How can you increase gender equality at work? Why is it important to you?
Rohit: Gender equality seems conflicting to many people’s ideology of not being the same because they are tightly grasped by the hand of patriarchy and gender discrimination. When it comes to gender equality especially at the workplace, I think the important drawbacks we miss out on are the division of opportunity on basis of gender and undermining the consideration of privilege each male and female have while defining the system. Therefore, the prominent step would be breaking the pattern, analysing, understanding the variable to make a gender equality-based system. Additionally, gender equality will only be shaped when it is beyond equal pay with equal resources and opportunities too.
For me, gender equality does not merely mean the idea that we have male members in our team, therefore we need to have females, and long talks of discrimination. More than just rigorous implementation so as to show equality, I personally believe that gender equality will come naturally when we understand the importance of inclusion of perspectives and understanding because men can see certain things which are sometimes impossible for women to see and at other times, women are more capable to perceive things on a different level than men. So, it significantly matters to my working ethics to have gender equality and the reason is as simple as that.
Kajol: I think we need to first address and solve gender equality at work through fair wages. Because time and again we still see and hear cases of females facing unfair wages compared to their male counterparts sharing the same position in the company. They are also given more bonuses and incentives compared to women employees. That’s not fair at all.
Another problem we women still face is during employment and promotion. If the hiring company gets two competitive candidates of opposite genders, they are more likely to hire/promote the male candidate instead of the female. Women are still seen as “fragile” and “incapable” regardless of how many times we prove ourselves to be otherwise. So when such a hard decision needs to be made by the HR or the hiring committee, I think they should hire the one whose gender based population at work is lower so that the company shifts to becoming gender equal.
Another issue is that regardless of how a company operates in equalising gender policies, reaching gender equality mentally through all employee mindset could be difficult. So workshops, bootcamps and monthly classes on gender equality should be made mandatory for all employees to attend so that we can shape the minds of employees to see everyone equally and not inferior to each other.
A woman suffering from gender based inequality at home or work will definitely hurt. Not that I have faced any till now (thanks to my modern upbringing) but if I put myself in women’s shoes who are still facing gender based disparities at work or at home, or for their education this very moment, it would kill me inside-out.
I want the world to treat women equally and fairly as they treat our male counterparts. In fact treat all sexes equally and give them positions in the company on the basis of their qualification and not consider gender an issue during the selection process. That’s why it’s important for me to speak up for gender equality and fair wages at work and in all sectors of humanity.
Priti: The first way to increase gender equality would be the equal pay scale for all according to work distribution. Male counterparts should not be paid more as it does make them feel superior to the rest.
We all vouch for equality, simply for that reason this is very important for all of us to fight for.
Vidhan: Giving equal priority and importance to each and every worker, addressing their problems at work, giving them the right to express their opinion, making them active in decision making, not stereotyping gender in work like female as receptionists and male as delivery person, making strong rules and regulations can be some of the ways to increase gender equality at work.
It is important to have gender equality to make the working environment smooth and peaceful. Also, we are human beings and we all need to be treated equally.
Suneera: Regardless of gender, everyone should be treated equally. Their innovations and ideas should be respected and given room. I am more aligned into a technical working environment where approximately 95% of the population is occupied by male workers. I can’t deny that women in some cases are on the downside physically or socially than male workers, but mentally they are equally strong.
Avish: Personally, I have always felt gender equality is a matter of awareness and perception, more than it is about policies. In addition to auditing our policies, we would need to first question our beliefs and biases through more communication and outreach programs in our workplace and in our communities.
I have been a strong advocate of gender balance because I have witnessed that women being active professionally has immediate social and economic impacts. Having engaged and active women in the workforce creates ripple effects in the society and adds more fire to the economy. It is also about ensuring a level-playing field in a social context where women have been inarguably disadvantaged.
Are women more at risk of being pushed out of jobs into the more precarious informal sector?
Rohit: Yes, in fact this sequence of being pushed out of jobs into the precarious informal sector is a trend unfortunately because people even the so-called progressive-minded people have become intolerant to new psychological factors of women empowerment. Therefore, women are likely to be pushed out of jobs leaving no option other than to choose informal sectors without any protection of labour laws, social benefits such as a pension, health insurance, or paid sick leave despite all qualifications. It unveils a disheartening situation of the informal sector filled with subtle and miserable consequences for women.
Kajol: Yes. Just because they are women, they are more likely to be pushed out of jobs and into the informal sector. Honestly, everyone aspires to become an engineer, a doctor, lawyer, actor, astronaut, or an entrepreneur during their childhood. But nobody or rarely anyone aspires to be a maid or a helper or a sex-worker for that matter. And time and again, we see a majority of women being employed in these informal sectors and mainly because they didn’t get proper education to embrace their inner talent and work in sectors they really wanted to.
