DEEPIKA FAUGOO

In the aftermath of ‘Women’s day’ in the country, it is important that the debates surrounding women’s occupational lives that have been in existence since times immemorial be revisited. Such debates encompass vibrant global discourses surrounding themes such as the ‘glass ceiling’, ‘glass floors’ and ‘a lack of women in key top management positions’. These are the phenomena that block many women from advancing in organisational hierarchies and are equally meaningful to Mauritius. It would mean having a new and renewed understanding of women, their working lives and patterns, the barriers and hurdles that they have to deal with on a daily basis. In Mauritius, 57.0 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 62.0 percent of their male counterparts. Female labor force participation lags considerably behind, that is 46.8 percent for women compared to 74.9 percent for men.

Interestingly the enrollment rates of women pursuing tertiary level studies in administration and management has changed significantly in favor of women. This must be accompanied by increasing aspirations of women to have fulfilling careers where they would be able to make a meaningful contribution in their jobs. Women therefore do have the potential to transit to higher level positions but equality still remains elusive.

Mauritius is a country with practically no natural resources combined with a declining birth rate and an ageing population along with its desire to evolve into a high-income economy that may become vulnerable due to talent shortage and lack of a skilled work-force. Any further delay in advancing and promoting the participation of women in the economy would hamper the country’s ability to rally the talents of both women and men towards improving competitiveness and this would negatively impact the process of nation building. Consequently, in current competitive times, organisations which disregard the talent and potential of women in the work-force, may not have meritorious women contenders to serve as the next generation of leaders. This would subsequently incapacitate them to face the competition that impacts modern day organisations and their survival.   

It is generally known that inequalities between men and women in work-settings is a propelling factor towards creating an unequal society, and poor quality of life for all its citizens. Correspondingly numerous global studies also highlight several benefits that emanate from having more women at the top-levels within organisational hierarchies. Companies where women have a high representation at board or top-management level are the best performing companies, make better profits, are closer to their customers, have team spirit and achieve organisational excellence. These studies highlight that despite this awareness, companies do not have many strategies to support and advance women to reach top positions and have identified the support of the CEO or top management as a crucial factor for advancing women.

It also becomes important to understand that the male model of work that emphasizes visibility and face time is outdated and may not be suitable to women who are primarily responsible for family and caring roles. These caring responsibilities have often been described as the double burden syndrome that women have to comply with and is considered to be the main barrier to career progression and advancement to key positions, leading many women to reduce their career aspirations. Thus working women with caregiving responsibilities may be negatively affected and constrained by inflexible work-places that make no attempt to accommodate their multiple work and familial obligations.

Furthermore, there should be an awareness that women have different needs in their life stages, so a multipronged approach should be adopted such that organisations be encouraged to introduce measures to suit the different needs of women in the work-force. Organisations should spot talented women, empower, develop and nurture those who desire advancement and promotion. For women with caring responsibilities, a host of measures such as enhanced maternity leave, flexible working, job sharing, remote working and parental leave should be implemented and extended to men who should also participate in caring roles. This would create a better family-life and also be a means to ensure that both men and women form an affective bond and loyalty to their jobs. I would like to end by saying that probably the connotation of women’s day should be applied to both men and women and be understood as a Happy Women and Men’s day!

References

National Productivity and Competitiveness Council (2017) Global Competitiveness Report, Promoting female participation in the economy: Platform for smart ideas available at www.npcc.mauritius.org

Mckinsey& Co (2007)‘Women matter-Gender diversity a corporate performance driver’ available at www.mckinsey.com/

Mckinsey & Co (2010) ‘Women to the top’ available at www.mckinsey.com/

Tertiary Education Commission (2016) ‘TEC Graduate Tracer Studies’  http://tec.intnet.mu

Catalyst(2015)‘Women in Leadership 2015’ available at http://www.catalyst.org/publication

International Labour Organisation (2019)’Global Report Women in Business & Management: The business case for change’ available at www.ilo.org