Still talking Feminism

Anna Quindlen, the author I pretty much idolise, once said,

“It’s important to remember that feminism is no longer a group of organizations or leaders. It’s the expectations that parents have for their daughters, and their sons, too. It’s the way we talk about and treat one another. It’s who makes the money and who makes the compromises and who makes the dinner. It’s a state of mind. It’s the way we live now.”

And of course you nod, because you believe it and can’t imagine it being any other way. Until you come across something like this giving us strategy on branding (link via Sairee) for women executives. I was rather horrified, reading stuff like -

Do not drag your family to work. No family photos, no screensavers, no drawings. Yes, yes, I know men have all of these, but who said life is fair.

Really? Not even a screensaver?! Hello third wave feminism! Would you like to come over and meet this author?

And what is this about not informing a supervisor early about a pregnancy or marriage?  I would like to think of it as a matter of courtesy, not legalities. Just like my boss isn’t officially bound to let me come in 15 minutes later because of my physiotherapy, but does it out of consideration. An architect working on a 3 year project to build a hotel should give the company adequate notice to make alternate arrangements, right? Besides what is adequate notice? I don’t know. Some of us pop immediately and start throwing up, while others remain thin as a rake till we deliver and don’t have a day of anything wrong. What all of us do, is take time off after the baby and if you have an idea of it early enough, why not? This one however is just a judgment call so this isn’t a real quibble.

The  next – no discussion on ‘feminine problems’. We’re obviously going back to the day when you couldn’t say you are having your periods. Excuse me? I understand if this was a blanket rule of not giving out any medical details. But I absolutely object to the whole ‘feminine’ problems line. Is it okay to say you have a prostrate problem then?

As for PTA meetings and sick children – as I type this, the OA is holding a feverish Brat in his arms, having taken half a day off from work. I took the morning off. A week ago the Bean got heat stroke and we both split the time, the OA taking her for a throat swab and blood tests (the doctor suspected dengue).

Not only do I find this kind of post a bit of a blow to feminism. I find it a very regressive way of thinking and a blow to the family structure. World over, we’re making a move towards a work environment which respects the family and personal life. So it should be completely okay for a parent (be it a father or a mother) to say they’re taking the day off for a sick child or the morning off for a PTA meeting. This is the India of nuclear families. A sick child cannot be packed off to daycare and neither can the maid attend the PTA meeting in your stead.

When we talk of work life balance, we’re making an obvious statement. That work is not life. There is life beyond work and we’ve got to start respecting that. Start respecting that not just for parents who rush home to a sick child but single people who have responsibilities towards their parents, friends and even themselves. Who might want to travel, volunteer for a cause, pick up an instrument, or indulge in a hobby.

I am disappointed with the kind of thinking we’re encouraging, by asking women to literally neuter themselves professionally. If its okay for men to talk about a ball game at work, why not for a woman to talk about her child? Heck, I know the OA and his colleagues discuss schooling and children very often. (I once did a post on the OA and three of his colleagues eating Happy Meals at McDonalds during lunch hour, just to bring home the toys for their kids. I miss you Southways!)

I respect them all the more for it and their reward is children who literally worship the ground they walk on. It’s not really a favour they’re doing their kids. It’s a favour they’re doing themselves, by remaining human. And by not living up to male stereotypes – jocks, workaholics, casanovas.. everything, but family men. Men who care and aren’t afraid to say it. Not to sound like a Raymond’s advertisement here… but you get my point. At times I feel sorry for men having to live within society’s narrow constraints and high expectations too. Only when I am not feeling sorry for women and their plight ;)

I don’t deny the fact that women are judged on these issues. But they’re only judged because the men are conditioned to never mention home and family at work. But that is changing. From the senior management guy who sits across my cubicle, telling me that his wife has managed to conceive 8 years after their first child and he is worried about her health to the big guy down the row I sit in, who I bumped into at every school last year, taking an hour off, just like me, to pick up admission forms. We’re all in this together. So we’ve got to learn to integrate work and life. They can’t be separate and at times, contradictory entities. And we’ve got to respect men and women for what they choose to talk about or display – as long as its not inappropriate. Yes, the woman with a picture of her twins pinned up on her soft board as well as the man with a picture of his wife peeking cheekily out of a shop in a Bangkok market. An acquaintance recently had a bad motorcycle crash. With his family in another city it was friends who took the next few days off from work to nurse him, get his bike repaired and deal with the cops.

