Women in the Co-workplace

Starting this blog by firing off some numbers.

These statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor paint a picture of a workforce headed in the right direction.

  • Almost 47% of U.S. workers are women.
  • More than 39% of women work in occupations where women make up at least three-quarters of the workforce.
  • Women own close to 10 million businesses, accounting for $1.4 trillion in receipts.
  • The amount of women in the U.S. labor force has increased from 32.7% in 1948 to 56.8% percent in 2016.
  • More than 40%of women in the labor force had college degrees in 2016, compared with 11% in 1970.

Cut to present-day India. These statistics from a report published by Deloitte in 2019 paints a very grim picture:

Among graduates in 2018-2019, women represented:

  • Undergraduate degrees: 53%
  • Phil. degrees: 69.6%
  • PhDs: 41.8%

In spite of these figures, “the female labour force participation in India had a decadal fall from 36.7 percent in 2005 to 26 percent in 2018, with 95% (195 million) women employed in the unorganized sector or in unpaid word,” the Deloitte report noted.

Despite rapid economic growth in the country, a meager 23.6% of women aged 15 and above participated in the workforce in 2018 (compared to 78.6% of men).  In 2018 only 26% of surveyed companies had hired women in the top-five job roles in the past five years.

Increasing women’s labor force participation by 10 percent points could add $770 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.

Let me say that again. If only 10 percent more women join the workforce, India’s GDP will see an increase in seven hundred and seventy billion US Dollars. That is a staggering sum of money.

In 2014, Emma Watson brought it to the forefront by asking, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or being welcomed to participate in the conversation?” in her now-famous speech at the UN. India it’s not even half.

Women don multiple hats today – a homemaker, leader, consumers, entrepreneur, caretaker. The importance of diversity and gender equality at the workplace has gained prominence in the past few years. Empowerment of women has now truly become a global movement. It is a very important development objective under UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More companies have realized and accepted the fact that the empowerment of women has a profound impact on overall business performance. Creating an ecosystem that helps women balance the multiple roles they play in life is essential to the empowerment of women.

This effort to bring about change in every field (including coworking) is being seen and heard more prominently. Coworking spaces by default seem to be a step-ahead as most if not all spaces, focus on catering to entrepreneurs, freelancers and more, regardless of their gender.

However, the needs of men and women tend to differ after a certain point. Coworking spaces for women entrepreneurs today is the need of the hour. Coworking spaces are realizing that they are losing out on half of their user base simply because of the inability to cater to their non-work – but equally important – needs and requirements.

But women entrepreneurs everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief now, as there are more and more places cropping up either run by women or definitely catering specifically to them as well.  

Embracing a culture of equality in every sense

Across the nation and the world, we are seeing organizations, companies, and industries take big steps to close the gender equality gap.

In the United States, a record number of women are running for office and movements empowering women to speak up for change have taken over the media and technology industries.

Multi-national companies have pledged to worked toward a gender-equal environment, with many taking big steps and making big changes to do so.

Globally women at leadership position are very less and only 4.9 percent of Fortune 500 companies have women at leadership position. India has one of the lowest labour force participation by women, when compared to countries across the globe, just under 18 percent in 2017 compared to 82 percent for men (ILO, India Labour Market Update, July 2017 (August 8, 2017). A global study by Deloitte identified Indian women as holding 12.4 percent of board seats and just 3.2 percent of board chairs in 2017 (Deloitte, Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective – Fifth Edition).

Re-imagining and restructuring societal norms

Leaving aside the personal equation, family pressures are also immense. In the early days of the job, women have to contend with parental pressure to not travel, to not stay out late, to not pick plum postings in cities too far from their hometowns. Despite countries like China, Vietnam and Russia having all-women super factories and a huge women worker population, in India ‘factory jobs’ are seen as the last resort for young women engineers.

At an individual level, we must bring up our girls with greater self-awareness and confidence. A strong can-do attitude coupled with a quiet confidence in their abilities can go a long way towards making women at the workplace, stronger individuals.

