Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gender Biases: What needs to change?

Gender Discrimination had remained a very important yet ignored or I can say suppressed topic so far but it is good to see that today people are talking about it in open forums and getting support from the masses which definitely gives a ray of hope to believe things would change in the long run. To start with I would like to pose a question to myself and to others reading this: “Is gender discrimination a Corporate Concern or actually it is more of a Social Concern?”

I would like to give few examples of how we react to some of the things we see in our daily lives.

1) A female rider in a Royal Enfield on the road: “Wow see the girl, she’s driving Royal Enfield”
2) A female driving a car fast: “Look at the girl she’s smart to drive the car so fast”
3) A Stay at home Daddy: Rolled eyes! Or Probably How lucky is his wife!!!
4) A man cooking his own lunch to office: “You cook at home? How lucky is your wife”
5) A man changing baby diapers: “Wow he is so cute, how lucky is his wife”

I can go on. But let us ponder to shake our heads in agreement to have one of these thoughts cropping up every time we are spectators of any such situation. None of the comments above are wrong or hurting but they are all biased. Is there a rule book with definitions such as bikers can only be males? Or lucky is the girl to have a husband who shares the responsibilities of the family equally? Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are being biased towards a gender when it comes naturally. And that is the problem in itself.

Yes we all know males and females are two different genders and their characteristics are different. But who decides which gender is better? Or which gender is more important? Or which gender is more efficient? Or which gender should be paid more? I know these questions remain unanswered always and will lead to a lot of debates which can take ugly turns. But my point here is; it is not a question of how bad it is to be biased or what causes gender biases. The point I would like to make here is let’s try to be fair, fair in our actions and in our thoughts, without giving a chance to someone to question our ethics. It doesn’t need a body to decide that gender biases are wrong and should be stopped. But to my greatest surprise this is happening. To make the highly educated class understand the fact that giving more to someone just because he is a male is wrong. Isn’t that strange? We claim to be the CEO’s and are seen heading many Business Units in many successful organizations in the world, but we have failed to judge a very basic fact of life that a person is good or bad at his/her job not because of his or her gender but because of his or her capability. It sounds quite weird to me that the corporate giants with such knowledge and success rates have failed to figure this out which was going on from so long; but that’s the truth. At least the statistics say so. And so we are raising our voices and signing petitions and what not to make ourselves vocal so that we are treated equally to our male counterparts. It is indeed disturbing to me at least to realize this.
I have been in the IT industry for more than a decade now and it would be wrong to say I haven’t experienced this. In most interviews I have been asked about my marital status and family details to decide how many hours I can give to office. While as an interviewer, I have found it difficult to convince on more than one occasion as to why I wanted to select a girl because she was technically far better than her male counterpart in the interview just because my manager thought the girl would be getting married soon and would need leaves. When the organization decided and to roll out a policy on girls not staying at office beyond 7 pm in the evening without manager’s approval due to security reasons I have heard my male colleagues  commenting  how being females we try to exploit the rules yet demand for equality. When I took a month’s break between job shifts I have heard from my male colleagues on how it doesn’t matter to me as anyway my husband is working and I work only for pocket money. On occasions when I have shared my view of missing my 1 year old daughter while I am at office, I have heard my male colleagues comment on how I am not a good mother for having decided to continue to work leaving my child at home. All these have made me react at times and ignore most of the times. Can someone tell me for how long can we be quiet?
Nothing can be done about changing it until the mindset changes, the mindset that stops employers from hiring females because they might get married and have kids and reasons like this. None of us come with a guarantee when you recruit us, be it a male or a female. Yes when a female employee gets married there is a chance that she leaves the place and goes in order to be with her husband if he is in a different location. Yes there is a chance that once a female employee has a kid she leaves her job in order to be with her kid. But that doesn’t mean we cannot hire her. Rather the organizations can have policies to help her retain her job, policies which encourage a couple to work in the same organization which might give an opportunity to the male counterpart to shift bases to where his wife resides. Organizations can make policies that give woman full support during her post pregnancy days; by working in shifts, from home, take more leaves, by funding few day-cares or pre-schools near office premises.
 But solutions can only be thought if only one realizes that there is a problem. Since most organizations are male dominated and they think only about the P&L at the end of the day, it’s a difficult job to have everyone come under the same UMBRELLA which says “SAY NO TO GENDER BIASES”.
Let’s first try to understand the plain and simple fact of life that there are males and there are females and just because you are a male doesn’t mean you are better. You need to exhibit certain qualities to be better that benefits the organization and society as a whole. And one of the qualities that make you better than others is when you know and understand the fact of respecting an individual for the qualities he/she has and not based on his/her gender.

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