Workplace Discrimination Against Women
Workplace Discrimination – we have heard about it, we have read about it, and a few of us have also faced and dealt with it. Although our legal system clearly protects people against workplace discrimination, well, there hardly is any workforce-related law without people working their way around it and playing the loopholes in their benefits.
I have personally experienced discrimination during the selection process, as well as during work tenure in my career. In fact, once my kids were a year and a half, and I decided to get back to my professional life, it was challenging for me to score a job. And this is something a lot of mothers who have had a break or sabbatical have experienced. I had to settle for an alternative career and a third of what I used to earn before the maternal bliss.
And then not long back, when I was looking for a change, I had started to apply for open positions, an incident happened with me. I was on a call with the H.R. representative of a renowned company for my screening round. I very honestly put my situation on table mentioning that I am a single parent, and I would expect a little flexibility from the organization in terms of the work timings to be able to accommodate the school & daycare timings of my daughters. I was shocked at what came from the other end. In those exact words, I was told, “I have noted your point, but I am not putting it in the notes that I will be passing to the HOD who will be taking your technical interview. Why put anything negative upfront and lower the chances of your selection?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. And I being I, couldn’t stop myself from pointing out that being a single mother is not a negative thing! In fact, if at all, it speaks a lot about my multi-tasking skills and how I am successfully able to wear multiple hats with ease in my life. Now shouldn’t that be a positive trait and asset for any organization? Needless to say, I did not go for that job. And thankfully, I ended up at a place where my individuality is respected, and my work is given preference over my marital status!
After this incident, I started to speak to a lot of moms. After talking to over 160 pregnant women and moms, here’s what I realized.
- Managers and co-workers are mindful of workplace discrimination when it comes to pregnant women and moms getting back to work after their maternity break. One of my respondents, Renuka, was given all the support that she needed during her pregnancy at the workplace, and within six months of being back at work, she was considered for a promotion that she very well deserved.
- In general, the mindset that married women are more focused on their families than their careers is still very much prevailing. Sometimes in forms of jokes, the other times in the form of nasty comments, sometimes in the way of slow growth, while some awful times in terms of no growth at all, it is evident in the status gap and wage gap too. Only 11% of women hold leadership roles in India, according to a survey.
- This discrimination keeps getting worse with the changing relationship & maternal status of women. A mother faces it more than a newly married or a single mother for example. A friend of mine, Tripti, a mother of three, recently joined back her job after a break of three years at a government bank. Her manager requested the regional manager not to place her in his branch as he doubted if she – a mother of three can devote her time dedicatedly to her work. And all this even without giving her a chance to prove herself.
- And what do I even say about the discrimination towards a single mother! That’s on the next level altogether. On the one hand, the assumption that if a lady is single-handedly managing her home and her kid, she might not be able to focus on the job, and on the other hand the societal taboo around separation and divorces, the sympathetic comments, the sexual advances, and the inappropriate behavior. Rajwant, a single mother who works in the media and journalism industry, recently had to quit her job because of inappropriate behavior and the lingering glares of someone a very senior journalist at her office. Comments such as – “you have the potential, you have the hunger to grow, I am sure you will be ready to ANYTHING to grow faster.” Behavior such as calling her up in a drunken state, asking her to meet her outside the office hours, etc. became unbearable, and she had to quit.
My question is, even in this time and era, how long will we all keep rejecting offers, quitting jobs, or compromising on our careers and salaries just because we are women, we are mothers, or we decided to leave a toxic relationship? When will this change? And the bigger question is, HOW will this change? Let me know your thoughts on the same in the comments. Or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to discuss this and, if possible, be able to do something about it.
P.S. – Names and identities used in the article are not real to avoid incrimination of anyone.
Moms are not the only ones who face this discrimination in life. Sometimes it’s your body type, sometimes sexual preferences, and sometimes having a disease. Read an article I wrote regarding HIV / AIDS HERE.
