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And I Realised How I’ve Fallen For Gender Stereotypes Despite Huge Support For My Career

Equal, yet Different, a book that helped me become aware of the unconscious biases I had accepted in my professional journey and never realized to date!

When I began reading Anita Bhogle’s book Equal, yet Different, for the first half an hour, I felt, “Ah! I know all this….hmmm…all too familiar…old wine in a new bottle” – only to be delightfully proven wrong.

Am I glad I relented and kept turning one page after another?

Authored by Anita Bhogle, Partner Prosearch Consultants, Founder BizPundits, and Co-author of the bestseller The Winning Way with her celebrity cricket commentator husband Harsha Bhogle, I found Equal, Yet Different to be a cut above the rest for a big reason:

If you think you’re an empowered gender liberal woman, you’re in for a surprise. Read the book and you’ll know why. I did.

There are multiple unconscious biases that we are subjected to, but we never know them! Partly because we are all victims of a patriarchal mindset. Men and women, both. And partly because unconscious biases seem harmless as they are unintentional.

How unconscious biases work

For example, take my case.

I grew up in a gender agnostic home. My father was and continues to be my biggest ally in being financially independent and staying on the path to realizing my full potential. My mother was a working woman all-through my growing years and continues to be post-retirement.

I was an overachiever in my school, a Lady Shri Ram College For Women alumnus, The Best Outstanding Student Award recipient, and a Gold Medallist in Masters in Law from Delhi University. I worked in multiple setups. That included the Central Information Commission, an advocate in district courts and the High Courts, and an assistant manager at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Gurugram, and Mumbai. I went on to spearhead a successful career transition as a Business Editor and then a Head of Client Services at a boutique creative agency. I am a writer with over 100 publications in reputed media such as Hindustan Times, The Hindu, and Thrive Global.

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And today, I am an entrepreneur as an independent corporate communications consultant with a team of my own and earning enough to be considered an equal contributor to the house. My husband is gender-free. He is my biggest cheerleader for my aspirations and a crucial support system. I am personally committed to excellence and don’t compromise on the quality of my work, wherever I may be, whatever stage I may be.

Despite all the above, only on reading Equal, yet Different did I realize that my 13 years plus professional journey was marked by accepting multiple gender biases!

I moved for my husband’s promotion, leaving behind mine

For one, at a point in my career when I had the most enabling work environment and a rare mentor-like encouraging boss to work with, I moved to a different city on my husband’s promotion. I had little understanding of the consequences it would have on my career growth.

Only now on reading Equal, yet Different did I become more self-aware and learned the term trailing spouse and what that meant. While it hurts to look back and accept that yes, I was a trailing spouse once, it is liberating to become conscious about not being one in the future.

My plans to have children or not shouldn’t be my employers’ concern

Two, during an interview with a leading consultancy, I was asked whether I had planned to have children anytime soon. I vehemently replied, “No.” I regret that moment to date. I should have expressly said that it was none of their business. But I now realize that I can beat myself a bit lesser.

Equal, yet Different highlights that to counter being seen as physically and emotionally vulnerable, compromised in terms of productivity, or incapacitated for high-pressure projects and travel, women respond to gender-biased scenarios and questions the way I did to prove that they will never be out of action. I understand my younger self better now.

People still assume my income is secondary only because I am a woman

Three, even though my income as an independent corporate communications consultant is comparable to a professional in the senior rung of a global company. Even though I am an equal contributor as my marketeer husband with a leading FMCG, most people would still assume me to be a second hand to my family’s income only because I am a woman.

As a result, I understand from Equal, yet Different why women’s careers are treated like dispensable jobs irrespective of how much they earn. The reason is rooted in the unconscious bias that women professionals are second hands to the family’s income. So when needed, their career is the first to be sacrificed. No eyebrows raised.

Both spouses contributing equally is not the norm unlike what I thought

Four, while I invest a good part of my earnings behind savings and my husband and I slot equal portions of our earnings to meet the household expenses, I had never noticed that this was not the norm till I read Equal, yet Different.

From my experience, I can vouch that it is empowering when an equal proportion of a woman’s income goes towards creating assets versus only meeting expenses. Also, it does not matter whether your earnings go into exotic holiday bookings versus mundane recurrent monthly expenditures. An income expensed is an income expensed.

Responsibility for my parents shouldn’t depend on my gender

Five, I put myself through the guilt of not being available for my aging parents much more than my brother ever has, even though I am with them for most meaningful occasions and more time. Yet, I constantly feel I don’t do enough! At times, the guilt is so overwhelming that I have even considered staggering my professional growth. I fear I might not have enough time at hand for my parents.

Well, thanks to Equal, yet Different, I am more cognizant that this nagging pressure has more to do with my unconscious biases and expectations from my role as a daughter versus what reality demands.

As well as discovering unconscious biases, the book offers fresh thoughts and questions. Each of those resonated with me as new approaches that I would be mindful of in my core role as a professional and not let myself be a victim of unconscious biases.

Why all this makes Equal, yet Different a must read

On that note, I welcome you to read Equal, yet Different, and discover your own life on what you may hold or have been subjected to in the years thus far. With a slow-paced warm-up, the book will catch up with you. Anita Bhogle beautifully takes you on a journey of intense self-reflection as a woman who is a professional today or has ever been one. Gasping at aha moments and smiling, nodding my head vigorously, and sitting back and wondering why I did what I did and why I did not do what I could have and even have a chance to do today and yet donot – that was what reading Equal, yet Different felt.

A book that truly makes you think hard, unlearn, learn, and hope that you are more positive and fairer by the end of absorbing this powerful narrative. The credibility is also rooted in Anita Bhogle’s conversations with professionals across the industry – women founders, CEOs, and CXO and men in similar leadership positions who are also D&I champions. The free-flowing narrative left me experiencing diverse emotions and moments of self-discovery where I questioned, agreed, disagreed, laughed, smirked, and even shed some pensive tears.

Equal, yet DifferentCritical to the reader, Equal yet Different offers valuable tips, or as Anita Bhogle calls career catalysts, for every scenario that a woman professional could be in. Whether you are a young mother at work or marriage is on the cards, a senior leader or looking to book your seat in the boardroom, a mid-level role or a new joiner, an entrepreneur/ freelancer or an employee, there is considerable, actionable food for thought for each one. A significant part is that the tips cum worksheets are relatable, cross-sectors and professions, cross-work environment and business models, inter-generational, relevant to the Indian context, and possible to visualize and apply.

Amid the narrative, you will find Anita Bhogle’s reflections on the decisions she made as a woman professional who was the mother of two sons. She reflects on how her career path would have been different if she had chosen otherwise in scenarios blurring expectations from her as a mom, wife, businesswoman, co-founder, partner, daughter-in-law, and more. It is courageous to put yourself out there and express what many would only think internally and rather not voice. Kudos to Anita for choosing the former.

I am sure each chapter will leave you better prepared to enhance your chances of advancing and holding on to your dreams. And as you find some fantastic practical suggestions to navigate your professional growth, I sincerely wish that you never reach the point of quitting on your aspirations!

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up Equal, Yet Different: Career Catalysts for the Professional Woman written by Anita Bhogle, use our affiliate links at Amazon Indiaand at Amazon US.

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Image source: a still from the film Hichki, and book cover Amazon

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About the Author

Anusha Singh

I am a corporate communications consultant, columnist, and former lawyer. I help organisations speak to their stakeholders effectively. read more...

29 Posts | 84,686 Views

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