And employers and HR executives alike, are going to have to learn to change, unlearn, re-learn and accept this new India, these people who are not just automatons at machines, but are parents, children, siblings, friends, lovers too. Work is just a part of our life. It is NOT our life. And this can’t be an individual’s move. Because if I refuse to take work related calls on my sacrosanct Sundays, there are sure to be other younger, more ambitious people who will take that call and do that job, leaving me redundant. Which is fine. Because in about ten years they’ll want that Sunday off and they’ll regret having shut that window in their own faces. We aren’t there yet, but it takes baby steps. And eac h one of  us needs to walk that road. United we stand as the old saying goes. Otherwise its just the British divide and rule theory where they tell the single people that the marrieds/parents are taking a free ride… and the marrieds/parents are pushed into panic striken responses and longer working hours. Playing us off each other. Ensuring that none of us get a life. Giving us silly sops like TT tables and gyms in the office. Hello.. let us get out of work at 5 and go for a jog in the park, thank you very much.

It’s the rare person who stays young and single and free of responsibility for more than ten years of their working life. After that, whether you have kids or not, you yearn for a life beyond the Blackberry and the Q2 report. And if you don’t, heck, I don’t understand how you’re reading this blog! This is certainly not the place for you.  It’s about time we united in an effort to stop work from pushing life off the table, neutering us, turning us into genderless, humourless, witless people. Go on people. Pick life.  As for my sistahs – here’s to a table with a pretty coffee mug (no disposable plastic coffee machine cups!), pictures on the soft board, crisp cotton suits, floral shirts and bright handbags. We’re not men. We’ve never been men. We don’t aim on acting like men (perish the thought!).

I lead you back to the Anna Quindlen quote. This is the life we live. Men and women alike will earn, will cook dinner and will rock a puking child and soothe him. Telling us to camouflage that side is unfair and detrimental to us and to our society in the long run.

Disclaimer: I have not read this lady’s blog in entirety. I am only commenting on this piece. Because I am sure she is good at whatever job it is that she does – so no disrespect meant to her. But when a woman, and one who has risen to the top, tells other women to deny their femininity and that it is the only way to get to the top…. it is a sad, sad day.

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94 thoughts on “Still talking Feminism

  1. beautiful post… i find it very insulting when i am (often) told at work that i always put family before work…i once said that that is the way it is always going to be, i am damn good at what i do and not that my work has once suffered because of my family…the image and the reputation that gets reinforced is different tho

  2. What a lovely thought provoking post MM. Interestingly (and unfortunately) UAE and esp Dubai, has terrible HR practices with labour laws blatantly violated. Gender issues are not even an issue here and women get a real raw deal over here! I am so glad that you have chosen to talk about this work/life balance, somebody has got to raise a voice. My last job was with a major recrutiment firm over here and my manager-an Indian lady, pulled me up publicly for discussing my diabetes realted health issues with colleagues and taking my insulin shot on my desk once when I had to eat at my desk!!! I was stunned at her insensitiveness, she thought it was highly inappropriate that I was seeking attention and sympathy like this,and she pointed out just because I was diabetic-pregnant-woman I would not be treated any differently! All this was said right there on the work floor! more than me, i think my colleagues were embarassed and upset on my behalf! So the next week, one of my ‘male’ colleagues, got me a medical wrist band from his dad’s clinic to wear, informing everyone about my insulin dependant status, the emergency procedures to follow incase i passed out etc and everyone ganged up and forced me to wear it and flaunt it!! It was quite a laugh actually.

    The dumb manager was left helpless and she chose someone else to pick on…and the best payback she got from none other but God- month later she was pregnant and 4 months later she got gestational diabetes!! OOOhhh, I likey!(although not the GD part).

    No wonder I said good bye to work-permanently. BTW, ominously enough, hubster is joining a law firm which has the ‘not’ the highest attrition rate but the highest ‘divorce’ rate amongst its workforce!! But will show him this post of urs and hopefuly we will be fine eh!! :)

    cheers
    harshika
    dubai

    • oh My god… that sounds ominous. but you know what, divorce depends on the people involved. If you guys feel the stress affecting the marriage, i am sure, you two being the people you are, will do what it takes to make it work.
      hugs

    • Echoing your thoughts on UAE, the policies here are damn pathetic. I recently moved to Dubai, my husband quit his job in India to join me here and then I came to know in this country a man cannot be his wife’s dependent, unless she is a nurse or a teacher. WHY??? I ask WHY???
      And then, when I actually landed here, the folks at immigration were like ,”lady, you are luck, you are on independent employment permit here. Thats something very rare.”

