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Not just Indian women engineers, men too face sexual harassment at workplace: US study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent research, carried out jointly by two US-based non-profit organizations, Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Center for WorkLife Law (WLL), based at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, has found that 45% of women engineers as against 28% of men engineers complained that it was perceived as “inappropriate when women argued at work, even when it was work-related.”
Carried out by a team of scholars led by Joan C Williams, distinguished professor of law, Hastings Foundation Chair Director of the Center for WorkLife Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, the study also found that 45% women as against 30% of men “reported feeling pressured to play submissive roles at work”.
Titled “Walking the Tightrope: An Examination of Bias in India’s Engineering Workplace”, the study  says, “40% of men and women reported that women should work less after having children, while 27% of men and women reported that men should work more after having children.”
The study continues: “A higher percentage of women (63%) than men (55%) reported feeling their female colleagues had just “turned into men”; 74% of women but only 60% of men reported thinking that most women didn’t understand what it takes to succeed at work”; and “60% of women but only 44% of men reported a lack of support for diversity initiatives.”
Based on a survey of 423 women and 270 men, majority of them in the age group 25-44, the study says, “Indian engineers reported high levels of bias whether they were men or women. Our data suggest that women engineers are more likely to face gender bias, while men engineers are more likely to face bias based on where they come from (both their region and language).”
Pointing towards men reporting “more bias than women”, it says, “44% of men but only 30% of women reported bias based on language or region of origin; of engineers without kids, “a higher percentage of men (50%) than women (39%) reported that they are perceived as having ‘no life’ so they end up working overtime.”
Then, the study says, “A higher percentage of men (54%) than women (41%) reported they found it difficult to get administrative help”, adding, “54% of men but only 44% of women reported bias in hiring.” 
Ironically, the study points out, not women but also men face sexual harassment at workplace: “11% of women engineers and 6% of men engineers reported unwanted romantic or sexual attention or touching in the workplace.”
Further: “When asked if respondents had ever felt bribed with workplace advances (quid pro quo) or threatened with workplace consequences for not engaging in sexual behavior, 2% of women and 4% of men agreed." And, “when asked if respondents had been told sexist or sexual stories, jokes, or comments, 25% of women and 16% of men reported that they had.”
Classifying bias in four categories, the study found that 76% of engineers reported having to prove themselves over and over to get the same level of respect as their colleagues; 77% of engineers reported that they were confined to a narrower range of acceptable behaviours than their colleagues; 40% of engineers in India reported bias against mothers in their workplaces; and 45% of women reported that they have to compete with their female colleagues to get the one “woman’s spot” available. 
Noting that “higher levels of bias were associated with feelings of exclusion, belonging, and lower intent to stay with one’s employer”, the study says, “Three-quarters of engineers reported bias in assignments, promotions, sponsorship opportunities, and compensation”, adding, “Two-thirds of engineers reported bias in their performance evaluations. Half of engineers reported bias in their companies’ hiring systems.”
Such biases continue despite the fact that over the past four decades, the number of women earning engineering degrees in India increased sharply. Thus, says the study, “In 1980, only 1.5% of engineering degrees were earned by women. Twenty years later, in 2000, that number grew to 23.9%.” And, “by the 2017-2018 school year, women earned 31.7% of the engineering and tech degrees in India.”
According to the study, “the climate for women engineering students in India” has become positive, with “only 8% of women students reported that they sometimes felt left out in their academic setting”.
However, it regrets, “After college, the situation gets worse for women engineers in India. The unemployment rate for women with engineering degrees is high: five times higher than the rate for men.” The reason, it adds, is, “Engineering jobs have traditionally been viewed as needing tough, long, on-site hours, employers have been reluctant to hire women.”

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