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Error 404: We Are Not Gender Equal At The Workplace Yet!

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Every year, the International Women’s Day is observed on the March 8, to rejoice, celebrate, engage, reach out to women all over the world. This day is particularly dedicated to the gender that for years has been looked at as the inferior.

While it is enthralling to believe the idea of International Women’s Day, a question often strikes: whether the idea of the same is reason enough to feel happy, liberated and progressive, without acknowledging the deeper complexities as far as the dignity of women in today’s world is concerned.

Representational image.

Now, people, while talking about gender equality always argue on the point that, if it is about equality, then why should women have a dedicated day? Why should there be any sort of privilege given? Why should there be reservations for women everywhere – from public transports to government jobs? The answer is very simple yet, not understood well.

What otherwise is referred to as privilege is actually an attempt to attain equality. Equality in family and equality in society. So where do we need to work exactly to ensure this kind of social justice? Why is feminism absolutely inevitable in today’s social discriminatory context?

In this article, we shall look into one of those major disparities that have affected women and their morale strongly and that is work and gender pay gaps.

Equal Work, Unequal Opportunity

All of us women, at a certain point in our careers have faced the menace of workplace gender discrimination. Many qualified and deserving women are often deprived of promotion and growth opportunities once they get married or become pregnant, and similar positions may be offered to a less qualified male applicant just because he is male.

The ideology behind this discrimination is really bizarre because it is assumed that a woman after becoming a mother will not remain dedicated to her organisation anymore. While for a man, becoming father is a moment of triumph. Also, the taboo that women cannot be strong leaders comes in the path of professional success for many.

Women are also more likely to be judged by their looks, like ‘not pretty enough,’ ‘too old,’ or in some positions—especially customer relations and sales—how they dress, while these things do not matter for their male counterparts. The most important thing is that the pay gap remains substantial between male and female employees even after being equally qualified and experienced for the same position.

Representational image.

The bottom line is if women are often discriminated against—if men get more time off, better compensation packages, or more benefits than equally qualified women based on unfair gender bias—it’s gender discrimination, and it’s illegal. Despite protective anti-discrimination laws making gender discrimination illegal, management practices at small, mid-size, and even large corporations often still favour the advancement of men.

Let’s now glance through certain statistics that testify the real data of pay discrimination is India. Based on the findings of ILO and as produced in their flagship publication the Global Wage Report 2018–2019 which was released in November 2018, India holds the top position in man-woman pay back accounting to a good 34%.

This gap in wages, is the highest among 73 countries studied in the report. On average, hourly wages of women are 16% less than those of men and higher in monthly wages, with a gap of 22% across the world.

Overall, real wages grew just 1.8% globally (136 countries) in 2017. The report also stated that in most countries, women were into part time work thereby having significantly reduced work hours which accounts for lower wages.

The Corporate Workforce

Similar discrimination is not only limited to labour. The empirical evidence of this gender based pay gap has been quite visible across all the industries and sectors especially in India, among women with higher levels of education. Hence, the report advocated that “emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring equal pay for women and men.”

Analysis

Also, this graph remains unaltered at 20% from 2016 to 2017. However, something that has shown a worse picture of this entire issue is that in 2017, the gender gap was followed by a near-stagnation in real wage growth, that has been the lowest since 2008, the year of the financial crisis.

In 2018, India has witnessed a decline in gender-based discrimination by merely 1% as per an analysis by the Business Standard.

In the annual report issued by Monster India, a well known job portal, the highest difference has been recorded in IT/ITES sector with men earning 24% than what women have been. This value nearly equated by women-intensive industries like education, health care, social work and caregiving. Women earn 21% less than what men earn.

So, this clearly implies that despite being considered more suitable for a particular job role, women have to settle with whatever the industry decides as gender-based pay. The point above can be very well argued with the fact that Indian society still considers men to be the principal breadwinner of the family, and the woman of the house serves only as a support.

This constructs a vicious cycle—not getting the deserved pay has placed women in the secondary position in contribution towards family finances. However, as societal trends evolve over time, couples now plan and work alongside each other. In cases like this, it becomes inevitable that women’s plight at the workplace requires serious attention.

Representational image.

The Global Pay Analysis

As quoted in the ILO Global Pay Analysis Report, “Gender pay gaps represent one of today’s greatest social injustices even though steps are being taken towards eradication of the same by various organisations. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 8.5 which calls, among other things, for equal pay for work of equal value within the framework of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To reinforce the achievement of SDG target 8.5, the ILO, together with UN Women and the OECD, established the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), an initiative to accelerate the closing of the gender pay gap across the world. The success of our efforts is crucial because inequalities within and among countries, including wage inequality, continue to be a significant obstacle to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. This year’s ILO Global Wage Report.”

Work Hours

In this entire juncture, there has been no strong reason for this discrimination apart from work hours, which I understand, is not going to get better anytime soon. In Indian organisations, however, work hours remain a tertiary factor, because employees have to work for long hours irrespective of their gender. This, as argued by many, is real-time gender equality. However, the same equality needs to be displayed when it comes to compensation, as well.

India, In Comparison With Its Neighbours

This kind of discrimination significantly reduces the women in a workforce. It also leads to a decline in their performance and their motivation is affected to a great extent. This can be further strengthened with demographics.

The engagement of women in the workforce in India is remarkably lower as compared to what exists in neighbouring countries. A feeble presence of sexual safety and favourable work environment also account to this reduced percentage.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Prasad Gori/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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