I recently happened to meet a lady in my residential society who clearly seemed to be in her mid-thirties, had two girls and carried very neutral expressions on her face – neither happy nor sad. She displayed a great manifestation of an emotion – acceptance. We shared the same bench of the garden while giving some rest to our fatigued legs. After a few minutes of tote-à-tête, I realized that she worked with a renowned finance firm in Pune and had quit job after her first girl was born. Then she took a short break before she rejoined as a school teacher in a nearby school, just so that she could feel the happiness of being independent. But eventually, after her second girl was a year old, she had to leave again, as she wanted to give her time to the family. She is now a house wife who looks forward to being a working professional again. When? That’s certainly an open ended question mark.
Her circumstances made me ponder more about the challenges faced by a working woman in India on a daily basis. A recent study shows that almost 48% of women in India drop out of the workforce before they reach the middle of their careers. Only 5% of working women make it to senior leadership positions in the corporate sector, compared to the global average of 20 percent. Is it the environment that pulls down the moral of the working women or is it the mindset of the society that is not yet tuned to accept the changing trend? It rather came as a surprise to me when I learned that only about 20% of women in Urban India are working; forget about the percentage of rural India.
To mark her identity, to be independent, to earn a living, to run her family or to support her husband run the family; there are numerous reasons today women step out of their home, to work and to earn. A woman plays so many roles (of daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, mother…) and for ages has been a multi-tasker. Her tasks and challenges have increased and hardened multi fold now when she is super multi-tasking; juggling between career, traveling, kitchen, kids, husband, house, society, personal health, passion and desires. Balancing between so many duties and obligations, a woman faces numerous challenges and problems every day, every time, and may be every second minute.
Discrimination at Work – Sometimes the discrimination starts at the very level of recruitment and interview, where recruiters/interviewers see women incompetent for challenging roles and ask questions like whether you would be able to continue after marriage?
Challenges to Safety, Life and Dignity – Sexual harassment, theft, molestation, eve-teasing, etc. are some of the forms of challenges working women face to their safety, life and dignity.
Non-acceptance of Talent, Offered Disrespect – Though India is progressing but there are still sections of the society where a woman going out to work is seen very lowly and questioned about her moral. Major part of the country still sees women as only home makers.
Family Duties – In today’s modern time, even after working in the corporate world and after taking up challenging roles of executives/directors/marketing professional/IT professionals, etc a woman is expected to cook food, take care of kids and all other household duties.
Juggling Between Work, Home, Relationships and Personal Life – Amid all the dilemma and stretch of balancing the job responsibilities, following her passion, going ahead with her aspirations and looking after her family-kids-husband; a woman handles and balances a big lot of stress, which deprives her of peace, rest, sleep, independent though and luxury to be herself.
Maternity Leave and job pressure – Many organizations are strict about the maternity leave and women have the constant pressure of rejoining their organizations soon after the delivery else they run a risk of losing their jobs. Some recruiters are reluctant to hire a married woman considering the maternity leave she might be required to go on. Sometimes, the appraisal ratings and hikes are the aftermaths women have to face as a price of being a mother.
I know of a female who is incomparably independent, confident, earns more than or equal to her male counterparts but faces acceptance issue when she returns home after spending full day at office. The family enjoys the lifestyle that she contributes to, but also feels that a woman should work only to the limit where it doesn’t affect the family.
I think many women lives in guilt almost each day of their lives. Guilt of either leaving their children at day care to attend work or the guilt of letting their dreams go off. Guilt of ‘not being’ the perfect home maker or the guilt of ‘just being’ a home maker. Guilt of either being alone at home or guilt of hanging out with colleagues and friend. A working woman has to make choices every morning, every single day of her life. Whether to cook for her family or to rush to work. There’s some sort of compromise a working woman has to make with herself daily. Even if a working woman leaves her house to be taken care by the domestic help, either she herself or someone else compares her with others who manage to do certain things on their own, and in the end it leads to guilt of not being an ‘all-rounder’ lady.
The challenges a working woman faces is beyond people can comprehend. She is on her toes from morning to night just trying to balance family, work, relations, obligations and many other duties. It’s true that a few give up on their way but some fight till the end.
Let’s see how long my challenge takes me to 🙂