      MM, you know how to hit the nail on its head. People across ages, function face these issues everyday. Bound by stereotypical thoughts and gender biases, life certainly i’snt easy for men and women both. We get so frustrated answering people that we are completely fine with my husband being with me here and searching for a job instead of us being the long distance couple. Heck, why do we even care to answer. Thanks MM, now when someone asks me this, i will direct them to your post.

  3. Excellent post, MM. Instead of teaching women to act more like men, it’s time we focused on making workplaces more inclusive and family-friendly. I guess she is coming from the premise that you-gotta-deal-with-what-you-can’t-change, but I think change is possible.

    • precisely. if you dont start making a change, how do you expect it to ever happen? and if us women dont take that step, no one’s going to give it to us on a silver platter.

      • Yes. and it’s not just about those who have kids; some may not have kids but may have elderly parents they need to care for. What’s one supposed to do then? If a parent or grandparent has a fall, claim ‘personal reasons’?

        • exactly. i think this is just the HR way of dividing and ruling. people have lives beyond work. all equally important. and you cant make it a kids vs non-kids issue. or a woman vs man issue. a man can take the week off to fly down to see his dying father. you cant expect it all to be lumped under ‘personal reasons’
          and all said and done… alot of your work life depends on personal relationships.
          the guy who likes you will make sure your file moves faster. the boss who likes you will let you get away with coming in late once a week. if your uncle knows the top boss at a company its easier for you to get in there and make your sales pitch.

  4. Thankfully I work for an organization which clearly says Family is the first priority. And I think that’s way it is with everyone!Man or woman. Men were able to focus more on work because their women were staying at home and taking care of the family. Now, with both of them in the fields, they have to do what you and OA have been doing. Split family responsibilities. That’s the way my husband and I juggle work and family too. In fact it was my husband who picked up our son from his play school at 12 pm every single day throughout the past year! I guess most of the organizations are realizing that they have to trust their employees and give them flexibility with the changing social norms. And yup, I don’t want to be one of the “boys” at work. Am a woman and I can’t pretent to be a man! Am just glad that so far I haven’t felt any discrimination at the work place for being my natural self!

    • yep. you read about this so often. why the hell do we have to be one of the boys?
      i have no fight with those who are one of the boys naturally. but i have a prob with that being part of the job description or a pre-requisite for getting ahead.

  5. I second you on every word you hv written..Been working for donkeys years now..and never once have i had to HIDE my problems..

    Never keep your kind photos..you may lose a travel oppurtunity…
    Here is what i hv to say..My Boss knowing fully well i had a 2 yr old kid (This was 4 yrs ago) gave me an assignment where i had to travel to Paris. Knowing my predicament he was kind enough to let my family travel with me except that the company could not bear their air fare….Fair enough i think. I did not opt for it for different reasons..

    People were kind enough to lend me their cell phones where my international romaing did not work!!

    I have had managers send flowers and sweets home when i had kids..kind enough to extend my maternity leave, alter my work structure so i could manage home…

    As you say Work life balance is the key. Work is not everything in life and there is defenitely a life beyond it.

  6. My boss, a man with three kids and a stay-at-home wife, gets judged for taking a few mornings off every month to go to school functions and doctor visits. While a female colleague who walks into office well past 10 am in the morning after seeing her kids off to school is never asked any questions. So yeah, stereotypes are sickening and gender neutrality doesnt work either.

    • which is disgusting. why do people imagine that just because there is an SAHM handling the home, a father is not needed and wanted, to attend PTA meetings, or go to the doctor? i know i feel very low if i go to the doctor alone. neve rknow what is wrong with the kids and it always helps to have the OA’s arm around me when i hear the bad news. to say nothing of the fact that he is worried sick and cant concentrate on work if his kids are ill. and last but not least, the kids want their big comnforting father around while getting shots and having their blood drawn. in short – while duties might be divided, in times of need, a family needs to be together.

  7. This is an issue I find very important. Work-life balance is crucial. Period. Work and life will integrate. There is no way one can put them in compartments and behave like we are in a matrix-like world.