At a family level, it becomes necessary to examine our own conditioning, our own stereotyping and beliefs that most often unconsciously influence our behavior when we are dealing with our children – both male and female. By being gender-sensitive and constantly aware of the way we portray genders in our relationships, language and actions, we can help bring up children who do not see gender as a definition of a person. It also means supporting our girls to chase their dreams the way they choose.

At a society level, we can start by being cheerleaders for our women workforce, unlearning gender inequality and correcting our perceptions of what women can bring to the workplace.

At an organizational level, there are lots that can be done and thankfully, is being done, slowly but surely.  More flexible policies, office day-cares, the recent Maternity Benefits Act, etc have helped ease the strain on women employees. There is more though!

Future is Female

So how do we change the workforce so women can work and care for their families? How do we enable women to take time out, if they want and need to, and then have them fully re-enter without being severely penalized?

First, we need to rethink workable hours for women. The 9 to 5 workweek is a remnant of the Industrial Revolution. It’s about as relevant today as the Ford’s Model T and yet, ironically that standard 40-hour workweek was codified by Ford Motor in 1914 and continues to be the norm.

The good news for women is that as millennials take over as the largest segment of the workforce they are helping to redefine how we work, where we work and even how many hours we work each day. A study by Bentley University found that 77 percent of millennials feel a flexible work schedule allows them to be more productive. And in the throes of the creative economy that values an entrepreneurial workforce where project-based and freelance work is becoming routine, we are reimagining what the culture of work looks like and how we operate.

Studies show that creating a culture that doesn’t make flexibility either a perk for moms or accommodation for a few, but instead having it blend into the rhythm of a workplace, helps enhance performance and increase employee satisfaction. It also takes the guilt and stress out of managing work and life — particularly for women.

To truly reimagine the workforce, we need to stop marginalizing women who have taken time off to care for their families and find ways through internship, recruiting and retraining programs to bring them back into the office. Or better yet — we can find ways for women to work that doesn’t always require face time in an office.

This new workforce understands that women may plot their career progression knowing that they will want to be stepping out for a few years but have the support internally to plan and prepare for that transition. It creates a space where “work-life fit” is embedded into the corporate culture. It can keep women in the workplace so companies don’t lose its female talent — talent in which they have already invested and in which they need to continue to nurture. This model supports female diversity not just at the bottom but in middle management and at the top of the food chain that is so frustratingly lacking in many industries. And ultimately, this re-imagined more flexible environment creates a sustainable and profitable workplace that will be a win-win for everyone.

If these numbers and statistics have anything to show us it is that the future is definitely female.

Leading by example

When it comes to company culture, the greatest driving factor is leadership. If those at the top aren’t living the culture, the rest of the staff won’t either.

 Seeing the steps taken by Plus Offices, a coworking space in Gurgaon, and working at a company that has a culture of equality from the top-down has shown me what a difference leadership can make.

Among the largest coworking spaces in Gurgaon, Plus Offices has a total floor area of more than 1,00,000 sq. ft. with 5 women at its helm. What started out as a side hustle for director Anuja Lakra, has now turned into a full-time job providing and managing a workspace for 150 startups and counting.

Taking this women-centric mindset further, Plus Offices offer heavy discounts to women entrepreneurs in an attempt to support and promote them in their endeavors. Being a start-up themselves, they understand fewer overheads at the start of any business goes a long way to ensure growth and success.

In an attempt to make life easy beyond work, Plus Offices has tied up with Shuttl and provides complimentary app-enabled shuttle services between its sector 67 office and the metro stations.

Further, Plus Offices also makes it a priority to organize and host events by tying up with breast cancer awareness specialists, NGOs working with underprivileged women and so on.

Are you a woman entrepreneur just starting out or looking for a change? We have your back! Call or WhatsApp us at +91-7303145522 or write to info@plusoffices.com to book your free tour today!

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