Article By Anvita Bajpai, Founder – Sunvai, Speaker and Author
As I think of ‘women’ and ‘work’; and I think of mythological stories and see that women had power and position (as devi) even in that time, but main three Gods were men.
Other thing that I also notice in the depiction of idols is that there was an acceptance to balance power with human values and needs. For example, Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is shown to be in ‘seva’ of her husband Vishnu. Gauri, who has taken forms of Kali and Durga to kill demons and is associated with power, is shown to be sitting in lap of her husband, God Shiva.
It basically conveys to me that no matter how powerful one is outside — at work — at home, in family and relationships, one still needs to serve and needs love and acceptance.
However, if I think of women and work more deeply, I come to a conclusion that it is difficult for most women that they remain in the form like Laxmi and Gauri on daily basis and then become Durga and Kali as needed.
The current social and corporate setting, it requires people to work with global partners for long hours, including travel as well. The problem arises when women also go out to work, who would look after family and who would give birth to children. And if women opt to do both, they start lagging behind at work, as compared to other colleagues with equal competence, as they choose to focus on family too; that actually results in more negativity both at work and at home for many.
Data points out that a large number of women opt out at mid career level; and the simple reason is this only that they are forced to choose. One can advice that they can take it slow — but a social/professional push all the time keeps breaking the self-commitment of taking things slow for ambitious women. And as a result either things at home get ignored, relationships break or she opts out from work.
We all know that at home, there is a constant need for supporting kids and elderly people; and not everyone has right support system to delegate this responsibility and be fully present and focused on work. And for women, education and work bring new questions to society. We have built products like child and elderly monitoring systems, breast-feeding pumps for new mothers; but does it solve the problem and the answer is ‘no’ — as we have not proposed a complete solution.
We expect women to accept taking things slow; but we also pressurise them to be and remain empowered — and as we do so, we only talk about solutions like extending maternity break from 3 months to 6 moths; we don’t talk about solutions like — fathers taking a compulsory 6 months paternity break when the child is 6 months old, for helping women to get back to work and a normal life post pregnancy (that could be a very difficult period for many women) and post delivery, and as a mother of a small child.
Social acceptance for ambitious women and homely men is an issue — and so is for an employee who aspires to balance various aspects of his or her life.
We expect people to be travelling, be on late night and early morning conference calls with global partners, do excellent work, and also make their own arrangements to live a normal life. Please ask yourself honestly, can we really leave all elderly people at ‘old-age homes’ and kids to ‘day care centres’ and be focusing at work? Is it an individual’s personal problem? Is it right for society?
And if one cannot cope up with the stress associated with this system — we suggest such women and men to work from home (which again become a more lonely life for many); or we ask them to become entrepreneur, which doesn’t work for many again given the social and family associated constraints, and also as the result of such efforts it is not financially significant for many. A few people choose to go for higher study for going into academics. Many women who get tired trying this all even try teaching kids in primary classes inspite of having a degree like one in management. And a significant number give up in the process of keeping on figuring out — and we just end up wasting trained resources — mostly women.
It sounds concerning; but we can also see that we are going through challenging but changing times. I notice odds; but I also feel optimistic when I think that voices are being raised; and understand that corporates and governments would take notice of the same; and things would change.
However, let’s also accept that such changes at policy level may take time. Until then, we have to stay strong and firm and make sure that we fight the odds and set examples to ourselves, our kids and contribute to bring positive changes to this world.
A concluding tip — if you feel inertia (internal or external) ‘for doing the right and needful’, tell yourself that you will not let it stop you. When you ignore it once, you will now experience a small victory; and each such effort would help you going. You can talk to like minded people, read motivating literature, and also help others.