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Not considering a woman for travel on work due to a preconceived notion that as a woman, married woman or mom, she won’t be interested or won’t be able to handle it, is outrageous, says Akshata Ram in this incisive post.
I am a working mom, I have a 4 year old daughter. As much as I am a doting mom and cherish every moment spent with my little girl, I am ruthless when it comes to my career. I am a very ambitious person and aspire to reach the highest echelons in my career.
I wrote a few weeks ago about why it’s important for women to be vocal at work– this is something that I practise at my workplace- looking for new opportunities which will give me a chance to showcase my abilities and build up my network at the workplace.
A year back I was offered an opportunity to take up a new role for 6 months as the person performing this role would be out on maternity leave.
The role would have to be performed from Switzerland for 3 months. I was really excited. The role in the first place interested me, doing something new, forging new relationships, gaining expertise in a new area and working from a different location – it would all help in propelling my career a step further.
My initial thoughts were to take my daughter and mom along (just like I had taken them along last year when I went on a month long trip to Switzerland). But my mom runs a day care here in Pune and it would not be ideal to shut it down suddenly for 3 months , she had responsibilities. Besides I would be at work the whole day, it would get really boring for my daughter who is used to playing with kids. Sitting huddled at home the whole day (given the cold weather) she would find it no fun. My mother was the one who was keen I should go. It’s just a few months, time will pass quickly. Don’t worry I will take care of Angel, she assured me.
Since my daughter is used to my Mom since the time of her birth, I knew she wouldn’t have any issues. So. I took up this assignment, I am the only one so far from India who has been offered this kind of a role mobility for a short term.
My stay in Zurich was an absolutely fabulous experience woking in the office and living a single life, travelling alone and rediscovering myself. I did miss my daughter but we talked on Skype daily and she seemed happy- a few years down the line I know that neither she nor me are going to regret this. But if I had stopped myself from taking this up, a gnawing sense of missing something would remain.
I met up with a good work friend recently who is an Indian, born and brought up in London. She is someone who has constantly inspired me by urging me to be vocal about my career, she is equally ambitious, bold and unapologetic. She came to India on an International assignment for a year leaving her life and family in London, and then moved to China with a bigger and better role.
Living in different countries, all alone is not easy. There are many challenges and I am proud that she tackled them single handedly and triumphed. Not everything may have always worked as she wanted it to, but taking that big step of being in charge of your career, being willing to move if need be and being adaptable and flexible is what stands out. I wish there are more like her.
I always hear this complaint from people that women are too soft and won’t be able to handle the pressure and the cultural shock- FLASH NEWS- This is bygone. Women can handle it, just like men do.
I was speaking to a friend recently who works in a different organisation and she was really dillusioned, She told me about how married women in her team are being sidelined when it comes to onshore opportunities and good projects. There is a pre determined mentality that married women will get pregnant, have babies, go on maternity leave, come back and consider work as secondary, why waste resources on them?
This friend of mine is serious about her career and has expressed her interest in travelling abroad before her manager, but is given the standard response and was even once told “It’s not that easy, there is a lot of pressure and people are quite hostile, how will you handle?” It’s like a overprotective father figure talking.
Both these women whose examples I cited do not have kids. If it’s so tough to for women in general- the condition for working moms has to be much worse.
There could be cases where a working mom is genuinely not interested in taking up the opportunity for whatever reasons and that is totally understandable. But, not even considering her and moving ahead with a preconceived notion that she is a woman, married woman or mom, and wouldn’t be interested or wouldn’t be able to handle it is outrageous.
Not only is the organisation missing out on a job well done by a talented employee, they also run the risk of the employee getting dejected, quitting the organisation and sharing this horrible bias with others which is a reputational risk.
I am happy that I work for an organisation and among people who value my contributions as an employee, sans the gender. The fact that I was given this opportunity is testimony enough that my being a mom was in no way a deterrent in the way of my career path or travel.
At times before I went ahead and faced the dilemma – should I, shouldn’t I? I always thought about these articles I write, how I encourage women to own their career, protest against sexism and biases prevalent in the workplace. If I were to refuse this, I knew somewhere this might strengthen the belief of people who already think on lines of “ah the working mom, you really think she will leave her baby and travel?”
It was not just about proving them wrong, but the fact that I know my daughter was in safe hands which gave me the confidence to leave her behind and travel and the other fact being that I know if I have to rise in my career, I cannot be doing a 9 hour desk job. I aspire for big things which means I have to work towards my goals, seize opportunities and make the most of them, like I just did.
While every working woman may have different goals- for some it’s just a means of livelihood, others seek fulfilment in their career- there is no right or wrong, the only wrong thing is when women are sidelined due to pre conceived notions which impairs their career.
Its great to see the friend from London who took charge of her career and moved continents all by herself. I am proud of myself as well for saying yes and doing my bit in shattering the myth around working moms.
I hope the overprotective father (read boss) realises that his pseudo daughter is grown up and is ready to flee the cage, may he not clip her wings and let her soar high.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: shutterstock
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