Who can she be? What can she do?

When you think of an engineer what thought comes to your mind immediately?
It should be that of a man… well there are many women engineers, but rarely does she make it to the first image in many minds.
These women engineers do work at the workplace in factories, mines, doing tough jobs. It’s a sociological fact that men came to the workplace first and women followed a few decades later. So, it wouldn’t be a misnomer to say that workplaces are male dominated especially sectors like the IT, manufacturing, brewery, finance to name a few.
This article is about Celebratory Network’s experience on building a community of women via an Employee Resource Group for an organization in the manufacturing sector. This understanding has thrown up some insights on how women show up at work, their lived experiences and what do they do. The other side of the coin is how the men perceive them at the workplace and what behaviours of theirs are seen.
How do women see themselves and what do they do about it?
  • Some women see themselves as capable, competent and ambitious and do not shy away from voicing it out. They know that the world outside has possibilities, and they can avail of them.
  • Some see themselves as second fiddle to men where the latter dictate what they need to do and why. For instance, “You are a woman, you will be great at handling a desk job. Let the men do the hard stuff.” Their work goes unrecognized, and they find themselves incapable of talking about their aims and ambitions or questioning the treatment meted out to them.
  • A few seem to be happy that they take the risk and talk in the appropriate forums irrespective of the consequences. They are scapegoated, targeted and seen as someone to be cautious of. “Don’t say anything in front of her, she will bring it out in the meetings”
  • Sensitivity towards women during their periods is not experienced until it’s very explicitly communicated. “Why are you sitting here, walk around.” Very few women take advantage of the period situation and want to be on leave during the cycle.
  • When women speak their mind they have been told something on the lines of, “Tum chup rehti ho toh sunder lagti ho.” (when you keep quiet, you look beautiful)
  • There’s also an experience of women being like men to feel equal
  • Women do not showcase their work, the assumption is that I am doing work and my work should speak for itself
  • The feeling that I am not alone was experienced, the sense of community emerged and the idea of networking came alive!
How do others perceive them and how do their behaviours show up?
– Women entering the workforce and trying to claim space is seen as competition with men
– Most often male managers show them their place by giving them work which is unaccounted for and not producing results that matter. When women ask for acknowledgement it’s said, “tumne kya kiya hai?” (what work have you done) Projects which bring credibility go mostly to men.
– They are seen as numbers for workplace diversity and hence are treated that way
– Men do not know how to deal sensitively with women and offense seems to be the best form of defence!
– Women, particularly married women and women with children are assumed to be not putting up long work hours.
– Decisions are made on their behalf, without checking with them, that one needs to check, is not in the awareness of men. The underlying belief is by doing this, we are taking care of the women.
– If a woman is promoted, gets a good performance rating it’s attributed to the relationship she may be having with the manager and her competence is not acknowledged. Often these relations are tilted towards the women being favored
– Women are seen as trophy candidates and are given opportunities to arrange for events, lighting the lamp, offering bouquets etc. but jobs for which they are qualified like working on the shopfloor, are not given.
– Very few men see women as capable and assign work befitting their qualifications & treating them at par with the others in the team.
We at Celebratory Network are helping organizations in the space of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, supporting in creating Employee Resource Groups for the underrepresented employee groups.