What a girl wants
There are many shackles yet to be broken before women shatter the glass ceiling
A friend shared an International Women's Day forward that said, on March 8 every year women are offered discounts, free drinks and manicures, spa dates, flowers, etc. while what they truly want is equality, freedom, and safety. The world around a woman is starkly different from the one in which the man operates. While developed nations are more evolved and women are likely to be better empowered, certain factors remain universal irritants across geographies.
An ordinary task of choosing clothes for the day involves careful manoeuvring of style, comfort, and safety. There is a fourth and very important element of 'looking the part' if you want others, especially men, to take you seriously. We are still shackled by what we wear to a meeting; imagine that! Perhaps men are too, but no handsome man is judged based only on his looks. With women though, any and every conversation can quickly move away from the business at hand to our outward demeanour and personal lives. When will I get married and how will I then manage the workload are more important than my two startups' business model. Surely, a man's personal life does not figure in his professional dealings.
The lack of freedom of movement also shackles us. You may be working in one of the many swanky, international offices on Gurugram's Golf Course Road; but will have to think twice before walking on the road outside at 10 pm. We are burdened with unnecessary exigencies that weigh us down; and, that has become our constant cross to bear.
A senior venture capitalist shared an anecdote at a recent panel discussion surrounding gender in the world of private equity and venture capital. She said it is common to find many investors evincing more interest in male co-founders of startups than their female counterparts, and sometimes even when the woman is the primary founder! Women entrepreneurs have less access to capital and are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. 'Mansplaining' or that annoying habit of some men oversimplifying every explanation for the supposed benefit of women. To dismiss our ability to manage and handle businesses, or for that matter, any complex element of life is yet another shackle that we strive to break today.
Let's also not forget how women shackle each other. We gossip, humiliate, and pull each other down instead of providing mentoring. Many a time, we cannot look beyond our pettiness and insecurities. Remember this, if women have to be truly empowered, that support will have to come from other women. Only together can we protect and empower each other, one helping hand at a time. Men too play an intrinsic role in our emancipation. It is the forward-thinking father, supportive spouse, and non-discriminatory male colleagues and friends who accompany us on our journey in life.
As parents, we urge our daughters to settle down, get married, concentrate on family life, instead of fuelling the woman's ambition. But, it is not a sin for women to be ambitious; so, why is it that ambitious, career-oriented women are looked upon differently? Nature has gifted us with the ability to reproduce. But, society and life have both evolved to include a more holistic identity for both men and women. Fathers are more hands-on with their children, and women too should not be expected to sacrifice their professional identities in order to fit a role.
As women, we can be multi-faceted because we are natural multi-taskers. Striving towards a healthy work-life balance, getting access to equal opportunities, and being able to live our lives on our chosen terms; that is what we want not only on Women's Day but on all days. We don't want to be superior to men, we don't want special treatment; just treat us as equals, and throw in a foot rub once in a while.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)