GENDER EQUALITY IS A MYTH!
Swati Pratap Gokhale (PGP 1995)
Every working woman who is keen on rising in her career, who takes pride in being professional, who puts in extra efforts to be seen as better or at least equal to her male colleagues, would have realized this at some point in time.
For me, a mechanical engineer, this struggle of being considered ‘Equal’ started quite early in life. So, you work harder, put in more time doing blacksmithy, hammering away that hot iron piece standing near the furnace, to show that you are ‘Equal’ – and not to be seen as a delicate darling – while the boys are more at ease. If your ‘Job’ is not correct, the supervisor gives you the look which says “and the girls want to be mechanical engineers”.
So, you continue to strive hard, do the assignments (and boys copy), take notes (and boys copy), achieve rank to prove yourself and worry about getting a job as not many companies are open to recruiting women engineers.
Then after successfully overcoming the hurdle of the selection process and getting a job in a company that believes in gender equality – comes the ‘graduate engineer trainee’ period. The first question asked by the senior leaders is “Are you averse to travelling? – mind you, not ‘willing to or open to’.
Along comes the shop floor assignments – again none of the boys who joined with you need to go through one. But, you happily work on the shop floor as you want to show that you are ‘Equal’.
Post MBA, after entering the corporate world, where the fairer sex is seen more in clerical and secretarial roles – the office staff, it is a different struggle. So, you want to show you are as good as the male colleagues in the managerial positions, there are not many women colleagues in such positions with whom you can bond, and you can’t bond with the office staff as they don’t see you as one of them. The male colleagues have their own clicks in which they magnanimously invite and accept you – or so you feel till you learn about their stag parties, or casual smoke and drink sessions where you are not invited. But, come a new lady manager and if you start bonding with her, you can start hearing snide remarks about how women stick together.
Again, the urge to balance surfaces. You want that female camaraderie, but at the same time, you don’t want to be seen as not ‘Equal’.
And you want to portray that professional achiever image to your seniors. So, work hard, put in more hours than your male colleagues, travel to remote places, and balance your family life.
So what if you love lace, silks and jewellery – out with the pastels and bright colours and suit up with greys and blacks – ‘the power dressing’.
And with all the extra hours and hard work, some assignments still don’t come your way because the bosses are wary. Based on the phase in life in which you are – the doubts are – she will marry and go away – or she will go on maternity leave – or she will have to give time to her kids … and so on.
Nowadays, it is veiled and subtle but still exists.
But sometimes, when one stops to think, the question comes to mind – why are women trying so hard to be seen as ‘Equal’? Men and Women are not ‘Equal’. For all we know, this is some clever male boss’s ploy to make women work harder.
Therefore, instead of chasing the mirage of equality and pushing oneself harder to fit in this image, let us accept the fact that men and women are different. Let us take pride in saying ‘I am a woman, I know what I can do and cannot do. Do not try to fit me in the same stereotype as my male colleagues. Respect my femininity.’
This will free you from trying to fit in the ‘Equal’ woman image and you can focus on exploring different avenues and realizing your potential.
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