And apart from being a woman, not being able to afford sanitary pads to continue schooling (which is one of the major problems in countries like ours) is a major issue that has led to girls dropping out from school and missing out on an education. Hence, women are more at risk of being unemployed, dependent on their spouse, or are forced to work in the informal sector or low paying jobs.
Priti: Definitely, because we women tend to give any job a shot only if we match 100% of the requirements. We tend to underestimate ourselves. Therefore, we are more likely to take up jobs in precarious informal sectors.
Vidhan: In a few places, women are at more risk of being fired as compared to male workers. But in my case, I haven’t seen any negative consequence that has happened at my workplace. I am always alert and smart enough to tackle this situation. I truly commit to control any sort of discrimination during work.
Suneera: If you are technically qualified in the aerospace sector, I don’t think there is the risk of being pushed out of job. Since the country itself is lacking adequate human resources in the field of aerospace, all genders are in equal demand in our industries.
Avish: The pandemic has pushed the ‘gender equality’ agenda behind globally. The BBC reported last October that women’s job losses globally were 1.8 times greater than men’s. It is also a sad reality that flexible hours create more disparity for women. Therefore, it is not also about having a uniform policy but trying to make work arrangements more equitable and being empathetic towards women’s realities.
How do you address gender-based violence and harassment?
Rohit: Addressing gender-based violence and harassment first comes with the acknowledgment of financial, social, emotional and even psychological differences, discrimination and responsibility we are entitled to. Therefore, working to build the capacity of each individual for taking a stand for themselves is what I prefer towards minimising gender-based violence.
Fighting for problems, raising our voices, etc are definitely measures. But even prior, we should be talking about acceptable practices in the workspace, consider planning and strategy to align with minimising violence and harassment, and take serious note of men leading and participating in discussions of women and leadership. And that’s what I believe will help us to learn to bear responsibilities as male workers to address gender-based violence and harassment.
Kajol: If I was facing gender based violence or harassment, one of the ways I would address this issue is by taking the help of social media and getting word out it. Obviously it’s not easy to share such difficult personal issues with the world but I think social media is such a powerful platform to get help and support from strangers around the world and get connected with people who face similar problems in their life. And by doing that and speaking up for ourselves, we are giving other people power to share their stories who might not have the courage to share it yet. So don’t be embarrassed and speak up for yourselves and you’ll be surprised to see the amount of support you’ll receive from strangers and organisations around the world who can also help bring justice to you.
And while at work if you face something as horrible as this, immediately talk to your HR or your senior about it. Always speak up, never feel scared or fearful. You will always find support to bring justice and end inequality for good.
Priti: Self defense is the only thing that can take us to next level. We have heard enough, we have said enough. It is time to take action and stand up for ourselves. It should be made compulsory to take some kind of self defense class in private and government schools so that our girls can defend themselves.
Vidhan: I address gender-based violence and harassment by figuring out what types of risks are covered in my workplace, committing to gender equality and equal opportunity theory in my workplace, being accountable and monitoring actions, identifying if sexual harassment and violence are included and the gap that exists, regularly keeping in touch with female workers and talking about factors to reduce the risks identified, highlighting risks that apply particularly to women or men.
Suneera: I am a strong believer of zero tolerance against gender based harassment and discrimination. If there are such cases s/he /other gender should complain to respective organisation and to the required state authorities.
Avish: Apart from legal enforcements, I believe gender based violence and harassment needs to be addressed through open communication and engagement. In order to ensure more women have the courage to speak up against perpetrators, organisational development and training initiatives should focus on these issues in addition to on-the-job programs. My view is that these programs are to be attended by men as well because men also could be victims.
What are the urgent actions needed to end gender disparities?
Rohit: I think the major challenge even to me is rising above the privileges I have in order to understand, appreciate and shine a spotlight on the works of both men and women beyond societal assumption and preferences. The urgency we all have felt is the only action of youth in breaking the chain of entitlement of roles and privileges. Also, it demands the time to rethink our following of culture that has always kept a distance between the voices of our father and mother too.
Kajol: I don’t know if this falls into the urgent action category, but education plays a very important role in shaping our world. And countries like ours, where literacy is so low and especially among women, we need to take urgent actions in providing free education to everyone. I have seen that many children of poor families might not show up at school and instead go to work with their parents or siblings to earn extra money, so an incentive from the school should also be provided in exchange to get their full attendance at school. Further, individuals should be shaped mentally and physically in the educational institutions so that they themselves don’t support or get involved in gender based disparities in the future like their ancestors did.
