It is the 21stcentury? And why are we still talking about gender equality?

This question was asked by a female engineer, employed in a traditional manufacturing company, about a year back. Her question gave me goosebumps. In that moment, I wanted to go hug her….but I just pacified her with mundane answers like we are a society on a journey….it will take time….things are changing and so on.

As we approach 8th March 2019, International women’s day, I ask myself the same question- Why are we still talking about gender equality? It is not for dearth of efforts, that I can vouch for. Having been on the consulting side for over 5 years, I acknowledge the fact that there are far more organizations who are aware and driving this agenda, than there were 10 years back. The government too has brought in welcome policy changes.

But have things really changed? Well….yes… and no.

So maternity leave got extended from 3 months to 6 months, and all organisations were quick to comply with the law! But instead of really helping, it’s gone in the other direction. Now it’s being touted as a reason not to hire women!

POSH came in 5 years back. Different organizations took different lengths of time to implement, but majority of them today are compliant with the law…but then…that’s become a reason not to give feedback or have difficult conversations.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all well-meaning, well intentioned, and much needed policy changes. And there is compliance… but mere compliance with the letter of the law doesnot mean a changed midset!

So, what do you tell a Manager who asks- All this gender equality is just talk….when I go on the matrimonial site, I still want my wife to earn less than me.

Or I will not hire females in my team because last time when I did, there was gossip about me and her in the department.

Or when a female manager says, I understand POSH, It’s good but I would not complain, I would rather quit and look for a new job- why? Because. My “husband” has allowed me to work, I do not want to shame my family.

And these mindsets have a real impact, real costs to the society  

It pains me when I read about concepts like “Child Penalty”….I, as a mother, am penalized for bearing and rearing children, for raising them as good citizens and contributors to the economy, but I get penalized by loss of employment/ promotion/ increment!

Then there is the lack of recognition of unpaid work….the household chores that women do (along with their day jobs) that contribute towards the society and economy which get completely ignored by economists and statisticians while arriving at the GDP, and by their managers, colleagues and family members.

And that is why we are still talking gender equality. Because just policies are not addressing mindsets. It’s time we take the bull by the horns, and start having conversations on mindsets, question them, challenge them, …. May be, just may be… we will start changing them.

So next time you hear, we don’t have gender bias, please ask ….are you from Mars….or may be from Venus? Because you can’t be from Earth, where men and women coexist, albeit with Gender bias.

Author: Sonica Aron

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