la movie ” Her”). Built in intelligence to advice on important matters and help us in making key and trivial decisions. (a la IBM’s Watson)

2.  Advanced robots as house helps : Helps in cleaning, cooking, even babysitting.

3. Automated kitchens: Women really need some path breaking appliances which are affordable and reduce significantly the time spent in kitchen.  Indian cooking is really time intensive and women  desperately need next generation intelligent appliances. Wishlist – Roti maker, Dosa maker, currymaker.

4. Driverless cars : It is around the corner but hopefully is available soon in developing world too. Many women don’t know how to drive and not being in driving seat also give you extra time which can be utilised to get work done. Driverless cars might also be safer than traveling in taxis with drivers who are strangers to you.

Technology is touching and altering everybody’s life-like never before and I am a big fan and an early adopter of technology led products/services. I truly hope technology continues to keep disrupting the social order and keep empowering women and helping them in closing the gender gap.

Speak Up. Be Heard. Be Noticed

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Image Source: LinkedIn

Women speak up less than men do in work settings at least and I have noticed this throughout my career. If I have only one advice to give to working women to advance their career, it would be to “speak up”. When you speak up, you make your presence felt and shine the light on your potential. It can take courage to speak up – whether for your rights, your opinions, or for something in which you believe deeply. This single most change of speaking up more can empower women not only in workplaces but in overall society.

Why should women speak up more in workplace ?

  1. To make your presence felt. To be heard and noticed. To add value

In global economy and workplaces, not all meetings are in person. In a telecon meeting, if you don’t announce yourself and don’t speak up at all, you very well might not have been attended the meeting. It is important to make your presence felt by participating and contributing to a discussion. There is a reason why you have been included in a meeting and you should strive to earn your seat in a meeting and add value to it.

2.  Speaking up is critical to your growth at the company

Every meeting is an opportunity to  display your leadership potential and to build your professional brand. One can  achieve it  through speaking up at appropriate moments. Every time you remain silent, treat it as an opportunity lost. Keep a count of it and you would start speaking up. You need to earn believers in your ability to advance ahead. Speaking up more has been linked to displaying leadership potential. You earn your mentors and sponsors by speaking up and displaying potential.

 

3. Speaking up builds self-confidence – the secret ingredient for long-term success.

Confidence is not a static thing It keeps changing and you need to keep replenishing any loss of it. Speaking up has been found to be helpful in building confidence not only in yourself but of others in you. Mustering the courage to speak up can add volumes to your confidence. Just hearing your own voice in a meeting has been linked to contribute to an increased self-esteem.

4. Speaking up can get you promotions, salary raises and help

Humility is a great virtue but not so in workplace. Do not silently keep toiling and expect others to make a note of it and reward you. You shouldn’t be hesitant to ask for a promotion or to be recognised for your contributions. Do not maintain a stoic silence in those crucial performance appraisal discussions. Speak up for yourself and your efforts. In juggling between dual responsibilities of office and home, do not be afraid to ask for flexibility in work or any considerations which might help you in your work. Make your case and put it across assertively. If you don’t ask for it, you would never get it.  If you ask for it, you may or may not get it but you still at least have a shot at it.

5. Lastly, Speak up when something’s not right

Sometimes people cross lines in behaviour. You need to speak up the first time it happens. Speak up and say no firmly to an inappropriate behaviour or request. Do not be afraid of consequences. Do not let your silence be misunderstood for tacit approval.

Here are some tips on how you can speak up more and make your presence felt.

  1. speak-up-2Believe in yourself. Don’t be hesitant to put your thoughts across

Most of the things come down to your self-confidence. Speaking up publicly not only requires good communication skills and good content but also confidence and courage within. Women need to keep working on their self-confidence and self worth.It is a known fact that women speak less in meetings not because they don’t have anything to say but because they are not confident that they would add value. Even when they speak, they are apologetic about interrupting or making a point.  Don’t hesitate or apologise. Just speak up.

2. Do not judge and disqualify your opinion as not worthy of mention.

As many a times, women out themselves from a race to the top, so do women themselves disqualify their point of views as something which would not add value to the discussion. You don’t decide that. In fact you earn your seat in meeting and add value by contributing to the discussion. If you are merely present and just absorbing information, you are not adding value to others and to the discussion.

3. Be prepared. Do your homework. Make your notes.

Prepare for your meetings and presentations. Go over the agenda, brainstorm and make notes of points you would like to make. Make notes while meeting is going on. Being prepared would not only add  value to quality of your point of view but also to your self-confidence. Being prepared makes you feel ready and you look forward to the meeting to participate and contribute.

