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Stop Asking Young Women To Make Practical Career Choices

Posted: March 22, 2021

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The definition of a ‘practical career choice’ for women differs from that for men, because women are constantly advised to keep the potential family in mind.

While studying in junior college, like any other student I was confused about a pool of career choices. Whatever opportunities come my way, I always believe in showing up – be it fashion blogging and fashion styling, a course in international relations, a course in public policy, speaking at college events on diverse topics ranging from gender to economics to law, or researching and presenting papers. Experience and experience alone can help one understand what one truly wants.

I eventually chose to study law. However, along the journey between choosing a career and finally choosing one, I was perplexed and also a bit disturbed by the kind of prejudicial advice given and questions asked based on my gender.

First while choosing streams, someone advised me, “Be it any stream, just choose a career where a maximum of 3-4 years of study is required to attain a degree.” The rationale behind this was to meet the socially accepted cap of 25 years to get married.

Then came another piece of advice, “You are a woman; after getting married you won’t be able to dedicate time to your career, soon you will have to rear children. Hence choose some 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. desk job or any less intellectually stimulating job, it would be a comfortable alternative”. Immediately I tried to re-route the conversation and bring it back to the topic.

Then comes another bomb, “See, you are a woman dear. Are you sure? How will you manage? Be practical”. As an 18-year old, I was annoyed that my queries were met with answers that weren’t even related to my questions.

Litigation is not for women, think again…

After opting for law, I came across multiple fields. I was extremely curious. Law is a field where one has to be constantly networking to get the right opportunities. Once I happened to meet a practicing lawyer and in a tone of curiosity I asked, “How is litigation as a field, what is it like to be in litigation?” Of course, yet again, I got a completely unrelated answer, “Litigation is not for women, think again”. I politely excused myself from the conversation.

Just the other day, while talking to my immediate senior at the law firm where I am presently interning, I enthusiastically asked her about opportunities in counsel practice. She replied, “I too wanted to get into that, however, I was advised that law firms do not give briefs to female advocates, they prefer men. Also, my senior advised me that after marriage it is difficult to make a mark in the bar, hence I stepped down.”

Yes, no wonder law is a male-dominated profession. Not only in the legal profession, the same is true for other professions too. Young women are discouraged at the very beginning and it becomes a vicious circle as the same propositions in the form of advice go on in a roundabout manner.

It is a distressing reality of how women are made to unconsciously adopt debilitating belief systems due to constant reinforcement. For one, the definition of a ‘practical career choice’ for women differs from that for men. On the one hand, this society calls itself progressive but on the other hand it also demarcates ‘ladylike’ jobs and women are cautioned at each step.

Women are constantly taught to compromise

A  ‘practical’ career choice for a woman means directly or indirectly making each choice based on a gender role to be the primary caretaker of a family. They are taught that it is normal to compromise on building an identity post marriage. After all, your C.V. will be ruined, dear women, if you don’t know how to serve a bowl of dal properly.

I write this because I want to put forth a question before society: Why are the same questions not asked to men before their choosing a career? I write this because I want young women to rethink and reconsider the patterns that either they have unconsciously adopted or are made to think about.

Instead, here are the questions that young women brimming with a spark should be asked. “Where do your strengths lie?” “How do plan to gain career capital?” “What work gives you pleasure?” “How do you think you can make a difference with your work?” Raise young girls capable enough so that they decide their priorities for themselves instead of imposing a socially accepted set of priorities on them.

Don’t dim the light of their dreams with ‘practical’ realities or by lecturing them about gender roles. One role of a woman is also to build a progressive ideology for future generations.

Top image credits: Andresr/Getty Images Signature, via Canva Pro

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