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on at Work
Ram Krishna Sahu

It is the practice of letting a person's sex unfairly become a factor when deciding who receives a job. A study of Wal-Mart's own employee data (conducted by some experts hired by the plaintiffs) revealed that women had been discriminated against in many instances.The beginning of the 21st century brought with it a spate of problems for the world's largest retailer Wal-Mart. In June 2001. Many more employees joined Dukes. * * * * * * * * * * GENDER DISCRIMINATION Discrimination is a sociological term referring to treatment taken toward or against a person of a certain group that is taken in consideration based on class or category. had filed a case accusing the company of 'sex discrimination in promotions. It is defined as adverse action against another person that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. Gender discrimination refers to beliefs and attitudes in relation to the gender of a person. or other employment benefit.5 million women. promotion. and by May 2003. It most often affects women who feel they have been unfairly discriminated against in favor of a man. Even the company's internal memos revealed that Wal-Mart was far behind its competitors in promoting women at the workplace. a former Wal-Mart employee. Types of Gender Discrimination There are two main categories of gender discrimination: • Disparate treatment . Wal-Mart was charged with discrimination against its female employees in compensation. promotions and job assignments in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) . The plaintiffs alleged that Wal-Mart mistreated women in various ways: they earned much less than their male counterparts even when they had more experience than men or performed better than them. Wal-Mart had for long been accused of not treating its female employees in a socially responsible manner. Betty Dukes (Dukes). The company found itself facing one of the biggest lawsuits ever in the history of the US. training and pay. the case had taken the shape of a class action suit after the plaintiffs asked a Federal Judge to allow the case to proceed on behalf of more than 1.

is simply treating an employee differently (disparately) because of her or his employee may be discriminated against by being asked discriminatory questions during a job interview. They may face sarcastic stares or constant digs made at them by their colleagues during initial weeks. and fuels more discrimination. promote or wrongfully terminated an employee based on his or her gender. Discrimination at work can come from either the employee of from the colleague side. but not enough strength to meet the department's requirement. However. • Disparate impact The first category. The effect on the employee can be huge or meager but the impact on organization remains for a longer time. that is). While a slight difference in qualifications between a female and a male candidate does not automatically indicate gender bias (if a lesser qualified male candidate is hired instead of a female candidate. It results in wastage of human talent and resources. It brings down the overall performance. which in turn increases the number of gaps in one's work further. The socio-economic inequalities get widened and social cohesion and solidarity are eroded. There is a disparate impact on one gender. Discrimination by colleagues can happen to new employees. The main indicator which indicates that gender discrimination has occurred in the hiring process involves the qualifications of the job applicants. Discrimination at workplace also affects the society. it can affect not only the employee but also the employer. a drastic difference in qualifications has almost always been upheld by the courts as a sure sign of gender . an employer did not hire. Disparate impact is a more complex concept. resulting in demoralization and descend in performance standards. For example . It regards company policies or practices that exclude persons of one gender from a job or from promotions although the policy or practice was not designed to do so. disparate treatment. or employers pay unequally based on gender. An employee who is being discriminated witnesses non cooperation from peers and negative feedbacks form subordinates. Discrimination leads to psychological and emotional disturbance. if it persists for a long time. An example is the policy of many fire departments that had strength requirements for hiring firefighter that far exceeded the strength needed by an individual to work effectively as a firefighter. many of whom had enough strength to be a good firefighter. Such excessive strength requirements had a disparate impact on women.

Despite the progress that individual countries and companies have made in addressing gender inequality and discrimination. which exists in the corporate hierarchy. either through his actions or words that he wants to have sexual relations with a female employee. . if a male who dropped out of high school without receiving a diploma is hired in an administrative position over a female who had obtained her master's degree. there is still much to be done to achieve true equality in public institutions and in the corporate executive suite. • Some employers fired female employees as soon as the employees became pregnant. The reason seemed to be true. • Female employees were passed over for promotion in favor of junior or less-qualified male employees • Manager only promotes male employees and keeps females in entry-level positions. society and psychological factors — that impede women’s advancement to upper management or other senior positions. They were restricted to clerical and other support services jobs. Compared to formal barriers to career advancement such as education. then it is likely bias was a factor. Examples of Gender Discrimination at work • An employee may be discriminated by being asked discriminatory questions during a job interview • An employer may not hire.discrimination. very few women had proper college education and fewer had management degrees. the glass ceiling refers to less tangible hindrances — frequently anchored in culture. promote or wrongfully terminate an employee based on his or her gender • Employers pay unequally based on gender • One is refused credit or is offered unequal loan terms based on one’s gender • Employers in the past paid female workers substantially less than their male workers were making in the same job. For example. Glass ceiling has been used as a metaphor for twenty years now to describe the apparently invisible barriers that prevent more than a few women from reaching the top levels of management. Glass Ceiling is yet another form of discrimination towards women. even though these employees could have continued to perform their job duties. as in the late 1970s and early 1980s. • Manager who makes it clear. One of the main reasons cited for the existence of a glass ceiling was that women did not have the required experience and skills to reach the top management.

