Saturday, February 5, 2011

Surviving in a man's world

I would like to begin this post by taking you back in time to a conversation that I had with my late mother in law during my early days of marriage. She was sharing with me her experience of being a working woman-a doctor, in a world that was dominated  by men. She was often the only woman in an office or health centre. "But they ( the men)  were so nice to me you know" - they used to take on the more difficult work..!

Not anymore- I mean the minority status of women at the workplace! We see so many women in offices and other public places that it often seems really like we have achieved some kind of "revolution" in terms of right to employment. But the question is, have we really really achieved empowerment? How do the men in our lives and work place view this change? I will concentrate in this post on men at the work place - our colleagues / bosses and how they may feel about this. I agree that much of this may be subjective and written from a woman's point of view but then it is very much to do with my perception of a situation as a woman!

One of the first things that I have often perceived about male colleagues and their attitude towards us  women is - " Is she serious about this job?" This is particularly so if you happen to be single, in your twenties, on the threshold of marriage, or newly married or married with kids..! Many men seem to think that we women, may be actually "passing" time at the work place till we get married, start a family or deal with whatever may be important to us in our families at that point of time. So how do they deal with this? This is a very interesting state of mind in the sense that it seems to make  men ( both colleagues and bosses) almost voice aloud the thought " So you want to work? Let us see if you can manage the stress of it all? Can you stay long hours like us?" These same men at home would probably not "allow" their wives to work or if the wife in question did have a job they would ensure that these ladies came back home in time for to receive the kids when they returned from school and had a hot dinner waiting for them when they themselves reached  home

It is ironic how these double standards work!!

Ofcourse, we women work as hard as we can to prove that we are not in anyway less than these insensitive men and in the process end up burning our candles at both ends-we reach home late, we are guilty about not having enough time to spend with family as a result of which we spend weekends making up for lost time cooking and doing things that we cannot do during the week- all this resulting in ruining our physical and mental health. Some of us are lucky enough to have husbands who understand - but the question is how long will they continue to "understand"? At some point they may also feel being taken advantage of ...

Someone once told me that to be able to compete in a man's world a woman has to be twice as good. I wonder if it means that if a man works till 7 in the evening we women need to work till 8 PM ?

Most organizations today have some sort of gender policy- but very few of them practice it in spirit. Creches and maternity leave seems to be the beginning and end of many of these interventions ( important certainly but not the end ..). Others throw in a bit about addressing sexual harrassment at the work place. But I am yet to come across an organization that can deal with the simpler things that are important to a female employee- Ensuring that they can leave office at the scheduled time . ! In our crime ridden urban centres, it is  important that women leave at an earthly hour...! Very few women make a noise about all this because then we know that we will lose what we have gained in terms of access to the world of ecnomic opportunities.

Many would say that this is the price that you have to pay for the luxuries that come with a double income family; yes, it is a choice we women make but folks, it was a choice that was made on the basis of insufficient data in terms of inside information about work culture!

There is ofcourse the option of "working from home" that is being introduced by many organizations. But it will probably be a generation before it is internalized in many organizations.

To wrap up I can say that there are two mind sets that I can see in male colleagues/ bosses. One, where they think that female employees require "special" treatment and are therefore reluctant to offer it to them. Others who think that they are promoting equality by treating women like their male counterparts without realizing that while women may be willing and ready to perform these tough new roles, the outside world has not changed that much- the burdens remain the same for her. She works at home as much as she works in an office and few men at the office understand or appreciate that.

This is not to say that all male colleagues/ bosses are insensitive. Some of my best friends at work are  men. But this is an issue that is beyond them. They may not perpetuate it, they empathise with it but can do little about it.
As a society in transition, this generation of us women would probably have to bear the burden of multiple  roles- at home and at work. It would be nice if we had people at our work place who understood this balancing act that we perform and help maintain the equilibrium so that we do not topple over from too much pressure arising out of any one role.

18 comments:

Christopher said...

I agree with you that there is an element of insensitivity to women's issues. There are instances when work pressure can lead to insensitivity and it adversely affects both men and women. Its probably the higher demands from a women due to her multiple roles that hurts women more than men.

I have always admired the multiple roles a woman plays throughout the day. Even early in my childhood, I used to wonder how my mother could be a full time mother and a full time teacher in a school. She completed her graduation and post-graduation while being a mother to four of us - including a difficult son.

Enhancing gender sensitivity in the workplace would certainly help but somehow, organizations do not seem to take this seriously irrespective of whether a man or a women is heading the organization. I think it needs a more vocal expression to make a difference and it needs to be a movement from all concerned and not driven from the top (as it was in some instances).

I have also seen most gender "experts" take on a confrontationist stance, which I feel is not productive and distracts one from the real issues.

Not all men are insensitive and so people like you should speak up more often.

Most gender typing is done early in life while one is in an impressionable age. If gender issues are part of primary school curriculum, it would probably make a difference.

Lastly, your quote is not complete "Someone once told me that to be able to compete in a man's world a woman has to be twice as good..."

The complete quote has the addition " and that is not very difficult"

Keep writing Meera - its makes absorbing and stimulating reading.

meerasrajan said...

Thanks Vasanth..!

