With working women in India often fighting a battle on dual – work and home fronts, are integrated housing townships a good solution in the here and now?
I started the day with reading – news, blogs, twitter feeds, SMS, mails…. After an hour, I’d had enough. I stopped! As I pondered the broad themes of what dominated my reading, two topics appeared to steal the lime-light: a) Elections in India b) Women
I’ll skip the election topic for now! So, let’s talk about women. The topic of the changing role of women, safety of women (from birth to death!), empowerment of women, rising power of women, working women, working mothers in India, work life balance is much written, discussed, debated and talked about! Especially, thanks to social media.
On the one hand it makes me happy – awareness, acknowledgement and acceptance that issue(s) exist is the first step for any meaningful change. Next, typically, comes the solution. In the case of the specific issue of ‘working women’, the topic has almost always been in the discussion mode (for as long as I can remember). There are initiatives which a few organizations have taken/are taking to address gender diversity at the workplace, bring about a systemic change and create an impact. And then there are some women who just did what they had to do (or just did it!) and are rising to the top to become the icons of change. But these are still far and few, and only time will tell how many will remain and how far they go!
The topic of ‘working women in India’ has been close to my heart for very many years. One, I am a woman. Two, I am an Indian and live in India. Three, I am a mother. Lastly, I have a full time corporate career. So I’ve experienced it all first-hand, up close and personal. I spent years pondering over why it is so damn tough for women/married women/mothers to have a long term meaningful career in any field. The ~4 years of my research, analysis and insights went into one of my long-ish posts, “Working Mothers in India – It is tough, but Why?” Do read it!
The fact, is issues exist. Not one, two. But very, very many. And it exists at all phases of a woman’s life, and at all levels of the socio-economic starta. And then recently I read the 2014 SHEROES Report – Women at Work, India 2014 which “is an exercise to arrive at a status check in the context of urban educated women and their work-life choices. The SHEROES report maps the corresponding business and social backdrops, and traces challenges and opportunities, in the context of women at work.” Be sure to read it and you will get a reality check of the true situation at the ground.
Then I came across two more articles, “It’s true, Indian men hardly do any housework“ and “Male Executives Don’t Feel Guilt, See Work-Life Balance as a Women’s Problem“ and I was convinced of a few things. One, There is only so much that men will ‘realistically’ do – at least for now! Two, There is only so much organizations can do today – after all they are commercial enterprises.
Considering the above two are given and the fact that women want to work today, may be one possible solution could be in better equipping and enabling them at their homes? A solution which is real and in the real world. A solution which has scale. A solution which is here to stay. A solution which is customized to address the specific issues of ‘working women’ in India – which range from safety and security, affordable transportation, reliable network connectivity, reliable and real-time home maintenance services (cleaning, cooking, etc.), child-care services, children’s activities, women only community activities, recreation services, mentor-ship, networking, education, healthcare, retail services, etc. etc. etc
As I wondered and pondered more about the solution space, I had my ‘Eureka moment’. Maybe one possible and practical way could be to create ‘Working Women’ Integrated Housing Townships which caters exclusively to the everyday operational needs, issues, challenges and realities of working women in India. What should be the criteria to stay here? Simple – There should be a working woman in the house as the everyday issues that a working woman faces in India are real, are day-to-day and are usually the cause for very many women to quit!
So, there could be different kind of women profiles like a single woman, married woman (and there could be sub-categories here for nuclear families and joint families – both are two ends of the spectrum in terms of needs and requirements), working mothers (and there could be sub-categories here based on the work profile, lifestyle, family context, etc.) and working grandmothers.
I honestly believe that such a society has the potential to have a real and long time impact – for the current generation and subsequent generations. One, it can make everyday living easier for women so they can focus on their careers. Two, it can nurture and foster the bonds of womanhood which can make all the difference in the longevity of a woman’s career. Three, it can prevent/reduce the ‘guilt factor’ in a woman since you see working women all around you (and hence don’t judge and compare yourself with women who are not working!).
Four, it can provide real-life role models who are living next to you. And that in itself can be an inspiration to keep going. Five, it has the potential for you to find a mentor at a walking distance. Six, for the next generation of children – they grow up in an environment where working women are the norm and commonplace, and hence they learn and adapt to these ways. Seven, the girls of the next generation understand that women and careers are strongly coupled. Eight, in case of crisis/emergency you can help/support each other. And nine, it becomes easier to collaborate towards larger good/social causes.
Just writing this post made me so relaxed! Now imagine how wonderful it would be if I could live in such a township? Ah! In all this, I admit I have not taken the man’s point-of-view. May be that’s a post for a man to pen down? Now that I’ve given it so much thought, what next? Hmmmmm, (1) Write-up a business plan and take it to reality? OR (2) Just hope and wish that some builder reads this. I think it can be the next game changer for real-estate business in India, and he/she can laugh his or her way to the bank.
Till then, would love to hear your views!
Pic credit: Tanja Fohr (Used under a CC license)