    If corporate culture defines productivity as being cutthroat competitive, neglecting home and family, living in the office mostly, and scoring exponential growth quarter upon quarter, I don’t subscribe to it. Look what happened to Satyam. It is not a one-off case. Money is not everything. Quality of life counts as muchas money.

    A ghastlier version of not bringing in aspects of life into work happens in places like brick kilns, factories that keep labourers much beyond work hours regularly. There are several examples. I am sure it would not be difficult to find them.

  8. The funniest comment in this context came from my sister’s boss, who tells her ‘…you know there is a small issue, you use up all your leaves every month!!’ :D :D

    -delurking to say hi! and that you have an awesome blog.

  9. MM, does it make sense to you if I say that i nodded my head at your post and .. nodded my head on seeing what Jessie had to write too?

    What she says is totally applicable if you want to get ahead in your career and are ruthlessly ambitious.
    But if you happen to be one of those who want to straddle work and family, maybe giving a little more priority to family (read kid/kids) then its plumb impossible to do all that she recommends.

    If you have to get out of a critical review meeting because your kid is ill, you HAVE to say that your kid is ill. ‘Personal reasons’ would be LAUGHED at!

    In media, there are plenty of men and women who flaunt their families’ fotos on their table, so I do not agree with that either. And these would be achievers, not duds I’m talking about. We’re people, not robots! ( but I dunno about other industries…?)

    The one thing I do agree wholeheartedly with her is on networking. MAN! That is so so SO important to being in the rat race!!! And is so so difficult to do when you’re a mother, esp to a young kid. :-( But then, you need to decide first if you want to be a rat… :-P

    And somehow, looking smart seems to come with less effort for a man, than it does us women. For one, they do not have hair like ours! :-P Unmanageable hair days is something they do not have to worry about, and that is something we’re stuck with most days. And hair plays such an important part in looking well groomed, doesn’t it?

    I agree with you that instead of branding a woman professional, we seem to be going towards totally neutering a woman professional. But then, I have seen it happen around me, that going by what she says, is what works in getting you to the top. And if you can’t then, you’re going to get left behind on the Plateau of Frustration. Where you’re neither this nor that. Not doing justice to either this or that.

    I hope the winds of change blow soon… there needs to be a hurricane, methinks!

    Long comment, almost a post, but I know you’ll get it. :-D

    • see here’s the thing. sure it exists. but its a bad system and it needs to change.
      i disagree with her suggesting these as ways to get ahead.
      we need more women professionals at the top working that change.
      not reinforcing a crappy system and saying yeah well, thems the breaks.
      its like saying, oh well dowry system/female foeticide exists – but hey, its the only way to barter peace.
      gender discrimination of any kind, needs to be fought. not accepted and definitely not suggested by a woman who is professionally successful.

      • yeah, I agree that she should not be reinforcing those stereotypes. Because, most women (lets discount the madly ambitious types)if they have to do all THAT to succeed, would end up being only half the assets they’d be to their companies, rather than if they were fulfilled women totally comfortable with work-life balance.

        And change when it comes , has a better chance when it starts at the top and works its way down…

        And there are some supportive women at the top- in one of my earlier companies, (when I was getting back to work post kid)there was my super boss and the HR head at the final interview, and I was eminently suitable in all matters, except the kid(!!!!) so the guy asked what will you do about the kid when you have to travel etc and all those assorted problems come up….? and for a minute, I was left stumped for a reply, when this HR lady, slapped him on the back and said, “arrey, her mother will come and help out of course. And she looked at me and smiled gaily and said- what would we do without our mothers?!
        It was a SISTAAH! moment and we all laughed- and I got the offer letter sent to me that week. :-)

        • see thats my point. its got to be a option. let the madly ambitious types – be they male or female, work their arses off. i have no problem with that. i have a problem with that becoming the norm.

  10. This post struck my heart. I wish I could forward this to the umpteen companies that rejected me when I was looking for a job post a one year motherhood break. Companies which preached about “flexi-timings” and “employee work life balance” couldnot even think of me leaving at 4 even if I started work at 7. They said I would be a bad example to the team!!!! But I’m glad I waited, got this lovely job where they practice flexitimings. This should be published in the papers MM.. It is that good and moreover it is something that needs to be said. Maybe somewhere one manager might change his/her outlook after reading this :-)

  11. i completely agree with you!
    I have a picture of me and my sis at my desk as well as a personalized calender that our gang of friends had made (which has pictures of all of us at our various trips around the world).

