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What is the importance of women in the workplace? A look at the contributions and challenges of working women.
By Seetha Srikanth
Nine a.m. I swipe my smart card at the portal of opportunity. I bring a whiff of Chanel’s Allure as I step past the front office decoration. I smile at the receptionist and greet the secretary. Heads turn, pleasantries are exchanged. I walk with quick steps to my cabin. A short stride for me this morning but it has taken many centuries for us.
Information Technology has no gender bias. In fact, it should be a great leveller of social inequality. I settle down in my cabin. I check my mail and glance at my schedule for the day. I begin with the review of the high level design of the new application. I weed out some unnecessary loops. There are many names in this industry: fuzzy logic, mind maps, intuition. I don’t know what you would choose to call it. But I think I bring a point of view to the work done here. A sensibility that is natural to my gender.
Ten a.m. She steps in. The young, bright woman from a small town that does not live on your map. Her English is shaky, but her purpose is not. She brings a commitment that catalyzes our project. I can count on her. Often more than the happy young man who downloads adult games or stock prices on the office computer. He glides into my cabin. I know him; his eyes and their quick darts. I don’t respond to them. We talk about work. But I know his mind is multitasking, working on other things around me. I bring a challenge. I challenge his idea of a woman. I challenge his idea of a colleague. I challenge some old egos and prejudices.
I bring a challenge. I challenge his idea of a woman. I challenge his idea of a colleague. I challenge some old egos and prejudices.
I grab a cup of coffee in the canteen. The old chaiwala’s eyes ask the question. Can I get his daughter a job? He knows she can pull him out of the sweatshop. Oh, there are still those who clandestinely encourage female foeticide and infanticide. But the smarter ones like him give their girls an education. Quite literally the ghar ki Lakshmi model. Here, I bring hope. I train freshers. I make presentations. I share my lunch with stories of home. Men can look at things differently from women. I can see it. They can see it too. We agree to disagree on a few things. But it is important to be aware of a plurality. I bring a balance of perspective to this microcosm.
I make calls. I take calls. I also make enquiries trying to fulfil the role of the supergirl, superwife, supermom, superbahu, superfriend or whatever it is I have accepted to be. But not at the cost of my work responsibilities. I can mentor you on time management.
Women joined men in the workforce aeons ago. But in invisible spaces. Inside the kitchen. Behind a zenana. In the back yard. Within a harem. Covered by a veil. Now we have stepped into new spaces and found new tools. We have a cabin – that has a glass ceiling.
Just as there are men and boys, there will be girls and women. Women with their reserves of patience, EQ and communication skills can defray tensions and balance dynamics in a group. And hey, we can bring a sparkle to the eye, a smile to the lips and charge up the workplace too.
Six p.m. I clear my table, pack my laptop, fish out my keys and step out of the cabin. The fraying chauvinism lurking in the deeper recesses of the office building tries to leap out. Can women take pressures? Can they work late? Can they lead? I don’t answer them. I reinforce the freedom technology can bring. I connect up from home. I take calls on my cell wherever I am. In the age of broadband connectivity, it is easy to cut out noise.
As I enter my home the girls give a whoop and my maid is ready to leave. I hand her the money for her daughter’s school fees. The ripple effect, you could call it.
I am trying to fit into a workplace that is made for men. I am on this path of progress and I shall not turn back.
I put it all so slickly. But it is a tough act for me. Just as I bring strengths to my workplace, I take with me learnings. I am trying to fit into a workplace that is made for men. I am on this path of progress and I shall not turn back. I bring a demand for change in the workplace. I am asking for an environment that will channelize my managerial skills as a professional and also respect the responsibilities society still entrusts in me as a woman.
Above all I bring a question: In the age of burgeoning technological growth, should we ask what women contribute to a workplace? Technology today has minimized the impact of gender in most work roles. Where it cannot, it optimises on the strengths of each gender. Surely human intellect can rise to the level where we appreciate and respect dissimilarities in human beings. I am a professional and a woman. And women make for half the population of the globe. A little more than that, actually!
*Photo credit: Victor1558 (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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