15 Jan 2018, 09:22 — 5 min read
I find that many Indian women are not aware of their identity. Is their identity of a mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, writer, HR professional? Or is it wife, mother, HR professional, writer, daughter, daughter-in-law? Because if you are not sure of your identity, all the different pieces in your life will not form one whole. The day I realised my identity is of a writer, people developer, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, not only did it become clear to me how to take my life forward, I felt more fulfilled in each role and was able to communicate more clearly to all those who had expectations from me in all these roles. I chose to be an entrepreneur because that was more aligned to my personality, of a person who likes to work alone. All my life I have tried to be a team person, which made me feel like a failure.
There is a difference between gender and sex. Gender is the category title and feminine/ masculine are the items, among others, under the category. There are certain physiological functions of the body associated with a sex. For example, reproduction, some physical characteristics like strength, voice, hair, maternal etc. Gender is the bundle of behavioral expectations a society holds from the female and the male sex. Over the years the activities and professions associated with daily life have also gotten associated with the female sex. For instance, women are expected to do the cooking but is there any anatomical, physiological reason why they should do it? No. Therefore it is not linked to a sex but to our choices, our identity. Because women bear babies therefore they have to cook for the child therefore they have to cook for the family, is the assumption we humans have made and we as Indians are not questioning that assumption, out of respect for our culture.
Once we delink gender from profession, all barriers will disappear, relationships will improve and expectations at work will flow from the potential of a person rather than the gender. Giving up a sales job just because it will be tiring for a woman is linking your identity to your sex.
We are so caught up in the factory production mode, thanks to the industrial revolution of the past century which served the purpose of that time – people preferred hand made goods to factory made goods. Thus, if factory-made goods had to be sold, they had to be low cost and therefore the production process was divided in steps to maximise productivity. But now we have crossed that stage – the world is more developed and yes, we are still struggling with basic necessities however, industry needs knowledge workers who are looking for self-actualisation, mental and spiritual wellness. Therefore, work needs to be more satisfying, engaging which means we need to look at work organization solutions that meet the needs of society rather than the other way around, which has only led to dissatisfaction and high levels of attrition. In India since (some) women choose not to work because their financial needs are satisfied by husbands doing well; therefore they leave because they are looking for wellness, aesthetic and transcendence satisfaction. The reasoning is something I have researched and documented in my book.
In India, in the name of following traditions, we adhere to the principles of patriarchy. Since the workplace is driven by culture, leadership and technology, we need to follow democratic and merit based systems which conflicts with norms followed at home. Once both are in harmony, and aligned, workplace bullying will lessen, and we will be inclusive, have flexible work structures and have more diverse workplaces.
One slogan we Indians have internalised is ‘beti bachao, beti padao’ (save a daughter, teach a daughter) but what after education? Have we prepared women for competing with men for work assignments at the workplace? No! Have we prepared men to collaborate with women at the workplace? No! A new slogan we need to imbibe is ‘beta bachao, bete ko sikhao’ (save a son, teach a son). Only then we will be emotionally intelligent and inclusive.
A desire to understand the subtle gender norms at the workplace & their implications on my career growth, is what led me to write a book. Instead of looking at individuals as a mere resource in an organisation its vital to look at them as complete wholes, as owners of talent and capability.
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Posted byGeet Mala Jalota
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