Monday, April 13, 2020

The Stereotype Role of Women Compliments Glass-Ceiling in Asia-Pacific

 Sadia Rahman
PhD Student National Chung Hsing University

Asia is a continent of a multiplicity of differences; it is a massive territory that
stretches 17,212,000 square miles and is home to 4.5 billion people. Apparently,
diversity exists concerning gender balancing, including the stereotypes women
face and the challenges the women leadership face. Women, though can contribute
equally at par with men nut is always the victim of social norms, customs, lack of
family support, lesser awareness about opportunities. Globally women are underrepresented in leadership and decision making positions as well as in public sphere, in Pacific according to Pacific Women in Politics (April 2019) the percentage of women in Parliament is only 8.2% the lowest in the world and according to World Bank women's representation in South Asia is below the global average at 18%. Women who take up leadership role face discrimination or violence and it is The International Women's Development Agency (IWDA) and partner women's rights organizations in Asia-Pacific work towards advancing and protecting the rights of women and girls in all their diversities, promoting women's leadership is the primary aim of their work.

Women are a fallow and underdeveloped resource in the Asia-Pacific region;
much hard work has to be done to bring the numbers of women in leadership
positions in government, civil society, and business to match the gender level
ratio. From the basic level pertaining to girls' education, security, to the level of
entrepreneurship and at the top level of governmental or corporate leadership
positions, women's potential is undervalued. IWDA's most enormous women's
civil and political empowerment program WAVE is funded by the Netherlands
government to support women towards gender equality. Scholars Pineda and Purdue observes that the program intends to-
• Increase individual women's political, economic and social leadership
• Change inequitable legal, policy, and economic frameworks
• Strengthen a vital, visible and vocal women's movement
• Ensure the evidence of how change towards gender equality happens informs
and influences individuals, institutions, and movements.

In my previous article, "Gender Inequity Issues in the Asia-Pacific," I
comprehensively expressed about the glass-ceiling problems the female gender faces
and illustrated progress in the Asia-Pacific region. This article digs deeper concerning
women's role in leadership and that women can also usher a muscular approach
(reminding that not in the context of physical strength). This article seeks to avoid
double standards by assuming that women in the west get more support, and Asia
subjugates them. However, the reality is much more complicated than that, Asia-
Pacific case has layers of diversity and attitudes vary, the layers are like an onion that
needs to be peeled to get to the nuances of the complexity. Of course, it exists, but
it is always not the sad story of women being subjugated to their male counterparts
some positive development happens as well. Taking the example of Malaysia in
2017, according to Zoe Kinias, Malaysian leaders set the goal of having 30% of
female representation on the boards of publicly listed companies by 2020 and the
top 100 firms have already reached 19.1%, and the government has reached 35.4%.
Gender or to be specific women issues are prevalent of intersectionality, together with
the region's history colonization temper progress for women.

The primary understanding should be about glass-ceiling, how does it work as
a hindrance for women at workspace? According to the United Nations (UN) (2015),
the participation of women has increased in labor and education; still, their career
struggles to reach higher echelons. This phenomenon introduced a metaphor known
as 'glass-ceiling.' It was Carol Hymowitz, and Timothy Schechellhardt introduced
the metaphor worldwide in the Wall Street Journal in 1986, an invisible hurdle that
impedes women from advancing on seminar management positions. The roots of a
hindrance for women in Asia lie in history, i.e., the nature of society, the attitudes of society towards women, and social space women hold. East Asian economies
China, Japan, South Korea are applauded for their economic growth and economic
expansion, but women the light is shed on women representation the inequity
situation reveals the status and the challenges the women faces. According to Yun
Yang, in China, women are underrepresented and have rare favorable promotion
opportunities compared to their male counterparts. In Japan, lower literacy rates
of women than men leading them to remain in low ranks or to drop out of the
labor market. In South Korea, gender stereotypes have negatively shaped the labor
market, the impacts women's status leading to less availing of opportunities.

Mckinsey Survey of 2015 revealed that it is the factor of 'performance model'
that act as a hindrance in women's career. According to a South China Morning Post
(2018) in Japan, three-quarters of women respondents said they are not interested
in managerial positions because that would mean working longer hours (similar to
men who work 46 percent hours that the men in the US). In China, 36 percent of
women's opinion was that they accept a demotion because of the burden of holding
a job and looking after the baby, and 63 percent see having a second baby is an
obstacle in their career advancement. In India, 70 percent of the women agree that
if a mother works, that child suffers. Thus, the point I want to make is that it is not
only the metaphor glass ceiling that contributes to gender inequity but rather the
prevailing roots of women's status in education, in society, the stereotype image
women hold. What has happened is the glass ceiling is mutually complimenting the
unequal status of women in strengthening the difficulties more, and the framework
designed does no favor for women to triumph the challenges with the only option
left is just to succumb to it.