    People come across and love the calender and smile at the picture of me and sis.

    If someone were to look at it and thinks that i’m always vacationing with my friends and won’t do my job properly… i have 4 years of work under my belt with this company to prove them wrong.
    I do my job and I do it well. And though I get a lot jokes made abt my trips (“where you are going next? You’re always on vacation!”) no one has ever denied my very well deserved breaks ever!

    Everyone needs to have a passion in life. Be it a man or a woman!

  12. Hey MM,

    Have been following you for quite some time now and its a treat to you.

    Something like this, I had to Delurk!!

    Wonderful write-up, I must say.
    Yes, its high time that the Indian workplace remains biased. I have faced such issues at my previous workplace(which was so MCPs oriented). No wonder, I chose to sit back home than see the materialistic ppl again.

    Today I work for a big organisation with wonderful policies but still I would admit that a small bunch of male crowd around me has issues with a lot such things…esp when they see most females leaving home on time. There has never been a day when these jerks dont pass on a vague comment.

    Its time that such attitude needs to be changed and for sure, once there is such work-life balance, the quality of work would be much much better and the workplace would have a little more satisfied crowd!!

    All I can say for this post is..You nailed it girl !!

  13. sigh…unfortunately a reality still in life. Just on the radio driving home from work yesterday I heard a woman telling the hosts how she was going fantastic in her job interview…until she told him she had kids. Then she was shown the door and basically rejected on the basis of that.

    A guy called in after and said he’d never (as a small business owner) hire a woman – because he couldn’t trust their commitment to the work and running a business is “about the bottom line”.

    His words, actually were -”you made the personal choice to have kids, so why should you impose on my personal choice not hire a woman?” Let it be noted, that he is married and has grown up kids and his wife stayed at home to look after them.

    Crap – it made me so angry.

  14. I have heard something along the same lines during a women associates mentoring program at my work place… Someone senior said that women must not wear too many accessories! When someone asked why, she said, “You can ply dress up at home!”
    My objection to this was on two levels:
    1. Who are YOU, o senior woman, to tell me how to dress to work?!
    2. Why should I leave my femininity at home when I step into work!? I am a woman, I wear accessories. Period. What is the big deal?!

    Also, most workplaces are moving towards work-life balance friendly initiatives like telecommuting, paternity leave, adoption leave and such. In such a scenario, why should individuals not strive for a better work-life balance?

    I am a firm believer in having a life outside of work and so, for me a work place stops being relevant if it does not allow me to balance the two aspects of my life :)

  15. Hey MM, this is really really close to my heart. you see, i work in a firm where i worked like a dog for 2 months – weekends et al included – to earn my 2 days off to attend (not prepare for, or participate in) my engagement. poor mom did all the running around.. i think she even had to try out my engagement dress and make her guesses :D and the same story was repeated for the wedding. and then there are people around me who are either divorced (4/8 that i have worked with) or in silly extra marital relationships or 35 and not married.. not that i have anything against people who aren’t willing to get married, but every conversation with them proves it’s just that work has taken over their lives. it’s extremely sad. i had one woman tell me that work means so much to her, she missed her granny’s funeral to come in and work on a sunday! i almost puked at her. and almost immediately decided that i am okay with being unambitious and committing career suicide, but not with becoming a machine and losing my mind. why am i still here, is a question i ask myself on an hourly basis? someday, someday!

    PS: in case you believe we’re all making pots of money here, you can’t be farther off the mark :D

    PPS: as much as i hate typing in all small case, i have little time to breathe today. pliss to swalpa adjust maadi.

  16. I see where you are coming from MM and agree with most of your post. In addition, I would like to point out one thing that was highlighted for me some time ago.

    My male cousin, young and married, is an entrepreneur and is working intensely on his tech start up in India. He has hired a great bunch of people who are as committed to his cause as he is.

    He was telling me how initially they used to hire whoever seemed to be suitable for the job but all the unmarried women left after a few months to year as they got married and moved to live with their husbands.

    He now says that he would like to hire only married women so that he would know that the resources spent in training them are not going to a waste.

    I feel that if those women he hired had made the choices a little differently, it would have been better for other females out there as well. It is the choices that we make as women that reinforces the stereotype that it will be the woman who will move after the wedding or if the husband takes a job in another city, etc.

