Women Lead Pendidikan Seks
March 18, 2022

From Recruitment to Career Path: How Gender Bias Affect Women’s Career

Some companies are still reluctant to recruit women workers. Their reasons vary, from safety factors, being seen as having less potential, to even a hindrance to progress.

by Aurelia Gracia, Reporter
Bias Gender di Perusahaan

Being selected as one of the only two women workers from a pool of participants of a management trainee program, Agni felt rather strange in her work environment. Every time she looks around, her work place is dominated by men. This gave rise to some questions in her mind.

Her memory would then fly back to the moment in the recruitment process she had gone through in that financial service company, when her would-be-superior asked her “at about what age do you plan to marry?” arguing that the company needed to know how their employees planned their life.

“A marriage is not something that has to happen soon Madam. It has to follow time,” replied Agni, adding that “It is not currently in my priority.”

Obviously unsatisfied with the answer, the would-be-superior then asked for a more specific age. Agni, a resident of Jakarta, was then forced to come up with an age. “Twenty-eight,” she said, after considering that her career would have already been stable at that specific age.

After meeting the other female recruit, she was curious whether she had been asked the same question. Her intuition proved her rights, her colleague was also asked the same question, but her answer had been much more extreme than hers: that she would not marry within the next 10 years.

“It looks like we made it, among the men, because we did not prioritize marriage,” Agni told Magdalene (15/2)

As time went by, the 25-year-old woman noticed that there were only two female workers recruited at every recruitment. She then asked the Human Resource Development officer about this. Based on the data and the turnover in the company’s workforce, women were seen to be more prone to resign, she was told.

“They want a win-win solutions, to look for employees who can stay long in the company,” she said.

While taking part in an on the job training, her superior said the same thing. Her superior even advised her not to seek to build a career in marketing because it would be difficult field for women.

“Women are vulnerable and spoiled. When given a position, they would be quick to resign, either because they don’t feel good in that position or because they are getting married,” she said quoting her superior. The Human Resource Development officer also told her that there was opportunity open for women employee to take part in assessment for higher executive marketing positions.

As a result, she felt trapped in her current position as a junior supervisor. There was no hope for a career. Even as an employee in the company’s marketing division, Agni was not given the opportunity to go on the field and meet clients.

Besides safety considerations – as clients often demand to meet in the evening – the company also wanted its female employees to work more from the office. Therefore, her role was as in data and analysis.

“Men are said to be more flexible and can talk on a wider range of subjects while women often rely on their emotion,” she added

Agni had once asked her superior to be allowed to meet clients just to gauge her own competency. But because of the pandemic, the company wanted to rely more on its human resources who had potentials.

The anxiety over the company being “controlled” by particular gender, was not only felt by Agni, “Irwan” once worked as a senior staff in a retail company, Even though he had requested a promotion to managerial level, the executives of the company who were predominantly women, made him trapped in his position at the time.

“Women are vulnerable and spoiled. When given a position, they would be quick to resign, either because they don’t feel good in that position or because they are getting married,” she said quoting her superior.

 “There is no need to rise in level. Your visual merchandizing abilities are not yet good,” he quoted his superior as having said. Under the same argument, the company assigned men to work in the warehouse to move an arrange goods. Irwan’s position which he had held for the past one year, was the highest position he could aspire for there.

According to Irwan who now works as a market researcher, the mindset of his directors and managers were still traditional, believing that only women could understand esthetics. And the company also was reluctant to train its employees.

“Initially, training was a big no-no in this company, but after there had been a lot of turnover, then there was some anxiety and the HRD (human resource development) then gave trainings,” he said.

What, then, is the reason for companies to only favor a certain gender?

Also read: Sexual Harassment at Work Harms Employment and Economy

Why gender bias exists in companies?

The company Agni works in is only one of many that continue to limit the role of women, Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) in 2020 on the workforce participation levels showed that the participation of men was at 82.41 percent compared to the women’s 53.3 percent.  This means that women were not given the full opportunity at work.

Some of the factors that encourage gender bias can arise unintentionally and without both men and women being aware of it. Those factors include the demands of family care, people’s expectation that women should not work, the stigma that women are less productive and exclusivity in some particular field of work.

Exclusivism was found in a private company in Jakarta, where women employees accounted only for 20 to 30 percent, especially at operational divisions. In the recruitment process, it is specifically stated that only male workers are being recruited, citing the reason that the workload was too risky for women.

