It’s about to be 2018, and the Glass Ceiling is unfortunately still intact for a majority of women around the world, despite the near closure of the educational gender gap in most parts of the world and especially in the developed world. And of course, it’s down to sexism that still persists in the workplace, *and in the family. The second factor has been tagged with an asterisks (*), because while the issue of sexism and misogyny in the workplace has already been well raised and talked about, in various other countless articles, talk shows, speeches, etc. but somehow the issue of sexism and gender inequality in the family level, that burdens working women alone, with an unfair ‘second shift’ at home and prevents so many women from continuing their work and excelling in their careers, somehow ends up getting missed out in these conversations surrounding the glass ceiling and gender equality. True, sexism and misogyny in the workplace is a serious issue that needs fixing, but this article is not to talk about the issue that has already been well raised, instead it is here to talk about the issue, that crucial piece, that often goes missing in the conversation, surrounding the issue of glass ceiling and workplace gender inequality.
Women in India and around the world are increasingly attaining higher education, mastering key skills valued in the job market and aiming for thriving careers. Women now constitute more then 50% of University students in US, UK and most parts of the developed world. India is catching up fast to this global trend as well. Women also on an average, outperform men in academic performances and educational achievements, right from the kindergarten to the university, worldwide. Yet, unfortunately despite these gains, when it comes to workforce participation, career advancement and especially representation in top leadership positions, women still lag behind. That is, for a majority of women around the world, the glass ceiling is still a reality. And this needs to be fixed, in order to build a truly fair, meritocratic and egalitarian society.
So, why does this Glass Ceiling still persists ? And how can we dismantle it ?? A dig on any good search engine online, will provide you with links to a whole list of articles talking about the issue, about how various factors, right from sexism and misogyny in the workplace to lack of safety etc. prevents women from continuing their participation in the workplace and subsequently keeps them from reaching the top. True, these are serious issues that needs to fixed. But, the problem here is that, most of these articles often somehow miss out on talking about one crucial factor that is also greatly responsible for the existence of the glass ceiling in addition to all the other factors, that these articles already point out . That is the sexism at home.
A look at the various statistics related to the issue, will tell you that most women do join the workforce in good numbers, but drop out around their late twenties and early thirties. This is also the time when most women start a family. And, I am not surprised. Women are still unfairly expected to do the bulk of the housework alone, even when they are working, but not men. At most, men are just asked to ‘help out a little at times’, but still not openly expected to do his fair share of housework. And this isn’t fair, and is a problem. Sadly, even the most ‘progressive’ seeming media outlets tend to buy into this stereotype. For instance, how many times have you heard successful ‘career men’ being asked about “how they ‘juggle’ the pressures of having a career with the demands of having a family ?”, But, ‘career women’ still gets asked these questions. This might seem harmless at first, but actually it isn’t. It actually reflects our unfair expectations from a woman, that we hold as a society. The ‘second shift’ is still a reality for many women around the world. Many women, after they start a family, find themselves in this trap of having to do almost all of the household chores alone, along with demands of maintaining a career, while her man seems to be reluctant to do his fair share. Unable to deal with the terrible and unfair pressures of “balancing a Career and a Family” all alone, and trying to “have it all”, (something which is still not equally expected of men), many women finally drop out of the work force, before they even get to reach anywhere near the top, despite all her hard earned degrees, talents and merit. And this isn’t fair at all, nor is economically sound for the nation at large. It’s actually, also a waste of precious human resource.
Gender equality is not just about equality in the workforce, but is also about equality at home. And we can’t dismantle the patriarchy at the boardroom or the parliament, without dismantling the patriarchy at the family level. It’s time, we start asking career men as well, on how they balance career and family, and start expecting from them, the same. Its time men seriously pitch in and do their fair share of chores at home, as women make their headways into the workplace. It’s time we teach our sons some cooking and cleaning, just as we encourage our daughters to aspire for thriving careers. Because, gender equality starts at home. So, let’s start it from there itself…