By Sailaja S.P

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in India are not Behind

Photo: Anahita Ahmadi
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Glass Ceiling Effect in the West

In the late 20th century, women in other parts of the industrialised world had also experienced what is popularly known as the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon, which meant that women found they could only rise to a certain level in corporations and no further. This raises two immediate questions. What were the reasons that could have led to such a thought? And, were men keeping women away from the top? 

The answer is a diplomatic one: yes and no; but with reasons to substantiate them. Yes, as men did not seem to realise that women are — and can be — as capable as men. Men had trouble accepting that women do not function like them because they are raised differently – gender versus sex – and this can be their strength and an asset to the corporation. And no, because women too have been socialised to believe that their world is in their home and family. The male values they encounter in the workplace are often alien to them. However, what they see as behaviour unlike theirs can also be a source of strength for them and a learning opportunity. Nevertheless, not having the skills to cope with this environment, they often opted out. So somewhere they were stuck in the middle level management and soft functions only. 

More than three decades ago women in the west and developed countries were fighting glass ceiling syndrome while in India women started working in various spheres and sectors and marked their presence in the green pastures of the corporate world!

East Follows West – India Faces the “Glass Ceiling”

We, in India, are witnessing the Glass Ceiling syndrome two decades or so after the west experienced it and we have ‘emerged as winners’. The good part is like a “wise man” we have the advantage of learning from the past or rather access to best practices available… Thanks to the internet and Google, the problem and the solution is right in front of our eyes. From a mere 3% of women in “senior positions” in India in 1992, we are today in double digits, with 31% in senior positions, of which 15% are CEOs. 

Things have changed, today’s corporate world is a level playing field – more and more women are leading from the front, breaking the Glass Ceiling syndrome. Leadership requires essential qualities and essential skills. Neither can be neglected. Women were behind men in the past and to an extent even at present, but there is no reason why they cannot be equal now and in the future. Women today have already learnt to balance work and personal life and know how to handle tough situations and have to some extent started to think like men (a positive sign). 

With the help of social reformers, the Indian woman has slowly started recognising her true potential. She started questioning the rules laid down for her by society. As a result, she started breaking barriers and earned a respectable position in the world. Today Indian women have excelled in each and every field from social work to space station expeditions. There is no arena, which remains unconquered by Indian women. Whether it is in politics, sports, entertainment, literature or technology, everywhere we can hear applause for her. Therefore, the corporate world is likewise a platform for women to prove their abilities. 

Evolving Women: Overall and in the Corporate World

The status of women has changed considerably. Women have made significant strides in all fields, although their number remains insignificant. We need to eliminate some of the traditional hurdles to acquiring any type of skills (without distinguishing them as doable and not doable) and also dissipate old prejudices. The diagram below depicts the evolution of a woman over the last few decades:

Womens rights in India

Not only has she evolved as a woman over the years but has overcome the hurdles (both personal and social) to pave a path for herself in the male dominated corporate world.

Growth and comfort cannot coexist so women have to move out of their comfort zone to reach their goals in the future. 

Way Ahead

At the outset it seems that we are at par with men in the corporate world, which is a positive sign in the whole gamut of bridging the gap of credibility. So are we already at the helm of the corporate world? Have we crossed the road blocks on our road to success and growth? The answer is ‘maybe’ because personally I feel we have crossed the stage of teething problems and in the next decade or so we should see men and women in a 50:50 ratio in handling higher positions and responsibilities…Wo’man: the word itself is more than ‘man’! If this continues… From Eligibility To Credibility Women is a Reality!

All it requires the same amount of passion and perseverance towards career as we are showing today.

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The Gordian Magazine Cover

Off with the head! Getting Rid of Phoney Justice

Welcome to the September issue of The Gordian.

Executing a human being and punishments like solitary confinement are as coldblooded and premeditated as murder and torture can get. They are not in self-defence, because the danger has passed. It is not justice, because a person can always outweigh their deeds, and they can change, given the chance. The theme of this series is still justice and in this issue, we are looking at it from different angles, including those phoney ones imposed on the guilty with little or no respect for their welfare and human right.

This issue offers the usual mix of politics, interviews and culture by UN-aligneders across the world, including Ruby Goldenberg, Carla Pietrobattista, Katharina Wüstnienhaus, Victoria Davila, Partho Chatterjee and Maya Bearyman, Cristina Mihailescu, Omar Alansari-Kreger, Atika Harba and Sonia Roopnarain.

The editors are Adrian Liberto and Ariana Yekrangi.

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