Issues affecting women in the workplace

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Last month, The world explicitly addressed women’s issues. The highlight was the commission on the status of Women (CSW65) event where the priority theme was, Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life and the elimination of violence for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

For the longest time, women have been trying to break away from the largely patriarchal society’s norms. Some wins have been experienced, which call for a celebration. A lot still needs to be done, especially in the corporate world. There is no room for complacency. Men still dominate the workplace. Despite the substantial advances in women´s labour market participation and educational attainment over the last decades, the workplace is very much still a man’s world. Below are some lows that women are experiencing and need to continue fighting for;

  1. Unequal pay

The gender wage gap continues to be a thorn in the flesh. It is common to find a woman working the same role as his male counterpart, same industry, same experience, and put in the same number of hours paid differently, and the male employee receives more salary. In most workplaces, gender discrimination is illegal on paper, but such a scenario is widespread.

Unequal pay results from many different factors, but for today, we’ll look at the fact that men are more competitive and better negotiators than women. They are aggressive in the negotiation and will even use underhanded techniques to gain an advantage. On the other hand, women are known to be more accomodating and, to an extent, uncomfortable negotiating on their behalf.

To help narrow this gap, Women need to view themselves as organizations’ agents. They should present their value, stating how the organization stands to gain by having them on board. With this in mind, Women will also view negotiation as a high stake competition, unleashing their inner tiger and leaving no coin at the negotiation table. Organizations should also push for equal pay through periodic wages and salary audits and encouraging pay transparency.

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2. Underrepresentation in the senior management

As much as the number of women in senior management roles has grown, a lot still needs to be done. In 2020, the percentage of women in leadership roles globally stagnated at 29%, the same number it was in 2019. In Africa, Women take up 38% of these roles. The ideal number should be 50-50% representation for both genders, in my opinion. The fight against gender-based stereotypes needs to continue. There is a need to deal with corporate hierarchies that make it difficult for women to ascend to managerial roles. For those citing family commitment as a hindrance to women being in executive positions, there is a need to emphasize the fact that women have vast multidisciplinary-based problem-solving skills. A lot of leadership, mentorship, and guidance also need to be done to improve women’s desire to pursue managerial positions

3. Harassment

The me too movement brought to light the hidden cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. The harrowing abuse stories from women of all ages, nationalities, social and economic backgrounds revealed a failure in the workplace system. Three years after the movement began, some employers and employees are more aware of the subtle forms of sexism present in the workplace. A lot still needs to be done. Most people do not believe the #Metoo movement changed anything at their places of work. The Women in the Workplace report found that 35% of women in full-time corporate sector jobs have experienced sexual harassment.  Government should be front runners in creating legal provisions prohibiting sexual harassment. To ensure cases of harassment do not occur in the modern workplace, A special department should be in place to carry out campaigns, inspections, and investigations. Measures should be put in place to ensure survivors and whistleblowers are protected while survivors face the law.

I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only,’ not ‘as long as’. I matter. Full stop.– Chimamanda Adichie.

4. Imposter syndrome

As a career coach, I have seen several women with impeccable portfolios, and achievements doubt their capabilities. A study by KPMG found that 75% of executive women have experienced imposter syndrome at a point in their career. This is primarily because of the workplace’s inequality issues that make women doubt themselves, ask for help even when they don’t need to, and compare themselves to high-achieving male colleagues.

Imposter syndrome, though, is not a permanent condition. It is a reaction to unrealistic expectations and stress. To reverse this condition, women need to;

  • Accept compliments and praise given on their work output.
  • Refrain from chasing perfection.
  • Seek fellow women mentors and learn from them how to overcome self-doubt, among many other lessons
  • Visualize success to avoid being stress once they achieve success status
5. Women and COVID

COVID has disrupted the workplace in ways we have never seen before. Employees have been finding it difficult to do their jobs. Burnout has been the order of the day for the last one year. Women have seriously felt the impact of Covid. Working mothers have been working double shifts- Childcare and corporate responsibilities. This is because of the stay-at-home directives to maintain social distance.  The boundary between work and home has completely become a blur. According to the Women in the workplace 2020 report, 1 in 4 women is contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely because of burnout.   Women are also known to be highly represented in low-wage jobs, commonly referred to as pink-collar jobs such as hospitality, retail, and arts sectors, all of which are reeling from the pandemic. Employees in such roles were the first ones to be laid off, meaning more women without work pushing millions of women and families to the financial brink. 

COVID has sent women’s workforce progress backward a few years, but organizations could shape the workplace for women to recover the gains lost. According to the women in the workplace report, If companies recognize the scale of these problems and do all they can to address them, they can help their employees get through this difficult time and even reinvent how they work to be more flexible and sustainable for everyone.

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