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Having a career and the financial independence it means creates an identity for women beyond their traditional roles in homes. Which is why workplace equality should be a given.
We asked an open question to our readers, “What does it mean to you to go to work, as a woman?”, and invited their personal work stories. To our delight, we received some very interesting responses.
This, I think, is a timely question to ask. It’s 2019, and yet, 68% of our educated urban women are unemployed. And of those employed, I wonder for how many it is a question of a career. If my guess is correct, it must be a much smaller number than those who work as a necessity due to financial considerations.
Earning for oneself offers a woman economic independence, which, according to Virginia Woolf’s claim “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” truly takes her on the path of #GettingToEqual. But not all work needs to be about needing to earn, as Paromita Bardoloi has us know.
Paromita is a writer and a spoken word artist based out of Delhi, and co-founder of a community ‘The Empathy Circle, India’, which meets each month to share life lessons. “My work,” she says, “gives me my piece of sky in this infinite Universe. That sky is mine and I don’t need anyone’s permission to paint it… Being a working woman is the gift I give to myself each day.”
Her work fulfils so much more than the mundane basic needs that any paid work does. “I am adding something more (to my life) than the cheque that comes to me at the end of the month. Sometimes I wake up to such messages – I receive long emails from strangers telling me how they could make a better choice because of something I. This fulfilment is something my work has gifted me back.”
A single mom, Lakshmi Priya says that the financial independence her work gives her is a matter of pride for her. She has worked in a corporate job, has done freelance consulting, is a public speaker, and is a coach/ trainer.
“I will not say I love my job, neither will I say that I don’t,” she says. “Growing up, becoming a public speaker was my dream and I’m living it now. Yet, I have the same challenges with work that anyone else does. There are days I just want to throw up, bury myself in the office washroom and hibernate until I feel better again. And then there are days I walk into office, smiling to myself and giving away free hugs.”
This dichotomy of feelings about work is what makes us human – for this is giving oneself permission to feel both extremes, and not guilt oneself into denying it, a true way of #GettingToEqual. But then this is often not completely fulfilling for someone, as Lakshmi corroborates. For that, she does the creative things that satisfy her soul.
Sudeepta Mohapatra Sarangi
Sudeepta Mohapatra Sarangi works as an analyst, “helping our customers save on their utility bills/energy costs”.
Her post directly cuts to the heart of the matter. “The very question ‘what does it mean to you to go to work, as a woman?’ is so wrong!! Because, it screams of inequality. No wonder we are campaigning for #GettingToEqual, because we are still so far from it. Now, the same question is never asked to men! Because, they are the obvious and expected bread earners.”
The clarity with which Sudeepta explains further tells us exactly what is wrong with our society. And she takes umbrage to the question most commonly asked of women who want to work, to have a career. “Why do you need to work when your husband earns so much?!”
Anushree K works as a banker, in a top international bank. Her post reinforces what Sudeepta said.
“I know I cannot not work ever. It’s… in my bloodstream and not working would mean me losing my identity. There are days I feel like giving up, but since I don’t know any other way, I know I won’t be able to stay put if I do. I HAVE to work not just for the money but the independence it grants me,” Anushree states matter-of-factly.
She began working early in life, as a necessity – she lost her father early, and and for a long time, her mother was the sole earning member of the family. “I started working the moment I left education – Being able to survive on your own is important for everyone. EVERYONE.”
Aruna Menon’s story is one of the most inspiring stories in these series. An army medical officer, Aruna is a gynaecologist, who has done her medicine from AFMC – Armed Forces Medical College. She is emphatic about her right to work as a woman.
“I work because I want to. Period!” she states. “It’s a choice I’d made as a child. I have skills and qualifications which help me help people, being a doctor. It gives me immense satisfaction and self worth as a woman, making life defining and life changing decisions for patients. To me work is a way of life. Way of being Me.”
