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     Volume 4 Issue 60 |August 26, 2005 |

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Why Women are Still Far Behind

Shahana Ferdous

“A woman can devote as much time as possible to her career when she is single but after marriage her attitude towards life changes. With the growing responsibility both at home and at the workplace, she has to struggle to keep a balance between work and family and career goals become less prioritized for her then," says Cynthia Chowdhury while focusing on why a woman lags behind a man in the corporate world. Cynthia, who is working as a Marketing Executive for a mobile phone company, is not sure about how seriously she may be able to continue with her career when family liabilities and household chores will be too much for her. "Perhaps I will quit even if my career is at its peak," says Cynthia candidly. For a woman, family and children always come first and this social value is at odds with corporate culture where you are expected to spend most of your time at the office and takes extra workloads for career advancement. Due to a compact schedule, a woman cannot even manage time for social events in the workplace, which are really important for rapport-building with supervisors and colleagues and for getting oneself known within the corporation. Sabiha Rashid, a Management Consultant working for a private organisation, says "When you cannot manage time for socialising, the distance with your supervisors and colleagues both at personal and professional level increases, you feel isolated, and you are never considered for a leadership position because of your poor networking ability."

Women are not usually comfortable with all types of jobs. They are noticeable only in non-operating areas such as Public Relations, Human Resources or Customer Services. Their presence in Marketing, Sales and Distribution, or Manufacturing units, which can give them the chance to use their business skills and talents to the fullest, is really negligible. Moreover, family objections sometimes influence their decision of not going for non-traditional job sectors where extensive field visits or staying out of residence is required. This tendency of women of marginalising themselves in certain types of jobs acts as a barrier to their upward move in corporate setting.

Another obstacle that women frequently face while they are in managerial positions in any corporation is gender discrimination. The pay gap is a general practice: women are paid less than men of equal ability. Women have to fight against differential treatment in hiring and promotion as well. Then there is the struggle against gender biased misconceptions such as women are not very professional, they are risk averse or lack the confidence required for top positions. "A woman has to work harder and better than her male counterparts to prove herself but still her achievements go unrecognised in some cases which undermine her self--esteem and prompt her to leave the job," says Sanjida Rahman, a Deputy Manager at a multinational company.

Sexual harassment in corporations is also widespread. Unwelcome sexual advances contaminate the working environment and make women executives feel intimidated and demoralised. Many women are afraid of speaking out and are reluctant about taking legal action. But the problem is that the corporations are not willing to see sexual harassment as a real problem and they are reluctant to implement effective remedies which result in some of the talented and hardworking women of the corporate arena opting out.

No one can ignore the importance of mentoring in the workplace. A male mentor can help his women recruits by providing leadership roles or he can be generous by giving business tips and negotiation tactics. A female mentor, on the other hand, can share her strategies of success with her women employees or she can help them out in overcoming the problems of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. "I owe some of my bosses who guided, supported and advised me at every step of my professional development," says Munira Nizam, acknowledging the value of mentors in her career as a General Manager for a renowned Insurance Company. But every woman is not lucky enough like Munira to find a reliable mentor to whom she can turn for career advancement opportunities. The dearth of mentors in high-ranking positions sometimes put women at a disadvantage in the corporate environment.

Now a days, women are making significant strides in the corporate world but men still outrank them in management positions. To climb the corporate ladder more swiftly and smoothly, women have to break their stereotyped images of being timid and submissive. They have to be vocal, assertive and authoritative. Elimination of all kinds of discrimination is also necessary to help women grow and advance in the corporate milieu. More than anything, the visibility of more women as role models in decision-making positions will bolster the self-assurance of the new women entering the corporate world.

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