Priti: Not only earning your own money but also protection of your own self in any situation is definitely needed. Every time we see any form of disparity, speak up. As we say charity begins at home, we should make simple changes day after day in order to unlearn and learn at the same time. This generation mothers have huge responsibility of raising their children equally. That is where it starts so let’s end it right there.
Vidhan: I always prioritise people on their work ability and not gender, by giving equal facilities and pushing them to work in an appropriate work environment. The theory of “right place for right people” needs to be applied. If anyone gets victimised, we should help them out and never allow such violators to work in the team. Besides, we should also assure a secured and peaceful environment at work by maintaining discipline at the workplace.
Suneera: In my working space both male and female are treated equally. Such equal treatment is necessary because it gives equal opportunities regardless of gender.
Avish: I do not believe things will change overnight. I trust the power of education. If we teach gender equality to kids at school and incorporate related case studies as a part of the “ethics and values” component in graduate school, the revolution we’ve wished for will be a reality. The societal crime that we’ve been committing for centuries can be vanquished only through changing mindset from the grassroots and it needs to begin today. It needs to begin with you and me.
We preach gender mainstreaming but are we really implementing it in our policies?
Rohit: Gender mainstreaming has caught noticeable miles in inclusion. However, it has not really achieved the complete cycle of gender streaming from planning to implementation even in the simple act of decision making. To my understanding, gender mainstreaming has been confined just to a few designations.
Kajol: I think implementation is taking place but it’s definitely slow. But with the help of organisations like the United Nations, and all the other NGOs and activists fighting for equality, we are slowly getting close to making it happen.
Priti: Polices can be changed and if we keep raising our voices we can definitely usher that change in the near future. Whatever little change we see are the results of constant battle with authorities in power. So, we should not give up on that part for sure.
Vidhan: Personally, I have implemented but as a professional, I have never experienced and never been involved in any violations. That is why it never requires implementation.
Suneera: In my opinion, every organisation should have a gender cell (like women cell) where all related cases should be reported and properly investigated. Proper policy should be implemented taking into consideration not only female employee but across all genders.
Avish: If some of us are asking women whether they are married, whether they are going to be married or appallingly, whether they are planning to be pregnant any time soon, then we have a long way to go to even talk about gender mainstreaming. Policies are essential in strategically enforcing gender balanced recruitment and retention practices. Yet, are we doing enough to check whether a pregnant woman stands with equal opportunity versus a woman not planning to be pregnant any time soon? If our practices are creating conflicts for women in their personal lives, then disparity and inequality exists. The solution here is a reformation of regulations thereby creating stringent actions against bypasses but it is also about creating more awareness through open communication.
Are quotas a solution for gender equality?
Rohit: I would say, only quotas are not a solution for gender equality. The kind of quota system in our country has only meant to include the names, not the identity, will and aspiration of what they represent. The approach of the quota system might embrace equality but it has miserably failed to embrace equity that has created even bigger gender disparities.
Kajol: No. Quotas can help an institution reach 50% of its employees to be female (or male) but it isn’t a solution for gender equality. What about fair wages? What about violence and harassment? What about those people who still see themselves as gender superior and mistreat others? There are so many problems that quotas don’t address. It’s a step in reaching gender equality, but not a solution.
Here I have taken women as reference, but the same goes with all the other genders and LGBTQIA+ individuals who are seen inferior and face gender inequality during their day to day life. Everyone should be treated equally and fairly regardless of their gender or sexual preferences.
Priti: Quotas existing in our country says it all about where as women we stand in our own country. I personally feel it should not exist but in a country like Nepal if it does not, there are positions where women will never reach. Quotas are the need of the hour for now but hopefully there will come a day when we will not need quota system.
Vidhan: No. Quotas are not the best idea to maintain gender equality. In my opinion, giving equal opportunity and respect to all workers can reduce gender inequality. Meanwhile, appreciating individual talent can make a difference in order to maintain the balance of gender equality.
Suneera: I am not a believer of quotas for employment and education mainly due to its malpractice in Nepal where people in power and those living in cities are misutilising the opportunity in the name of marginalisation. If quotas are wisely given by level of poverty, geographical remoteness, gender and sexual orientation (LGBTQIA+), it will give poor and downtrodden communities a light of hope. But, the way it is believed to be working now, I don’t concur in caste or gender base quotas.
Avish: While I am not a strong advocate of the quota system in general, given our social construct that has created disproportionate resources for women, it is important that we make up these disparities through more opportunities.