You better work, bi*ch!

Our work is cut out; women now have to break the shackles of gender roles, without which more women in the workforce will remain a pipedream

You better work, bi*ch!

This is going to be an angry column. Are you allowed to be angry? I guess you are, especially with those dear to you, primarily those that are ‘you’. This one’s for all the women. We say that gender stereotypes need to be smashed into smithereens but do we actually practise what we preach? Constantly and consistently, women are expected to act out their part. No matter how economically independent they can be or what upper reaches of corporate life they can touch, all of it can be discarded in a second when it comes to playing the ever-sacrificing woman. And the worst part is that women comply. Does this obedience come from an inherent nature of being comfortable with deprivation or is there just not enough fire in the belly?

The onus is on women now more than ever to occupy the space that’s feverishly being created by a few. There are hard-won positions of seniority, entry into hitherto un-womanly job roles, propping up women icons meant to fuel one with zeal and inspiration. If you’re a young or mid-level female professional, along your journey, you will find a few good women (and men) that are ready to give you that crucial break, helping hand, mentorship, and empathetic employment. Don’t piss it all away because you’re “expected” to fit into gender roles. It’s frustrating to witness capable women with promise and potential chucking it all to become a caregiver. Don’t get me wrong — at times, there is need and cause, and the call of duty must be answered, and many of us have done so, including men. But women, it’s only always women, who give up their careers to don the role of an eldercare companion or a full-time parent. Been there and done that folks, and giving up working didn’t ever occur to me. So, it’s not impossible really.

We need more participation of women in the workforce and as per World Bank economist, Auguste Kouame, we need more women to work in order to transition into a developed nation. Currently, we rank 127 out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap 2023 list, coming behind Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal. India’s female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is about half the global average of 47.3 per cent; there is much ground yet to be covered. As per the recent statistics from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), the female urban LFPR has increased to 25 per cent while rural LFPR climbed to 34.6 per cent. But women in salaried jobs are steadily declining from 56.7 per cent in January-March 2022 to the current 53 per cent. Experts suggest that the interpretation of the data is not clear because though LFPR has increased, the drop in salaried jobs could mean disguised unemployment or underemployment.

In 2024, we are acutely aware of high prices, lack of jobs, even paucity of resources like water. Firms are less likely to hire older professionals, opting instead to recruit youngsters who can be trained, and relying progressively on technology such as Generative AI (artificial intelligence). Nothing is easy to come by, and more often than not, double income households are best placed to ride out economic, political, and global uncertainties. Calamities can strike anytime, or have you forgotten the Covid-19 crisis or the multiple wars that are raging on? So, why is it that in today’s era, women still volunteer to give up their livelihoods to fit into the archaic gender roles set up by society? It’s not challenging to hold down a job when all is well, but it’s damn hard to stay on the career path when all hell breaks loose in your personal life. But almost always, it’s the woman who decides to step away — never the man, rarely the man. That’s the burden of patriarchy that both men and women bear.

It’s time to remould these gender roles; it’s time to be selfish. Who plays the full-time parent in the first few years of the child, or who stays at home to care for an ailing parent should be decided on merit, will, and eagerness — and not because of gender. Having said that, this angsty write-up is also for those lazy, privileged, sitting-on-your-derrieres ladies, who procrastinate, make excuses, and find loopholes to not get back to work, even if opportunities kick them in the face. The jobs aren’t ever right, the hours don’t suit, the work profile is not up to standard — but there’s enough time for zumba classes, long lunches, and spa dates with masseuses. In this case, the husband bears the brunt of bringing home the bacon. Ladies, if you truly want to break the glass ceiling (and not just because it sounds cool on Instagram), you have to put in the hours. Only together, and with the support of allies, can we ensure a more equitable work environment for the younger generations (yes, including for your daughters) to inherit. Remember that it will take at least a few generations of strong, inspiring women to set up a legacy for future leaders. As women, we want a bunch of things — but as Britney Spears’ said rather succinctly — “you better work, bi*ch!”.

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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