When it comes to breaking the glass ceiling in the corporate world. She also ranked 31 in the Fortune's Power Fifty 2001. Some believe that having women on an executive board is a positive thing. the more will get promoted to senior management and serve as role models for the younger. like India. Younger men have also been more accepting of female superiors. who has moved from strength to strength in the restructuring of the company. The stereotype of maternal leadership stems from that. Chennai-born Nooyi is now slated to be one of the most powerful women in corporate America when she steps into the role of Chief Executive Officer at PepsiCo International later this year. Women are said to have different styles of leadership and management once they break the barrier. Ms Indra Nooyi has done it with aplomb — that too in the global arena. CFO and Director on the company's board she has forged several changes that had already earned her the reputation of a doer. Most of the time they are the only female at that level and are surrounded by males. The perception of a woman’s role is changing with the younger generation. which is sometimes seen as positive traits. Over the past several years as President. many women recently have surpassed that hurdle. taking care of children. Women’s traditional role is in the home. and keeping house. Many women have faced sexual harassment. Some men in senior management that do not want to see women climb the corporate ladder believe that they do not have the qualities to lead a company. more “tough” and shrewd in business. Men are stereotypically. When at the top management.Breaking Glass Ceiling Although there is a glass ceiling. ICICI and Gayathri . Lalita D gupte (Lalita) was made the head of ICICI’s global operations. In the developing countries. Other examples included Kalpana Morparia. many women feel isolated like outsiders. They are generalized to be more nurturing and caring in nature than men. wage inequality. There are many reasons why women have been able to break the barrier. Many believe that making assumptions about the way women act in a leadership position perpetuates the stereotypes that cause the glass ceiling. Ms Nooyi's elevation has not come as a surprise to the corporate world. The more women that are accepted into management positions. blocked movement and gender stereotyped roles. Senior General Manager (Legal).

This fact is also corroborated by employee statistics . Others included Jayashree Vallal. has been that of clearly providing opportunities to its employees solely on the basis of merit and performance without any gender discrimination. The entire group being headed by a Woman CEO. There is no discrimination of employees on the grounds of gender. the women managers of ICICI occupy about 40 per cent of the corner offices in positions above the Assistant General Manager (AGM).against a mere 4 per cent representation in senior positions in Fortune 500 companies.Parathasarthy Head. Naina Lal Kidwai (Naina) became the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the Indian investment banking division of HSBC. It is this organizational mindset that has made it rewrite the rules of structure in corporate India. as the ICICI culture. ICICI has been chosen as case study. with two key group entities also following the same trend. CEO of Support. Development Integration Services. Naina was also ranked third on Fortune's list of Asia's most powerful and Radha Ramaswami Basu.62 % of the total work force. In August 2002. woven sub-consciously into the mindset of the institution over the years. a SBU for the IT services division at i- Flex Solutions. is also a case in point. The women employees represent 19. An ICICI Group Case Study The ICICI case study presents how gender inclusivity is important for an organization to grow and why increased gender equality measures are necessary to keep an organization in a competitive global marketplace. This shows that the infamous “glass ceiling” does not exist in this organization. A review of the case study would provide deep insights to other organizations intending to implement the best Gender Neutral practices at their work places. ICICI’s philosophy to be a gender neutral organization . Vice-President at Cisco Systems. Indian women achieved top management positions in corporates outside India as well. and she was declared the 47th most powerful women in business in the world. ICICI provides equal growth opportunities for its women employees and today the Company can boast of having important and critical functional areas which are manned by women employees.

