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Often overlooked workplace issues for women

There is a marked failure by society’s units to protect women and work institutions are no different. Gender-specific issues that primarily affect women are often undermined and overlooked simply because they do not centre on men. A landmark example is the sheer lack of care given that half of the world’s population menstruates, would it be so horrible to have sanitary towel dispensaries in the female restrooms? Work establishments typically provide basic things to make life at the office more comfortable for their staff and so, why not stock sanitary towels in work bathrooms? If staff welfare is a priority as it should be, this would be a non-issue. However, unfortunately, in considering staff welfare, mostly, only general issues are considered. Also regarding menstruation, women are expected to function normally during their periods even though they are losing blood and experiencing other harrowing symptoms. The pain and discomfort experienced during menstruation are often undermined. A person who gives blood is advised to take the rest of the day off but a woman is expected to function at optimum capacity even after days of losing blood. This lack of consideration is as much a result of capitalism as is it is of sexism.

According to Fitzgerald, one of every two women experiences workplace harassment in their working or academic lives (Source: Wikipedia). This means that workplace harassment is too commonplace to be overlooked yet, nearly 235 million women worldwide lack legal protections from sexual harassment. Violence against women perpetrated by society adapts to various units of society; family, religion & places of work. For most offices, the power dynamics from employment and leadership gaps place women at an additional level of vulnerability. Women in the workplace make for easy prey for sexual exploitation but somehow, this culture of sex for work is often overlooked and even trivialised and undermined where it can’t be ignored. As a measure for company image protection, violence against women in the workplace has become collateral damage women have to bear to continue to be gainfully employed. 

Maternity, childbirth and infant care are other areas with little or no consideration. For pregnant women who work, time given off work post-childbirth is usually inadequate and it gets worse for minimum wage staff. Childbirth is deemed “an inconvenience” to the average organisation (again; capitalism) because of the mandatory paid time off – a right, packaged as a privilege. Society’s skewed views on who should do what in the family extend to the place of work and women are expected to take on countless responsibilities even while nursing babies. It would make life much easier if large organisations with a large number of staff with children provide daycare facilities. The truth is, they most likely can afford to. If you feel an aversion to that statement, consider the fact that mega-companies are built off the backs of their staff at all levels. The major earners in these organisations can afford to take pay cuts to improve staff welfare and, by extension, productivity. Where childcare is a joint effort, it is only logical that the parties involved also receive paid leave to contribute to care for the child and mother.

The characteristic undermining of women’s needs and issues in the workplace can directly translate into a decrease in output. This should not be the only incentive to treat your staff right but, it definitely can be a powerful driving force (because; capitalistic exploitation). Women’s rights are human rights in the workplace too.


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