Shraddha is a licensed psychologist working in the US. Of her motivations to be a working women, she says, “I saw my parents follow traditional gender roles – I saw how limiting these roles could be since my mother never had financial independence while my father didn’t get to spend much time with me growing up. I saw my maternal grandparents face financial difficulties, and people commiserating with them for not having any sons. I heard stories of domestic violence and abuse from school and college classmates, and their mothers being unable to leave the marriage because of a lack of education and work experience. So, very early on, I knew that I had to have a career that could support not only me but my family if necessary.”
Hence she cherishes the financial independence and sense of purpose her career gives her, and the equality with her spouse. “My husband and I work hard- both inside and outside the home,” she says. “I do believe that we have begun to change the narrative for future generations.”
Tina Sequiera looks at her work holistically, calling herself “a Content Marketer, an aspiring bestseller novelist, a blogger, a writing coach, speaker, homemaker, cook, mother and much more… My mother’s solid advice to me,” she says, “was to be financially independent. No matter what the circumstances are. Like every daughter, she’s my role model. I don’t need to look elsewhere.”
“Even though all these jobs seem unrelated, together they form a unique career all of my own,” she concludes.
Vedaprana Purkayastha started out as a lecturer of Statistics, and wanted to go on to become the HoD of Statistics eventually, a subject she loved. But life had other plans. She followed her husband overseas, as most women do, but after a few years, she came back because she wanted to have a career, and could not just be.
She eventually is a teacher, but has done a ton of work towards the betterments of our not so privileged sisters. About this, she says, “Other than being a teacher, I always had one more dream – to be a Social Worker, specially to work towards upliftment of women of all categories. I never knew how serious I was until I started getting involved in such work. (For the) last 4 years I have tried my best to live my other dream – from sponsoring little girls’ education to making Breast Cancer Survivors walk the ramp; (providing donated) sanitary pads to sex workers; (providing donated) blankets and old clothes to poor old women – I have done it all with the help of another few women who trust and support me blindly.”
“Coming from a family of ‘lionesses’ as I love to call my grandma and Mom, there was no doubt that I had to be one,” says Akshata Ram. “‘There is no job a man can do, that a woman can’t’, these words by mom made me break several barriers in life.”
About #GettingToEqual, she says, “I urge every woman to find her true calling, be independent, look beyond her family, her kids, think about herself as an individual. Think about how we want to raise our kids, lead by example for when they see their moms have a life of their own, not just as someone’s wife, mother, daughter, will they learn why they need to carve their own identity.”
As a grown-up, married woman, Saumya Srivastava did what all Indian women have been doing – trailed behind her spouse to the US. But her husband is made of a different mettle, a man who considers that his wife is not lesser than him. Saumya says, “Marriage happened, and I moved to the States. H4 had its own set of hurdles, and I felt I will not miss work but mind works in mysterious ways. More than me, (my husband) believed in me. I still remember how he told his manager that we want to be in a country where we both have a work permit. This for me is an integral part of #Gettingtoequal, when the opposite gender recognizes your role and aspirations. The act made us switch from the USA to London.”
A few years later, after a move back to India and a baby, Saumya started, in her own words, “scribbling”. Those who read her writing, loved it. “I was finally acknowledged for something I was good at, something I aspired to be a part of in a longer run. We all love the monetary reward, but money did not get me ‘sukoon’ (rough translation: peace) I get while penning… Above all, I won my wolf pack of writer buddies.”
A chance to reach for your dreams. A seat in the boardroom. Financial freedom. Equality means many things to many women. However, Getting to Equal is also about creating a culture of equality, which in turn drives innovation. That’s why workplace equality is such a big part of what women need! How do we move ahead and inspire more women to chase their dreams? If we want this big change to happen, it needs action from all of us, and all of us can be a part of it.
Such a variety of professions, attitudes, wants, and wishes, but with a common thread – the pride in being a working woman. Find more such stories by our sisterhood of extraordinarily ordinary women here on Facebook.
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In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya
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