Heavenly Muse said...

sometimes i feel that apparently liberal woman is even more suppressed.she carries the medal of being modern and equally bears household suppression.

KParthasarathi said...

I liked the way you presented with clarity.The problem with many working women is that they still have a dual role imposed on them save in a few cases.To work both at office and home all through the year is a back breaking job and this is what puts them at a disadvantage in the office.The mindset of men hasn't also changed much except in a few.You would witness in the higher rungs at offices very few women for various reasons.There is a long way to go for total equality but the progress towards that end is very much there although slow.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Hi Meerasrajan,

Thanks for stopping by my blog, and for your kind comment.

Doris

WINDOWLAD said...

Hello,

I just wanted to thank you for finding my page and reading my works... thanks as well for the kind words... you're always welcome to come back anytime... take care and joy always!!!:)

~Kelvin

Ibhade {NG} said...

Hey! wanna say tnx 4 stopping by...would come back to comment properly, am in a haste now to drop the kids off at school, then to my small place of business ..see u later :))

anindita said...

You have brought out a very real picture of the workplace. Women have to struggle a lot to prove themselves and yet most of their contribution go unnoticed and only failures highlighted. Taking clue from the words of Mark Anthony, the evil that (WO)men do, lives after them, the good if often interred with their bones"...still a long way to go but then we have people like your and my hubbys along with us who are setting examples and changing the order of the day...

Ibhade {NG} said...

Hey! am back from my kids school & have few minutes to myself before going out again :)..an insightful write-up, which every woman can adhere to, though i am a SAHM, i still feel & see the pains of working mothers. It would be so good if mothers can work from home, but just as you said, it would take generation for it to be internalized by organization, with the high rate of unemployment it is indeed a tall dream!

Though as a qualified estate surveyor, i refused to work because the profession is so time-consuming; see clients at anytime do convenient to them , inspect properties, travel for auctions, purchasing & valuation purposes.But a wife is expected to be home on time to take care of her family, which the society expects it to be her first priority, than her career! SOME women had chosen the career path ONLY & while SOME like me, chose the family path ONLY, bearing all the consequences or should i say risk that comes with it. As for the women that combined both, they should be given ALL the encouragement & incentives to be able to withstand the pressure because it takes determination to succeed against all odds.

SEPO said...

men refuse to accept strong minded, career oriented women exist!
sigh

Bikramjit said...

i agree with one of the comments above that women i guess have to perfomr two roles work and then at home too..

You have written a great post but how to solve it or what to do i have no idea ..

Bikram's

meerasrajan said...

Thank you all for your feedback. @ Parthasarthi I agree that few women make it to senior management precisely because their balancing act does not permit this extra load. So it is middle management or quits for us. @ Ibade, well said! It helps to make choices. I admire you for having left a lucrative career for your family. You know I did that when my daugther was younger and today I find that my peers are way ahed of me in their careers. I used to feel bad about it but now I have come to terms with it. Bikramjit, this has no solutions unless organizations decide to take this up- they need to recognize/acknowledge these roles that women play outside of work and make room for them. SEPo, unless men are themselves secure and confident they find confidence in a woman rather threatening..! Kelvin, Doris nice of you to have visited my blog. Do come and stop by whenever you can - Doris I am also a social worker by training though I work for an international non profit and not for a care giving organization like you do. Ani ofcourse, Nikhil and George are few but I beleive there will be more of them in the coming generation that belongs to Shrishti and Pakhi..

Best

Meera

Whirlwind said...

True. Women often play multiple roles. And they often need to strike a balance between these various roles they play. So it becomes a tough call. It is insensitive of people to remark saying one isnt serious about their job. If only they reflect back to what their motherswent through in order to bring them up, they would refrain fro making such unwarranted comments.

meerasrajan said...

Thanks Whirlwind for your comment. The point is that no one actually remarks that women are not serious about thier jobs - it is not allowed to say that ( you know all organizations are equal opportunities employers). Much of these things are unsaid - things which get reflected in the attitude..!

P.E.T. Projects said...

Its just sad that women get only half the credit a man would get for doing double the job he does. I work in a male dominated industry, im my company there are at least 4 men to every 1 woman. I try to be disciplined and achieve what most men glory about but with more finesse and a little less resources.
It will take a lot of time, but women would finally get the respect they deserve.

Destination Infinity said...

I think its important for one of the two - either husband or wife to have a flexible career (working from home, part time jobs, etc) / not work at all. Bringing up kids is not exactly easy when both the parents come home at 9:00 PM in the night.

Destination Infinity

Indian Home Maker said...

Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

simple girl..... said...

You have drawn such a true picture.. I make it a point to get out of office comparatively early comleting my work and also the required 9 hour stay in office. few of my male colleagues say that being a women I have an advantage. I do not have to extend and can leave early.. What they fail to notice is I come early hence my time quota is complete and I take only lunch break in whole day instead of numerous breaks(cigarette breaks, coffee breaks) other than lunch break that they take.. Part of professional hazards I guess..Since I am still a junior hence reponsibilities are not much.. To this I keep getting advices how I would have to extend once I move up the ladder and cannot go to home 'early'(read right time ) like present..

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