New Delhi: Even though 66 per cent of people in India feel that gender equality has improved compared to their parents’ age, working women still contend with the strongest gender bias across Asia Pacific countries, according to LinkedIn’s Opportunity Index 2021 report released on Tuesday.
When asked about their reasons for being unhappy with opportunities to advance in their careers, one in five (22 per cent) working women in India said their companies exhibit a ‘favourable bias’ towards men at work when compared to the regional average of 16 per cent.
LinkedIn, the world’s largest online professional network, commissioned independent market research firm GfK to conduct this research between January 26 to 31. The survey was conducted among 18 to 65 year olds via an online survey.
It had more than 10,000 respondents across the Asia Pacific region from Australia, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. The survey covered 2,285 respondents in India, 1,223 of whom were males and 1,053 were females.
Based on it, the LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021 highlights the difference in perception of available opportunities in the market for men and women. While 37 per cent of India’s working women say they get fewer opportunities than men, only 25 per cent of men agree with this.
This disparity in perception is also seen in conversations about equal pay as more women (37 per cent) say they get less pay than men while only 21 per cent of men share this sentiment.
A deeper analysis shows that more women in India have experienced the impact of gender on career development when compared to the A-Pac region. More than four in five Indian working women (85 per cent) claim to have missed out on a raise, promotion or work offer because of their gender compared to the regional average of 60 per cent.
The top three job opportunities sought by both men and women are job security, a job that they love and a good work-life balance. But despite having similar goals, more women (63 per cent) think a person’s gender is important to get ahead in life when compared to men (54 per cent).
Consumer sentiment from the report shows that more than 7 in 10 working women (71 per cent) and working mothers (77 per cent) feel that managing familial responsibilities often come in their way of career development.
In fact, about two-thirds of working women (63 per cent) and working mothers (69 per cent) said they have faced discrimination at work because of familial and household responsibilities.
While job security is critical for working women across India, women are laying more emphasis on the type of employer they choose to work with, the recognition they will receive for the work they do, and the skills that will be utilised on the job.
As per LinkedIn’s findings, they are actively seeking employers who treat them as equal (50 per cent) while 56 per cent are looking to get recognition at work for what they do.
Lack of required professional skills and a lack of guidance through networks and connections are also some of the other barriers that get in the way of career development for working women in India.
Significantly, women have been disproportionately impacted amid Covid-19, and the expectations to juggle home and work life have wreaked havoc in their lives.
As a result of the barriers faced by women at work, more than one in two women and working mothers in India expect organisations to offer reduced or part-time schedules (56 per cent) and robust maternity leaves and policies (55 per cent) to make the transition smoother.
Telecommuting or work-from-home has also been appreciated by women across the workforce in India during the pandemic, and it is seen as the top-ranking demand for women in the workforce today along with other flexibility programmes.
More than one in two women are also looking for more professional connections and mentors who can help them advance their careers, as 65 per cent women agree that lack of guidance through networks is a key opportunity barrier.
“Gender inequality at work and added domestic responsibilities amid the pandemic have collectively made women’s jobs more vulnerable at this time,” said Ruchee Anand, Director for talent and learning solutions in India at LinkedIn.
“As Covid-19 continues to widen these gaps, this year’s LinkedIn Opportunity Index report suggests that it is the need of the hour for organisations to reimagine their diversity practices and offer greater flexibility to care-givers in order to increase female participation in the workforce.”
Anand said reduced and flexible schedules, more sabbaticals and new opportunities to upskill and learn are critical offerings that can help organisations attract, hire and retain more female talent.
Besides highlighting the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women, this year’s research also uncovers how an ailing economy and working in isolation continues to negatively impact the lives of the entire Indian workforce.