is reflective in all its policies. sexual orientation. • ICICI Group has a Gender Neutral Policy that prohibits unwelcome advances. in return for that individual’s compliance. ICICI Group discourages conduct that implies granting or withholding favors or opportunities as a basis for decisions affecting an individual. How ICICI is dealing with Gender Discrimination • Pay attention to what you don’t always see. • Keep your personal beliefs personal. if you want to provide a flexible work arrangement for your older workers. avoid appearing discriminatory by being sure to offer this option to everyone. Your personal philosophy regarding race. . which seeks to ensure that both genders have equal opportunities and no preferential or discriminatory treatment is meted out to anyone on grounds of gender. employee conflicts. You can’t always see it. and even lawsuits are just a few of the serious problems that could arise. For instance. or other verbal or physical conduct where such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating. religion. Low morale. requests for sexual favors. you and your company could suffer in the long run. but if you ignore even the hint of discriminatory behavior. hostile or offensive working environment. Discriminatory policy of ICICI Discrimination and Harassment and Intimidation • ICICI Group is committed to prohibition of harassment and intimidation of employees in the workplace. nor should it cloud your views regarding what’s legal and just. or stop it. and other potentially contentious issues should not affect your duty to monitor workplace discrimination. ICICI has a well defined gender neutral policy and a complaint committee for sexual harassment and gender discrimination. make sure these perks are available to everyone. If you offer certain benefits to employees. • Don’t play favorites. prove it. whether explicit or implied. Such action is an easier form of harassment to identify because it takes the form of either a threat or a promise.

do what you can in the shortest period of time to resolve the issue. Create and post an antidiscrimination policy (or consider paying an expert to create one). If an employee expresses concern about possible workplace discrimination. and knowledgeable about what’s okay to say and what’s better left unsaid. Find out what it means for you as an employer. People should not be afraid to be themselves. insist on counseling.or two-hour consulting fee. After you’ve assessed the situation and consulted a lawyer. Think before you say something that might be misconstrued. determine how you’re going to proceed. Consider paying an attorney who specializes in this area a one. and conduct research on discrimination and harassment law. Establish a clear policy for yourself and others for dealing with the problem. If you discover that some kind of discrimination has taken place. read your daily newspaper for information about what’s happening locally. . Allowing it to linger will only add to the employee’s anxiety and allow whatever may be occurring to continue. but they do need to be careful. Do some intelligence gathering by having an honest conversation with the person who has lodged the complaint. Stay informed about workplace discrimination. Who said what? What exactly happened? Who else was involved? Along with the help and guidance of your human resources manager. In the long run. • Educate yourself. sensitive. It’s easy for an off-the-cuff remark — said by either you or an employee — to start an avalanche of bad feelings and even a charge of discrimination.• Be careful of what you say and to whom you say it. Think of your investment as part of the cost of doing business. Talk with your peers in similar and different industries. a short meeting could save you a lot of money. or formally terminate the accused. Make sure to take (and safeguard) copious notes of your discussions. Keep in mind that no antidiscrimination policy will be taken seriously unless you take concrete action against any possible wrongdoing. decide if you will start with a warning. and teach your employees to conduct themselves similarly. • Respond quickly. talk to the person who has been accused. • Formalize the policy and the consequence. and ask as many questions as you can.

Jayalalitha (TN) from Indian Politics. Sunita Williams of NASA. President Pratibha Patil. Chanda Kochar. Mallika Srinivasan of Tractor And Farm Equipments (TAFE). for a few super success stories like Kiran Mazundar Shaw of Although few women have been striving hard for women’s emancipation and overall growth along with several other causes like Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachchao Andolan. Kalpana Chawla. http://www.pd f 2.gemconsortium.php 5.Conclusion So there is a potential to address and eradicate all the problems.icici. Shobaa De. Vinita Bali of Britannia Industries. Mamata 3. Amrita Patel of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). http://awakeindia. x. There should be a framework. It is also proven that women have been contributing to the economic development of many countries but there lacks a realization and all their work go invisible. But. Arundhati Roy. Chairperson of 4. http://www.fiwe. http://www.allacademic. most of the contribution goes 7. http://www.html Mother Theresa-the Nobel http://www.lijjat. Sonia Gandhi. Priety Zinta from IPL very few have achieved limelight they deserve. the incumbent MD & CEO of ICICI Bank. an action plan to uplift women from the oppression and give them independence from gender discrimination. References 1.

8. Business Ethics and Corporate Governance by ICMR India Ltd. http://www.shtml 9.