Let me start by explaining both my motivation as well as my qualification for writing this piece. While I have worked only in India and primarily in consumer marketing companies, women in workplaces is actually a blog I could write if I trusted my writing skills more. My objective for doing this piece is quite selfish — I really want to see more women in senior management and all you dads and moms can influence that!!
The numbers are poor in the Indian context — the birth gender ratio is close to 50%, in the best of the companies we hire 30% women at the entry-level, and by the time we reach the CXO suites it drops to an abysmal single digit.
As a sales manager, I used to live in Madurai which then was a very small town – as I get into an auto, the driver asks me “madam do you want to go home or to the Titan showroom?”- that’s the kind of visibility working women in India have to deal with.
So let me give you a sense of challenges that I have faced trying to be an effective professional. As a sales manager, I used to live in Madurai which then was a very small town – as I get into an auto, the driver asks me “madam do you want to go home or to the Titan showroom?”- that’s the kind of visibility working women in India have to deal with. I remember barricading the door of a hotel room in a really small town with tables and chairs, and still not being able to sleep a wink. Companies I have worked at times have felt like an old boys club-men hang out with other men(!), the desk and the bar are often seamless, the vital information and strategy chatted over a drink rather than in a meeting room. Companies also have fat rule books for ‘affirmative’ action, and the line managers in these organisations have found equally long workarounds-and women have found themselves ‘mommy-tracked’. I am the one who has ended up organising lunches and do at senior management meetings (and almost expected to), I am confused however whether it is a gender thing or a personality disorder of mine.
There is however a lot of good news too.
Management, Marketing, Business Development are all extremely aspirational — we don’t have to sell these to young women today.
Honestly, I have not had much reason to fault men managers of dis-intent to as much as on dis-competence, on the ability to manage women subordinates. I have perhaps had more reason to suspect a lack of ambition in women professionals – the glass ceiling is internal long before it comes external. And I remember that six years of formal education of two of the country’s premier Institutions did not teach me any communication or leadership skills — that was meant to be learnt on one’s own. Can we do differently by our children? Sports is a good route to building excellence and teamwork. Are there other avenues to build confidence, social skills, leadership, collaboration?
I have perhaps had more reason to suspect a lack of ambition in women professionals – the glass ceiling is internal long before it comes external.
Most of us are not recluses, and we like to be ‘inclusive’ — we just find it difficult, or so we believe. Take it from someone who knows, it isn’t so difficult to put one’s hand out and be the first one to speak the crucial first sentences. There is no advice for this, it just needs to be tried, actually, it just needs to be done. I think of it as paying it forward for our children by mentoring employees and creating affirmative workplaces.
We as parents need to find the right role models for our children. The closer to home the better. And you know there is a difference between taking care of our children to being the role model for them. Our son has never said so but he wants to grow up to be what Appa is — can’t ask for anything more in life.