“The operator division clearly has a 24 hour-workhours, it is too risky for women to return home in the evening or very early,” explained “Ahmad,” the recruitment manager for that company. When asked why the company did not provide transportations for those who leave work in the evening, he argued that it would be costly and inefficient.

The protection of women often is being used as a reason for not employing them or to not place women in certain positions.  Although the intention appears to be good, this action does restrict women in fully exploring their potentials.

Another consideration in the recruitment of women is the provision of maternity leaves, and the obligation of workers to care for their children. Although these two rights are guaranteed by law, recruitments often prefer to anticipate problems such as vacancies because women workers are taking their maternity leave.

“A three-month maternity leave is quite a long time and either we have to add personnel or dump the burden to their work partners. This is unfair to them,” said Ahmad.  “Professionals also refuse to be hire just for a few months. It is clearly difficult,” he added.

Aside from exclusiveness, women also may also have a heavier workload compared to men. They are often asked to do work that are not stipulated in their job description.

Romanian academic Mihaela Chraif and friends, in Gender Differences in Workload and Self-Perceived Burnout in a Multinational Company from Bucharest (2015) explained that at the end, women dedicate their energy to someone else and this is causing an imbalance between their personal and professional life.

This condition is what “Citra”, 24, experiences as a social media administration staff and content writer in a printing company in Jakarta. Besides her assigned duties, she was often asked to also clean the work room. There are 12 workers, and all but two of them are men. The argument they came up with is that women usually clean better than men.

“Before I worked here, they would use a cleaning service once a week, but since I came, I am the one doing it,” she said.

The Huffington Post has coined a term for this situation – weaponized incompetence, or the act of pretending being incompetent in a particular duty just to avoid having to do it. Although men can actually do that too, it is women who are expected to do this cleaning work.

Kurt Smith, a therapist from Roseville, the United States, said that anyone who is subjected to this, should report it to colleagues or superiors, and not just accept the assignment to prevent a conflict from developing.

Citra once asked extra money for this duty that was actually not her responsibility, but her boss only said that “that is just an initiative, so, an appreciation is enough.” She continues to perform this cleaning but just because she cannot stand being in a dirty room.

Aside from exclusiveness, women also may also have a heavier workload compared to men. They are often asked to do work that are not stipulated in their job description.

Also read: So Long Japan The Land of Corporate Warriors a Working Moms Story

Efforts to Eradicate gender bias

Still, despite the prevalence of gender in most companies, some have put in place a system and policies to create a more inclusive work environment. Gojek and Tokopedia, two companies that have partially merged into GoTo, each were already aware since their establishment, of the need for inclusivity and equality.

 “The key is the commitment of its leaders, this is translated into key performance indicators, and action items as strategy, “GoTo Senior Public Affairs Manager Josefhine Chitra said.

Those steps, she said, needed to be integrated with the company’s targets so that their executions are not just mere lip service. One of the policy programs implemented by GoTo is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), to create more inclusion and diversity.

Through DEI, they formed Women at Gojek, an employee resource group that made sure there was gender equality and diversity in the company. A number of activities is then derived from that, such as mentorship and a discussion forum. One of which is related to how women who became mothers for the first time can balance this with their professional life.

We want to share what are the challenges for first time mothers. Because Gojek workers are relatively in mid-careers, or just got married and have children,” Chitra said.

The recruitment process also made use of a software to prevent job description for vacancies do not favor male or female traits, so that there would be no discrimination.

To support a balanced life for its employees and also to boost productivity, GoTo also applies flexible work hours which also do not have to be for eight straight hours. The company also provides a lactation room and a child day care.

But this also did not mean that there was no obstacles it its implementation. Until now GoTo is still facing difficulties in raising the number of its women employees at its technical department or those with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) background.

“There is still a stigma in our society, that women do not need to go into technics or computer science,” said Chitra. The fact is, that those fields are where inclusive and diversity algorithm for all are created.

This business, that deals with the technology industry and services the public, must be diverse and inclusive, not only in terms of gender, but also in cultural background, minority groups and personal characters.

Inclusivity is therefore, also implemented among the company’s partners, merchants and even consumers. With this, the entire company will be embraced and form a safe environment for all.

“If we are not diverse and inclusive, how can we make sure that our products can capture the perspectives and needs of the various people?” said Chitra.

This journalistic project is supported by Meedan, a non-profit organization the field of technology which has the vision to strengthen digital literacy and global journalism.

This is the English version of the original article.

Aurelia Gracia adalah seorang reporter yang mudah terlibat dalam parasocial relationship dan suka menghabiskan waktu dengan berjalan kaki di beberapa titik di ibu kota.