Literary Speaking: Workplace should be feminized
There is a lot to learn from womanly qualities in the workplace. When the workplace becomes more feminine, companies will be able to retain more employees, says Geet Mala Jalota, author of the book ‘Have the Women Left Venus’.
The author says that if companies want to attract and retain more women, then the workplace has to be redesigned. And this applies to their policies as well as physical space. A woman has more say in how the home is designed and she keeps everyone’s comfort in mind. But the workplace is not designed that way. It does not cater to each and every person who is within the organisation, says Jalota. Her book was published in 2017 in English. She published a Hindi translation of her book in 2019.
‘Have the Women Left Venus’ identifies the reasons why there are so few women at the top level in companies in India. It is based on more than 50 interviews with women from a corporate background. The author analyses the factors that led to their career growth and the reasons why some of them dropped out at a crucial juncture of their career. Thirty-four of the interviews are shared in the book. The women interviewed are from different parts of India – Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, and abroad i.e. UAE and Singapore and one from the United States. Some of the respondents have shared their secrets of leading, managing teams or how to start a business.
The intention of writing was to provide input to companies on what they can do to retain and grow their gender ratios.
“Women are better attuned to listening and are more intuitive and those are excellent leadership qualities. She comes to know who is in a bad mood, who is in a good mood and leaders should also be like that. They should be able to sense that something is wrong with this guy in my team, and maybe I should spend some time listening to him. So, in that sense, leaders have to adopt some of those qualities of women. And when the workplace becomes more, let’s say, feminine, I call it the feminine workplace, I am sure there will be less of mental health issues. And there will be less aggression at the workplace”, says Jalota.
“By feminized I mean softer, kinder, emotionally sensitive, respectful to different groups and inclusive. In a society, customers belong to different communities and the same has to reflect within a company,” she explains.
The company will not stop making money, but the primary driving force will be wellbeing, wellbeing of the customers wellbeing of the employee, and profits will automatically come, she adds.
Jalota says that men communicate in a way which is very different from the way women communicate. And at the workplace, the differences become more prominent because it’s an artificial environment. “It’s a pressure cooker environment and we bring our real selves to work, and our real self becomes very visible”, she opines.
According to Jalota the policies also need to be redesigned, keeping in mind what women want. “For example, when a promotion happens you get more money, your designation changes, and you may get more perks like a car or a foreign holiday. But for a woman, these things may not be very important. A woman employee may want more time with her family or more facilities for her children,” she adds.
Jalota learned that many woman employees left the workplace after the age of 40 because they were looking for something meaningful. And interestingly those who left did not leave to join a similar workplace. They left to join either an NGO or to work for a social cause.
“So, what I found is that as they progressed in their jobs, not all women are looking for growth in terms of promotions or more money or designations. Quite a few women leave because they wanted to start a family and know they will not get time if they continue to work. I’m suggesting that a promotion package which is offered to women has no variety, it caters to only one type of person and that is a very limiting image of anybody, even a man. The promotion policy has to cater to all kinds of women and therefore all kinds of men”, she says.
After all, you are trying to retain an individual. “You’re trying to promote an individual, and he or she has to feel rewarded. If you design a policy for the average person, then there is no average person”, she adds.
Jalota says that the number of women who are joining the workforce is increasing, but they are also leaving in large numbers. Companies can negotiate different work relationships with women who want to leave. Part-time or work-from-home can work just fine, but sadly some of these arrangements are not well paid.
Women want more flexibility in terms of how much time they want to put into the workplace. They want to give time to their family or want more time for themselves.
Corporate India is missing out on a lot of potentials when women leave the workplace, says Jalota. “One potential is of course that educated women are sitting at home. Then the other potential is that there is only one quality of women that the corporates want to use. And that is handling customer service. And they are leaving at the level of team leader and taking all the knowledge of the customer with them”, the author adds.
It’s time companies ask their employees what they want when a promotion is due, the author feels.
Jalota also has some advice for young women joining the workplace; whatever happens do not leave your job, as it will empower you your whole life. Moreover, by not working, many resources which have gone into educating women, get blocked since the economy is circular.
*Ranjit Monga is a senior journalist and documentary filmmaker