Women’s Equality: Neither Pipe Dream nor Fait Accompli | DCR Workforce Blog

Women’s Equality: Neither Pipe Dream nor Fait Accompli

This Women’s Equality Day, a review of their unequal status in society as a whole and their unsuccessful struggle against gender inequality in the workplace.

Women were not allowed to take part in ancient Olympics, except by entering the horses they owned into a race. Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), continued this tradition by excluding female athletes from the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Though women were allowed to compete in the 1900 Paris Olympics for the first time, Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia sent women participants to the Olympics only in 2012. The 2016 Rio Olympic Games have 161 men’s events versus only 145 women’s and mixed events combined, but women make up approximately 45% of the total participants, according to the IOC. Additionally, the Olympic equestrian events have women competing one-on-one against men. So, it appears that gender equality in the workplace isn’t the only thing that has been eluding women, it’s their status in society itself. That’s obviously why we have set a day aside to call it “Women’s Equality Day.”

Take down the barriers to gender equality in the workplace

Workplaces tend to set barriers to entry to women in certain male-dominated jobs. Law, politics and finance are fields that discourage women from participation, while teaching, nursing and secretarial jobs are considered to be the near-exclusive domain of women in the workplace. Women find many barriers to advancement at work such as:

  • Few companies have senior women in powerful positions to act as role models and set an example and encourage them to strive harder and break through the glass ceiling.
  • protection from discrimination at work for womenMost women do not get the benefit of mentoring from senior colleagues, who refuse to recognize their potential or take them under their wing as protégés who need help with climbing the career ladder.
  • Achievement isn’t linked to merit and performance; most workplaces require the winner to forego a decent work-life balance which most women need to be successful in their biological role as mothers and do justice to their family commitments which may also include caregiving responsibilities (because that role often falls to women as well).
  • Workplaces set barriers against women through unconscious bias toward male dominance, if not misogyny, and tells them that women aren’t suited for high positions, responsible tasks and superior power over men.
  • Women still fight for equal pay for equal work, and working mothers find it hard to get parental leave and provide appropriate caregiving attention to their little ones and family members.
  • Some women do not enjoy an equal access to adequate nutrition and health services compared to men.
  • World over, women continue to fight for protection against sexual assault and harassment.

paid leave for mothersOn this Women’s Equality Day, we should be asking ourselves if the women around us have equal opportunity, equal treatment and equal protection at home and in the workplace, as well as in the society around us. What’s the answer you hear?

This reminds one of the story where a frog falls in a deep well, and for every three feet it climbs back out, it falls back two feet! To be fair, we’re talking about 49.6% of 7.4 billion human beings in 200 countries around the world! Women have to fight for basic human rights, for dignity, for physical safety, for independence, for education (think Malala Yousufzai) and for a place in political representation.  And the struggle is by no means over for many of them, and the results will take time.  From the success of the suffragette movement in 1928, the United Kingdom has advanced to have a second woman Prime Minister in 2016! Other countries that granted women the right to vote did so at different times: New Zealand (1893), United States and Canada (1919). A major political party in the U.S. has finally nominated a woman for presidential candidate.

Most women want to get fair and just treatment and to enjoy the ability to attain their dreams and reach their individual goals and potential. Most do not have ambitions to equal Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman’ who says:

“I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.”

So, if you ask me if gender equality a fait accompli, I would say, “It all depends on where you are standing!” Bu, it can’t be dismissed as a pipe dream either, because we’re talking about nearly half of the human race!

How does gender equality in the workplace pan out at your job?


The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.