For the longest time, I kept wondering why was there all this fuss around gender equality, particularly at work.
This was quite a few years ago of course. At the time I was, what I call, at the best stage of my life – financially independent with no responsibilities. The world was at my feet and the sky was really the limit.
I hated going to seminars and sessions where lots of women gathered and talked about what an unequal world it was. I didn’t understand why they would just not get on with their work and prove their mettle!
But sometimes one has to go through a situation to understand how difficult it might actually be. As I progressed in life, personally and professionally, I realised it really wasn’t a very balanced world – especially if you are a woman.
I grew up in a culture where despite your dedication, one day as a woman you would grow up, get married and then your family’s care and well-being would be your responsibility. Cooking cleaning upkeep – whether you do it yourself or use help, the ownership would be yours alone. It was just not expected for men to help out. If you chose to work outside the home and build a career, that had to be an “and” not an “or”.
As is started progressing on life’s journey, the inequality started hitting home. And add to that parenting and childcare!
That’s when I realised why this is such an important topic and how deeply ingrained the gender roles are in our society – how difficult it can be for some women not to drop off at middle management levels as they cannot take the pressure. Sometimes they really don’t have a choice.
I meet some men (and sometimes women) who believe this is all a waste of time and causes reverse discrimination.
But I believe that there is absolutely no substitute for hard work. And as long as that is true then this cannot be reverse discrimination – it is about creating a level playing field.
Many people can stay long hours at work, network in and outside work hours, as they may not be rushing to attend to another full time job waiting for them at home.
So the biggest shift I think we need in order to make it equal at work, is actually outside work. We need to make our society and culture more balanced. There is a huge responsibility on parents of young boys today to teach them how to help at home and to avoid reinforcing gender biases. Get young boys to contribute in household chores as much as young girls do. Avoid gender stereotypes so people do not get defined into set roles based on their gender. The day our homes become more equal, so will our work places be.