Scholars Yukongdi and Benson (2005) article titled "Women in Asia
Management: Cracking the Glass Ceiling?" contended that the influence of culture
does not change it piles up as a layer on the glass ceiling, for instance, the status
of women in Thailand is one such reason for obstacles the women faces in their
careers and difficulty to reach managerial positions. The other case described
by Yuasa in her contribution titled "Japanese Women in Management: Getting Closer to Realities in Japan" identified that it is the institutionalized practices
that perpetuate gender inequality. At the same time, the case of Hongkong is also
similar, i.e., entrenched gender roles, attitudes toward women as managers, and
other organizational factors that leverage in inequity of women's advancement.

The higher the positions, the lower is the proportion of women, according to
The Diplomat portal, a report published by Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentarian
Union observed Ailsa's parliamentarians slacking in female representations. Japan
positioned the most minimal among the G20 countries and 165th of 193 (10.2%
of women in Lower House and 20.7% in Upper House) nations. India positioned
149th (12.6% of women in Lower House and 11.5% in Upper House), while South
Korea set 121st (17.1% lawmakers' women). The Global Gender Gap Report 2018
by the World Economic Forum (WEF) gave Asia-Pacific locale blended outcomes,
and the most critical vacuum filled is in political strengthening. IMF writes that-
"We know that the unlevel playing field between men and women has substantial
economic costs and can impede the economic health of nations. What we are now
learning is that these costs are even larger than we thought. Now That we see the
full picture, the case for greater gender equity has become even more compelling."
(The Diplomat, 2019)

Steps to be taken to Break the Glass-Ceiling:

According to the UN Women Asia Pacific news portal on Women's Day, this
year, an intergenerational dialogue on March 4 was organized. Part of UN women's
campaign for Generation Equality six diplomats and UN officials inspired students
of Asia University for Women at Chittagong, Bangladesh, to overcome the gender
biases and strive to achieve their goals. A separate panel discussion was held on the
glass ceiling, and the interesting discussion that came out was creating awareness
about gender inequality in society and families to bring the transformation.
Mckinsey's Women Matter report suggests that 70 percent of industry leaders
believe that there will be gender parity on their respective boards. However, the sad
reality still will be that only 13 percent will see a sizable increase in the number of
women in leadership roles in the next five years. This sends us an alarm that still a lot needs to be done to bridge the gap; Asia-Pacific female graduates need to be
skilled and qualified before they enter the workforce.

Women Matter report observes that if opportunities are provided to women,
they can create a balanced leadership environment. They can connect with other
female clients sharing a positive environment at the workspace, and the push is
also needed from the men counterparts to change their mindset for women just seen
playing traditional roles.
• Remove gender inequity and conscious biases; workplace should be made
gender-neutral, which can be done through career advancement or increase in
salary or availing more opportunities.
• Young female employees should be encouraged by providing counseling and
a clearer picture of a road map at the top. Having a female mentor to push and
guide will create a more supportive environment and help in navigating paths.
• Just like male counterparts are encouraged and supported similar conducive
environment and appreciation would boost the morale of women eliminating
gender reservations. Thus, in simpler terms, what needs to be done is to break
the shackles of the patriarchal mindset avoiding no further reinforcement.
• Political commitments, legal reforms, and gender-sensitive programs should
be translated into real changes.
• Policymakers should reform taxes to incentivize female labor force
participation and measure to expand childcare and eldercare to compliment in
tackling gender inequity.

Asia-Pacific countries ought to be focused on transforming harmful gender
norms, discriminatory attitudes, and statecraft is necessitated that helps in negating
the systemic unequal power relations that exist between men and women. More
dialogues among regional and sub-regional platforms on gender inequity dialogue
will help in creating awareness and work for the solutions to minimize and then
carve the path to support women in working at the same level as their male
counterparts. Social institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) report suggest that
discriminating social institutions cost more for Asia-Pacific economic development; thus, gender equality be promoted in legislative frameworks fostering inclusive
economies. This path to inclusiveness will require to uproot deep-rooted biases-
'recognizing, reducing, and redistributing unpaid care work; encourage women
to opt for male-dominated fields Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics
(STEM). Most importantly, inclusiveness will start from providing an incentive to
families and changing their mindset, breaking the traditional image of women just
as 'homemaker.'

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