A double shift is working at two places; at home and at a company. Women have long been struggling with gender inequality and getting into higher management levels at the workplace. These same women have had to quit their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The unemployment crisis rose rapidly last year. When a man quits, it was viewed as a loss to society. However, when a woman quits, it was beneficial to a home. Wouldn’t it be equally sad for a company to lose a woman, who has done just as much work as a man?
One in four women quit last year when the world was tied indoors with no socialization. It is a no-brainer that women do most of the chores in a home. No matter how progressive a family is, the pandemic seeded a thought in women’s minds to put their best at home for their safety. Isn’t it a man’s job to protect his family too? A woman’s ambitions, goals, and dreams are thrown away the minute she decides to work at home. Family and friends are ready to give their “free suggestions” on how her family will finally be safe, now that she is home.
Additionally, the workplace needs people who can work. Women aren’t in that category in many aspects. No company would want to hire or continue to pay someone who gives more attention to other activities than their work. However, this problem needs to be addressed properly. It is true that organizations are starting to show support in the case of maternity leave and women-related policies. But, companies could also encourage men to do housework. This is a challenge of its own, especially when the top management itself is a male-dominated team.
Men doing house chores
Last year there were jokes being spread on social media. Unmarried or single men are stuck without knowing how to cook since housework has been mainly taught to women. The solution is very clear. Men should be encouraged to cook, clean, or any other house chores.
From a company’s perspective, this doesn’t make sense. However, consider the small factors. If urgent work pops up nobody in the higher management would think, “Let me call Sophie, she might have some time to help.” Instead, it is always some men, “Let me call Robert/Edward…etc.”
Such kind of preference gives both women and men the impression that women do housework on weekends, and men are available in case of an emergency. Suppose the same urgent work leads to success. Then, it means that more capable women didn’t even have an opportunity to prove themselves at work.
Women leadership going low again
Only from the last half-decade, women have been coming up the ladder breaking rules. And during COVID, women have been trying to help and support each other in various ways. However, the scenario in the workplace is such that careers are disturbed.
58% of both men and women reported that they face loneliness while working. As research goes further into higher management levels, the loneliness percentage increases. So does, productivity. However, when the same problems are faced by men and women equally. Why do people push one gender to do more, and ask the other to forget having dreams?
Ambitious women work hard and struggle to make it into higher management levels. These largely include the ones who had support from the family. But what about those who just want to lead a normal life? There are billions of people and we need thousands of leaders, millions if you consider mid-level managers. “Not being ambitious means, a woman shouldn’t work and stay home.” Try telling this to a man, and you’d get a “Are you crazy?” look.
Indra Nooyi is an Indian-American business executive and former chairperson of PepsiCo. Her speech on women in work has always caught attention after her retirement in 2018, as CEO of the company. Coming from a humble background, Tamil Nadu in India, she is aware of the struggles she faces as a woman, woman of color, and woman with children.
If you see a speech on YouTube from her, her in-depth analysis of women in work is fascinating. She points out that companies should hire women as a package. If you hire a woman, you accept that she has to take care of the family and the companies should accept that. Though these videos are from five years back, the situation is nothing different right now. Implementing these sayings is harder than figuring out the problem or the solutions.
In the case of Indra, things worked her way, her family was supportive. Her husband was ready to shift to another job, for the sake of his wife’s career. But, that is the case of probably only 1 woman out of 100. Or even rare than that. Women feel lonely or burdensome and shift their mindset such that they have to sacrifice their careers. Even worse, they aim low at times. However, she has been in the position of an ordinary woman. The way she aims to handle the situation is much beyond that of helping women rise to higher positions. It is about giving women the opportunity to do as they want in work.
Getting the help
The pandemic has hit harder on women in the current situation. A woman is able to give a 100% when it comes to protecting her family and not careers. Recently, the founder of the women and convention, Shubhra Mohanty, spoke about supporting working women.
Support from the workplace is the most one can get during tough times. Mohanty spoke about the core problem in Indian society. When a woman stays at home, and everybody is supportive. While she is working hard, there is a common statement, “But, you don’t need to.”
Women’s careers are often treated as just hobbies till they become very rich or very popular in some manner. Their career growth is not supported. Eventually leading to women themselves thinking that it is okay to give up on their dreams. No matter what, a woman’s career is equally important as a man’s.
Mohanty says, “The irony is I found tremendous support when I quit my corporate career, and my family and my social circle was super supportive of me being a stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately, nobody questioned it. That’s the problem!”
Furthermore, she adds, “We are okay with women being mediocre and the social norms are designed in a way that portrays women as the epitome of caregiving. She is the central force but what about her?”
And this is not self-care, this is treating a woman as an individual who is equally capable and should have to worry about her career. Mohanty is on a journey towards making it happen. Though the process is slow, she is slowly being acknowledged. Currently, she is working on mental health sessions, team building management, and certain counseling sessions.
Let’s not forget, Shubra isn’t the only one. Many efforts are being put in the forms of organizations, separate entities, and social media influencers.