“One is not born a Woman, But Becomes One” – Simone de Beauvoir
It was 8 March 2018. Just like last year, I went for lunch with my female colleagues to accompany them. I was just thinking what changed between these two lunch sessions? It didn’t take much time for me to answer- nothing! Everything was same, the discounts, the way places were decorated, the colours and the way we think! There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we celebrate such days. Ideas of celebrating women’s day by organizing some games, taking female employees out for a lunch are classic cases of mediocrity and shallow thinking.
To my surprise not a single colleague asked me (HR) how can we do better in terms of accessible childcare or how to improve our parental leave policy? How can we improve the sex ratio in the organization? Nobody from senior management, not even a single woman employee posed such questions. Maybe it is not fault of working women, the world has given them so less that their expectations about women’s day are also limited to a lunch. I believe that personal motivation is an incredibly complex thing, moulded by our personality but also strongly influenced by our upbringing, our peer group, the educational opportunities we get, the connections we make, as well as the stereotypes and prejudices of those around us.
I was standing in a queue to grab some plates at the buffet. I let all my women colleagues take their plates first. We were just two men in the group. When I was about to pick up the last plate in the stack, an unknown lady walked ahead of me and snatched that plate with a look stating plainly – ‘It’s Women’s Day today. I am the boss’. Moreover I had had to pay more because the ladies got a discount that day. My quick reaction was – ‘This is not fair!’ but it was worth thinking how many times a year do women experience what I experienced that day? Let it be their chance of selection despite being a good candidate, a salary hike or fast-track promotions. Unfortunately, we still have managers who think that if we employ a recently married women candidate then they are distracted from work and go on a maternity leave soon, who will take over their work then? Working mothers are in such a pathetic situation that they are ready to take a huge salary cut when they return after 1-2 years of maternity break. In addition to this, they have to face a lot of prejudice for leaving immediately after office hours because they have to go home, cook and take care of their children. As if not having a cooperative male partner is their fault!
It’s been my personal experience that female candidates are less aggressive about their salary demands compared to male candidates. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook mentions in her path-breaking book ‘Lean In’- In 2010, women earned just 77 cents for every dollar men made. Her solution: negotiate like a man. When she was talking to Mark Zuckerberg about joining Facebook, she says she was inclined to accept the first offer he made. But after her husband encouraged her to make a counter-offer, she did and Zuckerberg came back to her with a much more lucrative proposal.
A 2011 McKinsey study shows that while men are promoted based on potential, women get a leg up based on past accomplishments. The onus of changing such things is on managers like us. So next time your company offers you a free lunch or any restaurant offers you women’s day discount, I want you to ask them some thought-provoking questions. What is our company doing for diversity and inclusion? What is the sex ratio in the workforce at that restaurant? What is the sex-ratio at various levels of your organization? Most importantly when your male colleague/partner/friend/brother wishes you a happy women’s day, wish them the same. If you meet a man who is comfortable with it, give him a flower but if you meet one who says that women’s day is for women, tell him about your real problems and encourage him to take up parenting responsibilities and be fair to every woman they meet.
It’s time to do something which we should have done long back.
This article was first published on a blog HRsapiens – https://hrsapiens.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/womens-day-lunch/
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