The last two decades have seen remarkable growth of women in the workforce. Women have come forward and made places for themselves in careers that were deemed unfit for them. The corporate world, which is said to be a place void of emotions, is seen as completely unfit for women, who are stereotypically believed to be of the sentimental gender. But Bangladeshi women are breaking these stereotypes. They are moving forward against all odds. But in doing so, they face crippling discrimination in most cases.
A way in which the corporate world stands against women is that women often face discrimination in hiring and promotion processes. The main reason behind this, in one word, is “prejudice”. Women are often not seen as pragmatic options for leadership positions. They are deliberately opted out for higher management positions on account of inane discriminatory reasons. This often creates a sense of inferiority in women and they themselves do not feel eligible to apply for higher-skilled jobs despite having the required skills. This leads to women always having to adjust in the lower hierarchy.
Another practice of the corporate world is called the Bell Curve. A system of performance appraisal imposed on employees by the management. But this system is usually unfair. For instance, the most hardworking may be placed below average whereas the least hard-working may remain at the top. Then again, pregnant women are completely isolated from this system since they can’t take much workload. Women are often cast aside simply if they are not willing to work extra hours, weekends, etc.
One of the most important issues in the corporate world for women is the Maternity leave. Even though the law on maternity leave in Bangladesh is 24 weeks, private companies only allow 16 weeks. In the corporate world, where work counts more than anything else, women have to face extra load after returning from maternity leave. They often have to start from the bottom again for appraisal. This demoralising, discriminatory attitude leads them to want to quit or actually quit.
However, the corporate world is really stepping up to address Bangladeshi women’s issues in the status quo. The scenario of the male-driven corporate world is changing, albeit slowly. Women are now being included in leadership and managerial positions more. Extended maternity leave is being granted. Moreover, breaking numerous stereotypes, paternity leave has been introduced in the country by Unilever Bangladesh. The improved maternity and paternity leave programme of British American Tobacco Bangladesh allows paid leave not only for biological parents but also for adoptive parents. Companies are introducing day-care facilities for working parents. Even though a lot of loopholes are still to be filled, these steps are bringing radical positive changes. And we must appreciate these women who are severing all the shackles of the society and paving their ways to success.
Faija considers herself to be a sleeping freak who likes to write when she’s awake.