Workplace Gender Diversity & Inclusive Growth in Public & Private Organizations

Article excerpt


In the past, all women in the workplace were automatically assigned to temporary or part-time or low responsibility jobs because it was understood that their first priority was taking care of their families. Unmarried women were likely to quit as soon as they are married (often to an up-and-coming executive in the company), and married women were likely to quit as soon as they became pregnant. Women with children were understood to care more about the children than about work. In addition, there was a widespread belief that women were not as capable as men, either physically or mentally or emotionally. Today, women are not generally seen as inferior to men (in fact, it is common to hear that men are inferior to women). And there are women who want to put work first and family second. Most women in the workforce do not see it as temporary--something to do until they "catch a man"--nor as "extra" income. Organizations have been slowly adjusting to these changes, learning to treat women as the equals of men. Discriminating against female employees (in terms of hiring and advancement) and treating them in a sexual manner (sexual harassment) are now against the law.

Gender differences in the level and type of formal education and in participation in the labor force are rapidly disappearing; but the rate of advancement of women into higher positions is relatively slow. The position of women worldwide in managerial jobs is increasing and the position in the last decade has been described as improving but women are still at a disadvantage when compared to men's position. Generally, a growing number of women occupy management positions, but at top levels still very few women are present. Some sources even indicate that no. of women in top positions is currently declining, a trend observed in both the United States and Europe.

Review of Literature

The growing recognition of women managers by companies is due to the fact that like all other diversity initiatives (Thomas & Ely, 1997), the approach of investment in female talent works because they are to some extent outsiders. Their experiences can reveal not only different ways of working and innovative practices (Thomas & Ely, 1997; Martin, 1998) but they can also help to question those aspects in the work environment which are rarely noticed by those in the mainstream. Gender equity is therefore essential for increasing organization performance, however research on gender and organizations has analyzed the emergence, persistence, and transformation of gender discrimination in detail (e.g., Alvesson & Billing, 1992; Hearn & Parkin, 1987 ; Knights, 1994 ; Mills & Tancred, 1992). A common theme is that although workers are often constructed as disembodied and gender neutral, if one looks at the skills, behaviors, and norms these workers are expected to display and conform to more masculine characteristics, traits, and behaviors. Acker (1990), Ferguson, (1984); Kanter (1977) Martin (1998), for example, found that men and women displayed different work styles and showed how men's styles were better rewarded as they fulfilled the organizational efficiency goal than were women's styles. While organizations claim that their norms and practices are gender neutral, this body of research shows that one gender is consistently seen as deviating from the norm and that discrimination continues to hold sway, although in a disguised form. In the Asian context also similar studies were done (Tan, 1991; Selmer & Leung, 2003; Youkondi & Benson, 2005) which examined the increased acceptance of participation of women managers in management in Asian countries and the barriers that existed in their career paths. Similarly in Indian context also, a number of studies are done indicating improvement in Indian women's economic productive roles and issues related to female labor force participation (Liddle, 1988; Joshi, 1993; Buddapriya, 1999). …