Women in the Workforce: Unseen Barriers and the Myth of Emotional Fragility

Character assassination is a common tactic used to undermine a female colleague.


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Despite strong advocation for women in the workforce, the percentage of employed, educated women remains disappointingly low. This is observed especially on the higher rungs of the corporate ladder – beyond middle management levels.

One fundamental reason for the underrepresentation of women in the workforce is the ingrained hiring psyche that hiring male employee minimises potential future adversities as men are considered less of a challenge in terms of safety, hygiene, and sensitivity.

When women do enter the corporate world, they are often relegated to soft jobs, to fulfill diversity quotas rather than being valued for their expertise. Their management skills, honed through household responsibilities, are seen as liabilities due to assumptions that they will be distracted by familial duties. Consequently, men are favoured to avoid perceived "tantrums" related to balancing work and home life.

Corporate politics further exacerbate these issues. When a woman's work is praised, it is not uncommon for her to face insinuations of intimacy with her ‘superiors’, overshadowing her professional accomplishments.

Character assassination is a common tactic used to undermine a female colleague. The notion that a woman might earn respect based solely on her work ethic and performance is often dismissed, giving way to harmful gossip about her personal life. If a woman happens to be friendly, her morals and values are questioned, leading to widespread character shaming.

Should a woman withstand these attacks, setting stringent professional boundaries, she may then be labelled as outrightly "rude" or having "temper issues". This criticism fails to recognise the underlying reasons for her assertiveness, such as addressing inappropriate behavior like disrespectful body language or leering glances during professional discussions.

Women’s firm responses to such behaviour are mischaracterised as evidence of emotional instability rather than justified reactions to disrespect extended to her with connoted actions underlaid with the so-called formal discussions.

Character shaming and the stereotypical myth of women's emotional fragility are convenient tools, very commonly used to maintain the status quo, ensuring that women's progress remains stunted.

The prevalence of these issues underscores a harsh reality: deeply ingrained unconscious biases and resistance to genuine change within the corporate culture, revealing the hollow façade of diversity initiatives

All the policies, notions of equitable – inclusive workplace and initiatives towards increasing focus on women in the workforce shall be futile, if these significant barriers are not overcome.

Only by acknowledging and addressing the issues of character shaming and the false narrative of women's emotional fragility, we can pave the way for a working environment, where women are valued for their contributions and skills.

(Neha [pen name] is a corporate strategy and communications professional. Her expertise spans various industries, delivering impactful results through innovative strategies and compelling narratives, all underlined by her deep interest in organisational behaviour and HR engagement. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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