4. Learn the language of assertiveness

Using correct language can help in being assertive. Women tend to tone down assertiveness with use of defensive language and starting sentences with phrases such as ” I think” or “I feel”. Sometimes these might indicate you are not sure of your opinions. Rather use starting sentences which convey certainty such as ” I believe”, ” I am sure” or “from my experience , this is what i have seen”. Handle interruptions with declarative sentences such as ” I haven’t  finished what I am saying”. Be assertive.

4. Practice, Practice and more Practice

Practice makes perfect. Start with small meetings. Build confidence. After a while speaking up in meetings would start coming naturally to you. Even if you have been the silent majority in meetings, make an effort. If speaking up doesn’t come naturally to you, force yourself to speak up at least once in a meeting to start with. Once you are comfortable with speaking up, focus on content and adding value through the quality of your point of view.

It is not that women act differently in workplace and outside of it. A confident women who is not hesitant to voice her opinion would most likely do the same wherever she is – in office, at home or a party. To be a confident woman in workplace one day, a girl needs to grow up to be a confident woman with a mind of her own. Parents need to encourage their daughters to speak up more. Teachers need to be cognizant of giving equal opportunity to a raised hand of a girl in class. Community needs to not shut up a girl when she tries to make a point. Nobody should dismiss a girl’s point of view because well, it’s a girl’s point of view. Girls should be taught to not only have a point of view but to also have enough encourage to put across their point of view. Speaking up is akin to standing up for your opinion and for yourself.

 

1000 more years needed to close economic gender gap

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Image Source: World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum started measuring Gender gap in 2006 through Global Gender Gap report.  The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 144 countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators. It aims to understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:

• Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and leadership

• Education – access to basic and higher levels of education

• Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures

• Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio

The verdict : Long way to go before world is equal and fair to half of its population

As per report “More than a decade of data has revealed that progress is still too slow for realizing the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes”.  As per report, key challenge is stagnant labour force participation, with the global average for women at 54 per cent compared with 81 per cent for men. Moreover, the number of women in senior positions also remains stubbornly low, with only four countries in the world having equal numbers of male and female legislators, senior officials and managers. In India, just 28% of females participate in the formal workforce, in comparison to 82% of males. On this sub-index, India’s rank is 135. Globally, the average female representation on boards of companies is just 14%. For India, the figure is even lower – women constitute just 10% of the boards of publicly traded companies.

Key Findings

1000 years it would take for women in South Asia to close the economic gender gap.

Yes, you read it right, it’s 1000 years, no typos here. However unbelievably shocking that number might look, but that’s what the report says when it comes to how many years it will take for world regions to close the economic gender gap. North America is going backwards on closing the economic gender gap.Take a look at figure below.

regionsEducation alone does not lead to economic empowerment for women

Education gap is an area where almost all regions of the world are doing well. India has done fairly well in closing the gender gap in education enrolment. Globally, gender gaps in education have narrowed down tremendously, with very small gaps in primary and secondary education and almost complete parity in tertiary education. While women and men emerge from tertiary education with similar skills and knowledge, there is a rather wide global gender gap of 47% in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – with more men taking up these fields than women. Education parity not leading to economic parity shows that education does not mean economic opportunities for women and education alone does not lead to economic empowerment.

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Women on average work longer than men in the same job

Women work 39 days more than Men per year.Women spend more than 4 hours a day on unpaid work compared to 1.5 hour men spend. Even in general, combining both paid and unpaid work, women put in 50 minutes more of work time each day than men.The following chart depicts the disparity between unpaid work

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Women on average are paid less than men for same work.

As per report “Women are still paid just over half as much as men, and at the current rate of change it will take 170 years before they receive equal pay.”On wage equality, India ranks 103rd – worse than Nepal, Iran, Bhutan, Yemen, Uganda and dozens of other countries. The report notes that Indian law does not actually mandate wage equality for men and women. Gender wage gap is a problem which exists to varying degree in all countries and across industries.

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Economic value of Household and care work is very low

Women have been sacrificing careers to be full-time caretakers of their home and family. It is good to know how much low value is attached to the care work even as a paid work.Look at figure below:

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Over all report paints a very grim picture of world as far as gender equality is concerned. On one hand we read about technology breakthroughs such as mission to mars and driverless cars, on other hand women are struggling to get paid equal to men for the same work. World is moving forward on everything else and backward on closing the gender gap. 1000 years is the wait time for women of South Asian countries to see a world which is equal and fair to half its population unless Government of countries take major reforms in public policy supported by gender diversity policies at private companies.

Source: The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, World Economic Forum.