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The Biased Workplaces That See Women As ‘Risky Investments’

Posted: May 11, 2017

We would expect educated people to know better, but the number of biased workplaces and managers that see women as ‘risky investments’ is astounding.

Every woman is as unique as – every other woman. While some look for what makes them happy and pursue it passionately, some constantly step out of their comfort zone and continue to challenge themselves. While some are extremely social, a few others cannot tolerate drama and stick to a trusted few. This eclectic blend is perhaps what makes every woman special.

However, one aspect is particularly common — every woman has a story. Be it a personal, professional or social experience, every woman has something to share with the world. While some are success stories, the problem lies with the overwhelming number of experiences which would give one an idea of the impediments and the hardships women face.

In an ideal world, women would not have to listen to sexist jokes and then be questioned about not having a sense of humour. In an ideal world, women would be considered equals when it comes to accessing opportunities. What happens in reality is a far cry from the picture painted in a utopian world. We live in a world where Joanne Rowling was asked to use a different name (with two initials) anticipating that boys might not like reading a book written by a woman. We live in a world where conducting blind auditions in orchestras saw a marked increase in the number of women being selected. This is perhaps why some people think it would be great if these blind evaluations were done when interviewing a person or evaluating someone at work. Now wouldn’t that be so much better?

Of all the biases against women at the workplace, one aspect that annoys me the most is how working women are looked at as ‘risky investments’ by some people in the management.

Biased workplaces – common enough!

A few years ago when I was on my way back home, I overheard an angry manager scream into his phone, “This is the reason why you shouldn’t trust girls with these important tasks!” The entire bus turned towards him for a minute. He then added, this time lowering his voice, that it was always risky taking women associates into his team as they were not considered dependable. So says the manager who took the first bus home that evening when he was clearly aware that certain tasks needed his attention.

I’ve heard many people openly admit that they would think twice before selecting women as associates for their team because they were not dependable. On further prodding, they said women might get married and leave, or choose to quit after their maternity leave. I asked them what about the men who quit and take up another job for a better package. Isn’t that common as well? Apparently it is ok if men quit to take up another job. But when women quit their jobs (either for relocating post wedding or post child-birth), it makes people think they are “risky”.

People quit their jobs for a number of reasons. Some move on because they need a better role or a better package or even a better environment. Some move out because of personal reasons, be it proximity to their hometown or relocating to a new city. Instead of respecting people’s choices I wonder why this ‘special’ treatment is reserved for some women and why the pre-conceived notions and generalisations.

A very talented friend of mine never raised her voice when it was necessary. When her wedding date was fixed she casually informed her colleagues that she was getting married. She was due for promotion that year and to her shock she did not get promoted. She finally gathered the courage to speak to her manager. Her manager replied that they were not aware of her plans post her wedding, so they did not want to ‘waste’ the promotion on her and wanted to give it to someone deserving. When she responded that she had worked hard and deserved that promotion and she had no plans of quitting, the manager dismissed the thought saying they needed to consider the future as well and not just her past performance. My friend was extremely disappointed at the kind of treatment meted out to her.

It pains to see people who are highly educated, occupying good positions in well-known companies remain so narrow-minded even today. If a woman outperforms a male colleague, not everyone takes it sportively. Many men hesitate when they have to take instructions from a woman manager and instinctively try to argue against it before relenting. And if a woman is able to make a point in a meeting without being laughed at or interrupted, it is considered a big deal. And we still think ‘educated’ people respect women better.

God bless all those getting back to work after their maternity break. It is disgusting how some go out of their way to make these women feel like others are doing them a favour. It’s not just men; even some women treat new mothers in a condescending manner. One would expect at least women to have some sympathy, but in these cases they are no less guilty.

I wonder why women don’t stand up for other women when we see them being treated badly. I wonder why, despite being in their shoes at some point, some women have the heart to treat other women badly just because they have the power to. Before we ask men to broaden their minds, I think we must first ask our sisters to do so. We cannot expect men to fully comprehend the struggles women face. But being a woman, and knowing everything a woman has to go through (and having faced some themselves while climbing the corporate ladder), why  do some of them make others lives difficult? It’s alright if one is unable to help, but why complicate simple issues unnecessarily and instigate cold wars?

To all of you out there, men and women, here is a sincere request. Please treat women with the respect they deserve. No one expects any special treatment. Don’t attack people personally when you are discussing the work being done. Don’t attribute every shortcoming to their gender. Just ask yourself if you would treat or judge a male colleague the same way you treat women. If your answer is yes, we’re happy that you treat people without bias. But if your answer is no, don’t you think you need another chance to think this through?

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I’m a blogger from Chennai. I believe that anything worth talking is worth writing,

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