Women in male dominated professions – 23 Mar 2010

Women employees do suffer stress in male dominated professions- in more ways than one. Besides the fact that she has to compete with her male colleagues and prove her worth professionally she would also have to learn to get along with them socially and inter personally. It can become a tall order and a source of stress for many, for male dominated professions are not a level playing field and things are not as equal as we make them out to be. The adjustment factors for women are many and complex in nature. Many of them are known and many are unknown and unwritten too. Male dominated professions typically have a different work culture and different norms of behaviour which women must learn to de-code and interpret it in the right spirit. Men also have different leadership styles which may be contrary to women’s nature and orientation of work.

Take a simple and common example. A female employee became the centre of attraction for her sheer good looks. She was beautiful and naturally people stared at her and admired her. Men vied for her attention and her affection. In her innocence and youth she mishandled the situation and became the centre of controversy and ultimately a victim. She became a scapegoat for many a jealous souls which included men and other women employees. The women employees too played foul with her playing their own social political games. She was the loser in the end. She realised after much trauma that she had many skills to learn for survival. But she was not the only loser- the bigger loss was to the organisation which could not control social behaviour and allowed victimisation to occur. In such socio-psychological game playing, employee effectiveness decreases, so do productivity, as people indulge in the fulfillment of unconscious personal needs as a priority. Work takes a back seat and suffers. The human drama is inevitable we know but to what consequences is the question and at whose cost is also the concern.

Such situations may be interpreted by male chauvinists to their own advantage. They may immediately label the victimised woman as ‘incompetent’ and put a question mark on women’s effectiveness in general. They may desire to terminate all women employees if they could. This is called ‘blaming the victim’ and also a phenomenon called ‘give the dog a bad name and hang it’. But the reality is otherwise. When the (male dominated) work situation is itself unequal in terms of gender realities we cannot expect the same level of competency from men and women. This is the saddest part as the loss is not only to the individual but also in a large way to the organisation as a good employees are lost and rendered ‘useless’. In other words if all things are equal on the work place women are as effective as men. There are many studies to prove this and hence to disprove the age old myths regarding career women. But not all work places are alike. There are different types of work settings and this is a strong factor that impacts effectiveness. Modern work settings with democratic participatory styles are more amicable to women employees in contrast to traditional male work settings that have old fashioned management styles.  

The purpose and goal of writing this would be to highlight the fact that women need to be retained in jobs rather than thrown out at the slightest pretext. For doing this managements need to sensitize themselves and their staff towards women employee and their needs. Women would need to be protected and more than that they would need to be groomed for the job and the workplace setting and its’ interpersonal dealings. For then only talent could be nurtured and retained even if it is embodied in the form of women.

Published in The Hitavada Future – 23 March 2010

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