Breaking the Glass Walls: On gender equality

Synopsis: We need to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in science. Barriers that these biases enforce for women must be knocked down at every level.

Introduction

Gender equality is a moral, business and an intellectual imperative. It is non-negotiable and independent of profession or affiliation or gender. Gender equality benefits both men and women.

What are the impacts of gender bias?

Inequity: Stereotypes related to gender brilliance or gender-based intrinsic aptitude generate inequity which remains unnoticed.

Less opportunities: Due to deep-rooted biases, it is difficult for women to access many experiences and networks that are easily accessible to men.

Societal barriers and norms: Personal barriers include notions of compromise and sacrifice that are ingrained in women. This feeds into how women present themselves. External barriers and cultural cues reinforce how men and women “ought” to behave.

Less self-confidence: Our socio-cultural constructs reflect absolute patriarchy causing even women to be sceptical about their abilities, to accept the roles set for them in the household.

Gender segregation and glass walls: more men in strategic functions and women in support functions.

These “glass walls” occur through a combination of unconscious biases in career and recruitment processes, benevolent sexism which prevent women from certain occupational choices.

How the problem in India is different from the problem in the West?

Higher enrollment in India: many girls in India study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, but the number of women who stay on and pursue higher degrees and then go on to higher positions are fewer.

No decision-making power: a woman’s well-being and dignity are not necessarily in her hands.

A strange paradox: There are women in powerful positions in many fields but, at the same time, several women have minimal rights.

For instance, In New Delhi, there have been many powerful women. However, the high rate of crimes against women, including murder, rape, and female infanticide, in the nation’s capital shows that political power and intellectual presence are not transferred.

What is the way forward?

First, it is essential to create awareness of inherent injustice and biases. There has been a very gradual change in the representation and the status of women globally. The rate of change definitely needs to increase by several orders of magnitude.

Second, fostering equality requires overcoming social, economic and cultural barriers, and implicit biases at the grassroots.

Source: This post is based on the article “Breaking the Glass Walls” published in Indian Express on 18th September 2021.

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