DOES THE GLASS CEILING STILL EXIST?

Though there have been many examples of women in executive leadership roles in recent days in Nepal, women are still greatly outnumbered by men. The debate largely blames it on culture, patriarchy, traditional thought but there seems to be a failure in finding adequate solutions to address gender justice at large.

In this issue of B360, Dibesh Dangol interviewed some male leaders to learn their view on gender equality at the workplace and whether the ‘glass ceiling’ still exists.

Pavitra Gautam
Co-Founder and CEO, Karkhana

Yes, I think the glass ceiling still exists. People may say otherwise looking at working women and happy college students but the problem is still big in semi-urban and rural regions. Even in cities and also in the capital, there exists this proverbial ceiling. If you want to know about this, talk to a daughter-in-law or any girl who wants to focus on her career in her mid-20s or talk to a girl who wants to trek and travel all over Nepal. The ceiling is real and does exist. Also, this is deeply rooted in our identity and culture which influences our behaviours consciously and unconsciously.

It might be very difficult to say what is holding them back as I am not the one who experiences it. But I do think many things are holding them back. My personal opinion on this is, I have seen some women who think they cannot do amazing things because they lack skills, or knowledge or think less of themselves whereas I think all they lack is just confidence. Another thing that is holding them back is the support from the rest of the society and community. Gender discrimination is a deeply rooted concern which requires a lot more effort and mostly from the other gender as well as constructive support from other women.

For women, I think first they have to be confident and feel worthy of who they are. Confidence doesn’t mean being extroverted, having an outgoing attitude but a firm belief about themselves. Create a supportive environment at home for little girls to dream big and let them feel that they can achieve as much as anyone or any other gender. For men, I think understanding that women have not had their space previously and they need support to become at the same level is an important understanding. Also, both successful men and women should put extra effort to mentor young women professionals and create a supportive environment for them to grow in their profession and their business.

Neelesh Man Singh Pradhan
CEO, Nepal Clearing House

I don’t think the glass ceiling exists for women in the mainstream industries. Sense of responsibility and performance are metrics rather than the gender. This is the standard across industries today. My mom at the age of 67 still runs a business, my wife is employed and the majority of my sisters and female cousins are employed or are entrepreneurs. I believe the multiplicity of responsibilities that women handle at work and family makes them even stronger. However, due to our social structure, in many cases women are over engaged.

I think the only matter that may hold women entrepreneurs and professionals back in our society is their own mind and self belief. More of a change in the mind-set of men and women is required and necessary – both personally and professionally – to break the glass ceiling in the areas where it still exists.

Subrata Banerjee
General Manager, Radisson Hotel Kathmandu

I feel there is no glass ceiling. On my way up, I have worked under two lady General Managers. We welcome ladies in our industry and the proof is in all the catering colleges and hotels where the number of girls is increasing yearly. As and when they have the potential, they climb up the ladder. This is my personal opinion and experience, but I am sure exception may still exist in certain pockets. Though Harry Bellafonte in his famous song “Man Smart, Woman Smarter” said it in the 60s, I feel it’s time for women to march ahead; we men are and will always be there to hold hands.

I know so many lady entrepreneurs doing so well in their respective fields even in Nepal. I would personally love to see more women successful across all professions. More women in the workspace creates balance in the work atmosphere.

Discrimination of girl child, before and after birth should be strongly discouraged. Co-education should be made compulsory to help boys grow respect for girls from the beginning of their childhood. Such changes in our social systems automatically erase the very wrong nomenclature “weaker sex” from men’s viewpoint.

Anil Basnet
CEO & Founder, Metro Tarkari

I don’t think the glass ceiling exists anymore. The situation has changed as women can give equal effort as men. We can see many examples these days of women capably running businesses.

Business skills and knowledge are equally transferred via education in colleges and universities and major facilities and opportunities can be grabbed by women as well. Nothing is just limited to men now.
However, women do need guidance and support from men even though they are mentally and physically ready for doing business.

We can also see many women successfully holding top management and board positions in banks, corporate and business houses. To further break the glass ceiling, men should share skills and experiences known to them with women and trust them with leadership opportunities. Women should be given the platform to prove they can become great leaders.

Bikash Gurung
President, Robotics Association of Nepal

There’s no such glass ceiling in the field of robotics and AI. It’s the stereotype mindset existing in the foundation of career development which has led to a lesser number of women’s participation in this field. Society has always attached women to fields like nursing, doctor, modelling and teaching which is a core reason for having less number of women in robotics and AI.

Another basic mindset problem lies in women themselves. They feel less attached to engineering and IT industry and make alternative career choices in the other sectors ultimately leading to less number of women in this field. So, the societal mechanism on what women should and shouldn’t do have truly limited women in exploring their true potential in developing technology solutions as this sector needs freedom of depth research and development with time as no boundary. Thus, women entrepreneurs and professionals suffer lack of first-hand experience with these cutting edge technologies resulting in restricting their initiatives or businesses as they will be less likely to start the business around the leapfrogging technologies.
Females should be adequately provided with knowledge and skill sets from the school level on cutting edge technologies. We cannot change how our whole society works, but we can work on things that encourage females to enter in this sector. We need more women role models in this field like Prativa Pandey and Eeda Rijal who aspire women to become tech entrepreneurs and build their career in robotics and AI.

Both push and pull measures also need to be implemented. We recently organised Yantra School and International Robotics Competition during Yantra 8.0 Science, Tech and Entrepreneurship Festival which was held from January 24 to February 5 in which we made the registration fee free for the all-girls team and saw a good turnout of female participants. There were 40:60 ratio in the Yantra school competition and 20:80 ratio in International Robotics Competition. All girls team from Advanced College of Engineering and Management (ACEM) were recognised by different media as well. Normally, we don’t see such a good ratio.

We also organise Miss Tech through which we empower women in technology and transfer the latest tech skills like critical thinking and problem-solving through mentoring programmes. They compete against fellow women to pitch their best ideas thus creating a huge cluster of women in tech. This is a good example of push methods. Once they are encouraged and supported, they are likely to grow in this sector. Out of the 100 girls encouraged, one example would be enough to create the momentum to bring women entrepreneurs and professionals into future of tech.

As the world is in its fourth industrial revolution, more number of women and girls need to be there as women’s feminine qualities can bring much more dynamism in the field of technology. Platforms like Miss Tech, Women in STEM, Girls in Tech, Women Leaders in Technology, Girls in Technology should be supported and promoted by the government, non-government, public and private sectors as well. Inclusive laws and policies need to draft for maximisation of women’s participation in technology. We need to transfer the mind-set that women can be better in technology as technology is more about the brain than physique and physical work.

Neeraj Rimal,
CEO, Travel Right (GSA of Vistara Airlines)

The glass ceiling exists in the minds of the people and not in the industry I belong to. With drive, dedication and hard work, many women have reached higher positions. But yes, performance matters and it should be seen in the outcome. I feel odd working hours is one of the major factors which is holding women back. To break the glass ceiling, first of all, there should be gender equity in any sector meaning that while hiring, men and women should be given equal opportunity. If there is any discrimination in the workplace, both men and women should voice it out so that required action can be taken. Companies should have policies in place which will empower women as well as men so that they can perform better.

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Business 360 is a magazine that delivers on quality business news content, profiles of entrepreneurs and leaders, features on issues that matter, articles that assess and analyze policy and delivery mechanisms in the world of trade and commerce

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