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Women at work: The five hindrances

Women at work: The five hindrances

Despite years of working towards achieving parity at the workplace, the glass ceiling is still very much present everywhere. Women are still woefully underrepresented in positions of leadership. In Mauritius, few women occupy top positions. The big question is: what is holding women back.


The theme for International Women’s Day on 8 March, 2017, focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. The world of work is changing, and with significant implications for women. On one hand there is globalisation, technological and digital revolution and on the other hand, the growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts should be addressed for the economic empowerment of women. 

In 2015, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, placing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “Achievement of the goals, including ending poverty, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reducing inequalities within and between countries, and achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, rests upon unlocking the full potential of women in the world of work. Measures that are key to ensuring women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work must include bridging the gender pay gap, which stands at 24 per cent globally; recognising women’s unpaid care and domestic work and addressing the gender deficit in care work; as well as addressing the gender gaps in leadership, entrepreneurship and access to social protection; and ensuring gender-responsive economic policies for job creation, poverty reduction and sustainable, inclusive growth,” highlights the UN report. 

The invisible obstacles 

Glass ceiling or the invisible barrier has always been a labyrinth. Women find it hard to attain success and to be in top positions. Despite young girls performing better academically, they are glued in the middle management position for years and years. The various barriers are discussed below by experts:

Patriarchal society

Trade Unionist Jane Ragoo argues about one of the main barriers is the society we live in. “Certainly we live in a society where men are promoted more quickly than women. Men always believe that they can perform better than women. Besides, there is always a prejudice that women will be taking more leaves than men due to maternity or personal issues. Despite having the same qualifications, men get promoted quicker than women,” she says.

Similarly Anushka Virahsawmy from Gender Links explains that despite Mauritius having evolved as a modern society, patriarchy still exist. “The mindset has not changed much. Men still cannot accept that women allocate duties to them or are their boss. Hopefully, the young generation will bring more changes in this context,” she adds. 

Vimi Appadoo from Women in Networking (WIN) explains glass ceiling exists because of mindsets and biased opinions. “The past generations have always seen women in secondary positions. All started in the house and ends in the working place. At home, sons are given more importance than a daughter. Thus, as adults, they will never want to be dominated by women.”  

Equal Pay 

Anushka Virahsawmy argues that another obstacle not allowing women to reach on top position is equal pay. “If women get higher positions, they will get the same salaries as men. Equal pay has been an issue. That is why we see many women in middle management and they are not promoted. The way to boardroom will obviously mean men and women get the same treatment, benefits and pay,” she says. 

Family demand 

According to Jane Ragoo, Women are still the ones who put their careers on hold to handle work/family trade-offs. “In our society, it is always women who have to sacrifice their careers. Women carry more family responsibilities and they are called upon to do so. Women are not daring enough. They are very proactive and tend to do what they are told. Many women have the capabilities to fulfil family demands and professional demands altogether perfectly,” she says. 

Anushka Virahsawmy states that a woman has to accomplish both professional and personal commitment given by the society. “The society has given women responsibilities that she is performing without the least complaint. This is a difficult situation. So, usually, she gives up on careers and concentrates more on her family,” she adds.  

Vimi Appadoo highlights that women have, in certain cases, been brought up to believe that there is a glass ceiling and that it is a fact of life and that we need to accept it, thus suppressing the confidence of women during their upbringing. “Women have potentials but unfortunately they are suppressed under personal commitments. Many women prefer to remain in middle management like in the Human Resources or Communications because they believe it is the only way to balance their professional and personal life.” 

No empowerment and support

Anushka Virahsawmy reveals that there is no support given to women who are at the top positions. “Women who want to access high positions are not empowered and not provided with enough support. People should start believing in the capabilities of women and give them the chance to grow. If we want to break the glass ceiling, it is important to establish a mechanism allowing women to be in top positions.” 

Vimi Appadoo also agrees that there is lack of support to help women to achieve success. “The associations and platforms fighting for women should get the right support from the public and private sectors. Women must be empowered to take posts of high responsibility. If women are well trained and given the right support, they can contribute highly.” 

Women are not daring 

Anushka Virahsawmy, Vimi Appadoo and Jane Ragoo reveal that women lag behind because they are not daring enough. “If they are today in the middle management, it is simply because they do not fight for themselves. Some of them have been brought up in such a way that they accept that they are content with they have. Some of the women do not have confidence in their abilities. It is high time for women to dare and take a step ahead. If women are not progressing, it is their own fault and attitude. Women are very much capable to lead and occupy top positions. They should just go for it,” they add. 

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