Boardroom Sexism: Gender Inequalities in the Corporate World
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Recently, Serena Williams was penalised for showing aggression in the courtroom in the US Open Championship. Surprisingly, when a woman shows aggression on the field or court she is called “hysterical.” This incident sparked off a debate on sexism.
From Courtroom to Boardroom, it’s everywhere
The crux here is that whether it is the courtroom or the boardroom, women face discrimination in all spheres. Serena Williams’ outburst not just raised the question of sexism but also racism, identity etc. The orientalist idea of black women being “loud” and “hysterical” is apparent even today. Tennis is an aggressive game and there is going to be some level of bashing and aggression on the field. Moreover, in terms of the prize money and pay, tennis has reached a certain level of equality. Hence, we infer that there is much more to this.
Author and SUNY Stony Brook professor Crystal M. Fleming raises critical questions in her interview to Newsweek when she asks that what made a black, powerful and successful woman like Serena Williams say to the umpire something along the lines, “You wouldn’t treat a man like this.”
Similarly, the scenario of the boardroom isn’t any different. For a long time, the norm has been that strategising, calculations are all a part of the man’s world. The 20th and the 21st centuries overturned this norm with many women emerging and climbing the corporate ladder.
The solidarity is even more visible today but the dream of equality in the matrix of the tall towers and skyscraper buildings of corporations and MNCs is a grey area.
Some Horrific Numbers and Experiences
According to an article by Lahle Wolfe for The Balance Careers, it was reported that women at Microsoft filed 238 complaints with the company’s HR between 2010 and 2016.108 were for sexual harassment whereas 119 were for gender discrimination.
Founder and Managing Director of Prevolve, Rachna Saxena shares an incident of discrimination, “My immediate supervisor instructed to hire only a male candidate in my team. I, in fact already had a female member. When I asked why I should discriminate on gender basis I was told that males can sit late, travel frequently and she even told me to not throw emotional tantrums!”
Shubika Bilkha, Founding Partner of Edpower-U, shares another instance of people assuming an inferior status for women, “I have been in meetings as a Managing Director where people have automatically assumed that the men in the room, who were my direct reports and typically older, were the decision makers and nobody would even shake my hand! It was only once the meeting commenced and they heard about the work that I had done or what I had to say that I earned their respect.”
It’s All in the Mind
According to Tanvi Johri, Co-Founder and CEO of Carmesi, organizations possess an inherent bias which is visible in the fact that men are always hired for aggressive job roles and this perspective has been existing since a long time. “It's pretty much assumed by organizations that men are more commanding, more easy-going, and more capable of building long-term relationships,” she further highlights.
What is the Solution?
Rather than silently accepting the scenario, it is better to take arms against this predicament that has injured the system of inequality for as long as one can remember.
Saxena shares that the only way to deal with discrimination is to continue doing your work to the best of your knowledge and competence. This way nobody can raise a finger. Moreover, he or she will have a really hard time discrediting you for your work.
Johri points out that it is extremely important for women to grab opportunities that come their way, and not let societal biases affect their careers, their passions. “It's our fight as women to shatter the stereotypes built around womanhood.”
This is the age of women! Bilkha correctly identifies that women need to be self-assured and this will further give them the confidence to boldly advance with dignity and not let any discrimination dampen their spirits!