A wonderful write up Shalu. It is topic less talked about than it should. It is very much there in our culture and professional lives.
That’s a lovely post! Well-written, heartwarming and so creative.
Amazing post… lovely
You’ve nailed it. I’m on a break post- maternity and still not able to get a decent job so had to resort to freelancing. I have attended interviews where I’m almost sure of getting the job but in the end, I don’t hear back from them. And these are organizations that proudly talk about taking in women on the lookout to restart their career. This tagline itself has become farcical.
Such a thought provoking post and yes this is sad reality of our so called modern society and work system where work discrimination is so prominent again women and even with so many other factors too as you mentioned. Hope things change for better in future and we have better work System without discrimination.
I am in awe of you after reading this article. You have nailed it. However we speak about being developed and modern, blatant discrimination is still prevalent. It is sad but the reality.
Well pointed out. Such issues need to be pointed out. Workplace discrimination is real. But I also know some companies that give additional undue advantage to women in the name of ‘diversity’. I guess a balance is crucial here. ‘Fair’ and ‘equal treatment’ are the key words here. Neither more, nor less.
The question you have asked in the footnote is powerful. It should be asked loudly to every woman to.wake her from slumber and shake the resolve out of her. Seriously, it’s high time we say not any more
Thanks for reading & leaving your views on the article.
Loved the take on this topic! I had personally experienced a similar scenario when I had gone for a job interview. The interviewee asked me about my future plans of getting married, pregnancy etc. And I stated clearly to him that such questions are personal and it cannot be asked during an interview. Although I was offered the job, I didn’t accept it.
Assumptions are main culprit in this scenario. People at workplace think and assume on their own about the commitments a woman can give. If she can dedicate time for family with devotion then surely for work too. Even I have observed many women at workplace judge their co-worker , that is a huge hurdle. It is a vicious circle , hope it breaks soon.
This really truth of single mom life, struggle she has to face. Why woman get target all the time? It’s not her right to live peacefully and respectful??
I was watching queen in mxplayer,jayalalita story and I was so surprise how much struggle she face just for living and dignity.
After my daughter, it was difficult for me as well to get back to work. Then there is this opinion passed on that I should think about the child and give up on working while professional people say that how will you manage. Hopefully there will be a change in our system soon.
No matter how advance the world claims to be… mentality wise we are still backwards. Be it India or any other country for that matter of fact, women are always discriminated at work front. It’s a sad reality of the world as a whole. But I’m in awe of you for not taking up that job and going where you are valued.
Kudos to you for standing your ground and rejecting a company that discriminated with you. I’ve faced these problems while applying for jobs and wish women are given opportunities and credit for their work, not considering marital status.
I hated the way the HR representative called it negative but I have been at the spot in a different way though Shalu. Glad you chose to write on it.
I am glad I read this post today as I had gone tvrough this in my corporate life too, where sighting reasons like newly married, may start a family were given as excuse of not giving promotion.
inspite of so many changes.. women especially mothers are not given opportunities … I admire you stood for yourself and rejected a company which kind of discriminated you
Oh, I had witnessed this first hand when I started applying for jobs post pregnancy. I am glad you wrote about this and not surprised to see many have gone through similar experiences. About time we need to change as a society 🙂
How will this change? When will it change? It all depends on the social upbringing by parents, change in the education system, abolishing gender discrimination and many more. I hear you loud and clear. I have been there and still struggling for work. I started my career after my husband’s demise at the age of 40. Imagine how difficult it was. i was a freelance writer at The Hindu, Metro Plus. I wrote a column for 6 years as a freelancer. My articles were much appreciated but when i asked to be made permanent, I was always told, I was too old. The lady editor who didn’t like my popularity, framed me for plagiarism and had me out of it. The other newspapers too gave the same reply. Little said about the bosses, I worked for. I was an easy target. Single, supposedly desperate and available. I was cheated out of my salary. All these were in a small town and no corporates, so you cannot even fight against the system.At 57, I am still struggling!