Business Today

Wages of Inequality

The pay gap between female and male employees not only exists but also increases as they advance in their careers. What can be done to reverse the trend?

Radha (name changed), 39, is a Senior Partner at an investment banking firm where she has been working for seven years. She was rising swiftly, managing important clients, cracking multi million dollar deals. Since last year, when she became a mother of twins, she is not sure where her career is headed. She has been allowed flexi time part of company policy enabling her to work from home, whenever needed, but she is no longer given difficult assignments. She fears she will have little to show when her appraisal comes up. "I have worked hard for so many years. I don't want to give it all up," she says. "But my company seems to have already decided that I will not be able to perform as before."

This is nothing new. Managers often assume that a new mother will not be able to give priority to work and think they are doing her a favour by lightening her workload, whereas they are only reinforcing a gender stereotype. For new mothers, the bias is a lot more deep seated. Managers often assume they will not be able to give priority to work and think they are doing her a favour by lightening her workload.

"It is more of a social issue than an organisational one," says Harjeet Khanduja, a veteran in human resource (HR) management. In some companies, even the six months of maternity leave turns into a hurdle for the woman as her clients are assigned to male counterparts in her absence, and often remain with them after she returns to work, forcing her to start from scratch. "Many companies don't even think about giving a new mother work matching her potential when she rejoins," says Sarika Bhattacharyya, CEO at diversity consultancy BD Foundation.

The corollary is that the new mother's increment is likely to be lower than her male colleagues'. The women question this. The men often

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