It’s 2016 And We Still Have “Female Only” Jobs

In an age where discussions about sexism at the workplace are rampant, there’s a different kind of sexism at play, and one that doesn’t get talked about enough.

Open any jobs classifieds website or newspaper, and examples of “Female only” jobs will hit you faster than you can say why.

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Most of these jobs would tend to be for a front desk executive/manager or less glamorously “Office receptionist” role. When was the last time you spotted a man at the reception of an office? We can’t.

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Image courtesy: BBC UK

And this is not a phenomenon only in India. Dawn Tinsley and Joan Holloway, would jog your memory as the iconic front desk managers from the popular shows The Office and Mad Men respectively. While it’s established that in India, as well as in the West, female employees are preferred over men for a few specific roles, it’s not exactly clear why. What most employers believe but not openly admit is that females, especially of the attractive variety are pleasing to the eye, and hence would be the perfect “prop” for walk-in customers to see the first thing upon entering an office. 

Others of course believe that the inherent charm and emotional quotient of a woman is good for warming up to the customer.

“I want a good-looking, or at least a girl with a great personality to be at my front desk to create a good impression with the clients”, admits a startup CEO who wishes to not be named, who sure enough has a 20 something pretty young thing stationed firmly behind the reception.

While a feminist would do well to call this phenomenon out as sexism, the startup CEO is thinking purely from a practical perspective. He’s also probably catering to people who think that crying and pink shirts are feminine.

Again, while some jobs may prefer only a female employee for purely physical reasons, here’s a few that demand the fairer sex. For eg. this founder of an “adult wellness brand”, who presumably would prefer a female partner to be able to relate with and communicate women specific issues better to the prospective clients.

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Another industry that’s conventionally focussed on women employees is aviation. That the industry probably propagates the stereotype that women are synonymous with mother hen who are great at two things, looking great and nurturing and serving people is not lost on us. However, a refreshing change in this direction is increasingly being noticed especially in international flights wherein male stewards, equalling number of their female counterparts, amble up and down the aisle, perfectly serving up your meals or asking about your comfort.

A few MNCs, like Google and Facebook too seem to be beyond the “female receptionist” drill where both men and women share the responsibility of managing the reception and front office.

Do the female employees in question mind? Does this discrimination tantamount to objectification? We asked a few and here’s what one of them had to say. 

“I know it sounds weird, and people think it’s sexist, but it’s actually good that some jobs are reserved for women only. Since most companies are already ‘littered’ with men, and women suffer from a skewed ratio at the workplace, it’s good to have some spots reserved just for us, even if slightly shallow.”

That’s one way to look at it. Maybe she does have a point too. If it works for the women, it works for us.

But maybe it is an opportunity for a change too. Opportunity to break gender roles at the workplace by not religating certain jobs to male or female only. If we can accept women as scientists, entrepreneurs, and as bus conductors, maybe it’s worth seeing if the male receptionist and the male cabin crew can help create gender equality at the workplace. 

We sure would like to see more of this.

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( That’s Daniel Radcliffe playing the receptionist for a movie role, by the way)

Unless there’s a functional reason to need the woman employee for a certain job, it’s difficult to see why in this side of 2016, we should still continue to see jobs for “female candidates” only so blatantly advertised, promoted and needed.