Even after seventy-three years of Independence, discrimination still has not stopped. Earlier it was the British against Indians, a few years down the line, it was the patriarchy v/s feminism. In today’s society, where equality is considered of utmost importance, the literal importance sometimes seems missing, be it work or a family. The respect towards women is the notion of new India while corporate life is still a question of equality.
Although women are multitasking every day, balancing careers with their personal lives; the core value is not considered worthy of appreciation. In a corporate world where the women are equally educated, skilled, experienced, intelligent are seen more of a home-maker than an intellectual employee. When confronted with their boss, they are either mocked or overlooked.
Like every problem starts from its roots, the exclusion begins from childhood itself. When the man of the house comes home after work, the daughter is expected to open the door and bring the things in. The son is never told to do the same.
Seema Raghunathan, a Business & HR professional with forty percent of her career in leading an HR Business consultancy. In contrast, the remainder of her 24-year work experience was spent in Corporate India. Her experience traversed respected brands like Standard Chartered Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Fullerton India, and John Deere with exposure in Banks, NBFC, Insurance, ITES, and Manufacturing & Consulting.
Seema is a champion of high Say Do Ratio, Influence without Authority, and Ethical People Leadership. She is a Master Facilitator, having trained 50000 people in over 120 subjects in 20 years. She is the author of two management books, The Corporate Jungle and I Gutching. She shared her experiences in the co-operate world; she says, Gender Discrimination is a real thing in the co-operate world. I am a tough negotiator; I do not settle down on what is given to me. I ensure I get what I deserve. I received a hundred percent hike in my last job. I faced gender discrimination, though.
Once the committee was in a large forum, she continued, and the company’s sales were not doing well. The company was focusing on the usual marketing techniques. When I proposed the plan in the forum, it was rejected. I told them the push method in practice was outdated. In current times, we need to pull people in. We need to think like customers in sales. The authority asked me where this question is coming from. I was taken aback by the words he said next. He further said, a woman cannot come up with this question, I am sure this question is told to you. He always thought men think better, do better in the financial market. I have also worked with men who believed women cannot think.
I have worked in, and for rural India, I have lived in villages. I have seen poverty there. Diversity is so important in business. In countries like China and Asian countries, women are made to work at lower ranks like entertainment, glamour, cosmetics, media, etc. They are not in hard-core businesses like HR, sales, General Manager. I am not saying there’s geographical discrimination. But abroad, it is covered up.
I have always been a quick thinker. I solve problems creatively. I do not need time for analysis or reference. This comes from observation skills. My boss once told me; he feels intimidated, uncomfortable when I am around. He felt insecure in my presence.
The reason for the financial exclusion of women begins with mothers. When a boy child is born, the mother pampers him the most. They make them learn everyone is below them. These men grow up and find it tough to accept the fact that women are equal to men. They cannot handle the concept of equality.
There was a tough lady manager from London of Indian origin. She was moved here by the company. Her accent was British. Since the British accent is a bit harsh, whenever she would say something in the British accent, these guys would take it as a humiliation. They had an inside joke of her being going through Pre-menstrual symptoms. Had a male manager been aggressive, these guys would accept it, but they could not even take a British accent since it was a woman.
Women cannot control and manage these situations sometimes. It is disturbing to be in a biased Company culture. Women must remember that people treat you the way you expect them to be treated. Never take lousy treatment from somebody. I have worked in a very dominating environment. It is cultural grooming. When it is harder for them to treat women equally, we must demand equality. Observe correctly and speak up your opinions because nobody will speak up for you if you do not. Every woman has a right to be treated with dignity.
When asked Lonee J. from Bangalore, Karnataka, an experienced Business Operations Manager with over eighteen years of experience in managing Operations Excellence in Services Delivery, Excellent Reputation of Problem Resolving, improving Customer Satisfaction, Generating Client Referrals, Client Retention and driving overall operational improvements said, I worked in different management companies for eighteen years. I faced emotional exploitation all those years. Women are emotional; they work hard.
Men think women are not good enough. We need to share a relationship with them to be treated right. We face tortured reviews at work, which are often shown as favours. This satisfies their ego. But they will not say it. But their thoughts, gestures are so obvious.
I would like to express an incident, an IIM graduate; way senior to me took me to a business meeting as a learning experience. I listened, observed, and, in the end, asked relevant questions. The opponents were impressed and gave me a business card. While coming back, my senior discussed with other men that it is easier for women because of their vanity. I did not understand the “vanity” he spoke about; I was professionally dressed for the meeting.
I think it all comes from men not wanting to accept that women are smarter. Adding to this, women with higher authority do not treat other women kindly; they try to keep boundaries. Maybe because they struggled to reach where they are now, they had to compromise too. And nobody would want to compromise just because of their gender. We live in a male-dominated environment where women are not appreciated or least appreciated.
We cannot expect it to change overnight. Men like to see women as a medal without brains. I do not work with somebody who does not have faith in my work. That is the reason I took a career break. Before COVID-19, I joined a company. Every fifteen days, they would go out for lunch. I was the only woman in the office. I was told that I am like a sister to them. But I never felt safe in the environment. And it left me with a question, why a woman must be seen a sister to be protected.
When I worked at a call centre at the beginning of my career, during the night shift, the men used to be lousy, they used to talk in a way that would project the wrong things in a woman’s mind. They never used to look in the eye and talk; the stare at the wrong parts of the body would make us uncomfortable. Although it was not touch, the behaviour would say out much more. To try to be comfortable, I always wore a jacket above my formal shirt. We, women, live with this every day. These things boost the ego of men.
Another time, I was called for a meeting. I told my husband to drop me for the same. The next thing I saw was there were around five men in the car who had come to meet a single woman. My husband was scared for me. For several non-professional meetings, I have to take my son with me.
Women are taught and told everything. But it is not told to men that their desires must be kept to themselves. They think rowdy behaviour is an expression of a civilized man. It is not restricted to a state. It is everywhere.
Most of the time, a man is seen commanding his wife to get the things for him while he continues to sit and watch his wife. The child looks at this scenario and learns. Even when both the partners are working, the daughter in law is expected to do the chores after work.
Everyone must handle these situations at their personal level. Women must set clear goals. Say ‘No’ to the compromise. I faced gender discrimination in all the companies I worked for, so I started my own company. I now work on my terms. I want my start-up to be run with discipline, regulations, and specific rules.
Earlier, when around two hundred employees worked under me, I always spoke to them when they committed a mistake, and I never shouted. Still, they found it challenging to take it from a woman. They often said their wives never speak in front of them. How can madam talk? They missed out the fact, I was an authority there; I had to talk, It was my duty.
My mother always said, I would never treat my son and daughter differently. But when I see it with maturity, I see a negligible difference. But I do not blame her, she was raised in such a society, and she tried her best.
The difference is seen when an educated woman like my mother shaped strong women like me and my sisters. Strong women must hold the hands of other women and take them forward. When I speak to other women, I inspire them to be on their own and to start something. It is only then the difference will be seen in society. It will not happen overnight; it will take time, but the time taken will be worth it for the nation’s growth.
These are just two women who shared their terrible experiences in the journey of being somebody. Millions of others are unheard, whose words are left unsaid and will always remain the same just because they are women.
Author: Ila Dhond
Content Editor, GoaChronicle.com