    Not suggesting that all of us do it, or even that it is necessarily a bad thing, but businesses have to look out for their best interests as well.

    • i think that too is a matter of slow change isnt it? why arent more men joining their women/ i know a couple of men who have moved to joined their wives and i see that problem changing.

    • Hey, when I was looking for a job in the city where my husband was doing an MBA, most of the companies came back with “but you will move when your husband graduates.” Finally, I found a great job in a great firm which did not bother about this at all. When my husband graduated he looked for a job in the same city so that I would not have to quit again. So, like MM said – the change is happening.

  17. Hi… my first comment even though I am a regular reader. The post is so true… and something I think about everyday. I am 27 with only 3 yrs of work ex and yet I like to come home on time… ‘coz I can… Why work in office till late night when I can be home cooking or reading or watching my fav TV show? My previous company was not flexible when it came to family. Some colleagues were not given leave to visit family in another part of the country. Which is sad. I don’t know why companies in India are taking sooo long to figure this out. The people who stay late in office spend more time gossiping, smoking or lazing around. It is not possible to work for 12 hours. I’d rather work 7-8 hrs and work well.
    And how many days do we even work the entire 7-8 hrs? The one reason why I don’t want to move from my current job is ‘coz the pressure is less… the timings are not too strict… and I have time for myself at the end of the day.
    Hopefully, the stupid perceptions will not last long and we will see better HR practices.
    Someone commented about networking… I HATE THAT PART. I do not like socialising with colleagues and there is always the pressure for going out for drinks with men I’d rather not talk beyond work. Why would anyone want to spend an evening out with people they meet everyday? I have been avoiding that… it may affect my career but I want to be successful at my terms.

    Yesterday my friend remarked; “Why will you work your ass off? Its not like you are getting paid crores of money to do it?”
    I said; “I wouldn’t do it even for the crores”.

    As for colleagues who work late to get ahead in the rat race… it is a sham. They loiter around during the day and begin the work in evening.

  18. I haven’t read the post and I don’t think I feel very strongly to go read and disagree with her. Some of the things out there are just plain ridiculous like “feminine problems” Heck! I don’t need to tell people at work I am having a period, I just say I don’t feel well and I need time off. None of anyone’s business why and if it happens on a monthly basis!
    I do feel however, that for women to get to the top even in the Western world, they need a very big support system. Or they end up neglecting some aspect of their lives to let the other take over.
    Being good/great at what you do while also embodying the “bharatiya naari” bit is achievable. But becoming the CEO of a company while doing it all, I think will be way harder without adequate support from the spouse and other family members (including children).
    Women are harder on themselves in this respect and like you said, the system is crappy but the ones who make it to the top after all those sacrifices need to be the ones that make a change. They need to be true role models because essentially that’s what is lacking. There need to be more avenues for women who are capable but need a push in the right direction.

  19. Men today are TOTALLY fantastic! My mum had an operation last week and I couldnt unfortunately get out of a travelling assignment and it was my husband at the hospital all the days i was away. And doing a darn better job than i could have.

    And thats how i see most of my friends behaving nowadays… yeah okay they are messy and silly, but totally into caring, sharing, home stuff. often more than us ‘ladiss’.

    sometimes i wonder though, in this feminist wave, have we women donned the traditional role of men, expecting a lot more from them? i mean, if it had been my husband who couldnt get out of the travelling assignment when my mum was having an operation, i’d have him pay dearly for it.

    plus i think it’s a myth that bringing ‘personal’ life into your work affects your career…. the ambitious ones can and will grow, irrespective of whether they bring their family life into their work or not… more often than not, they are so ambitious families come second and they CHOOSE not to bring them into their work life… but if they were to CHOOSE to bring them in, i dont think they’d suffer any for it.

    meanwhile, us “also-ran”s are just happy to be where we are. if we grow, thats great. if we dont thats cool too. we got a family to cherish :))

  20. This post of yours would have more credibility if it was written by a woman who DOES NOT have the luxury of CHOOSING to be a SAHM.
    In this age of increasing gender neutrality, not many women do. And that makes the advice given by Jessie Paul more practical.

    A SAHD

  21. Absolutely awesome post, MM.
    Gender stereotyping prevents both men and women from being fully human, and the workplaces must adapt to fundamental human needs.

  22. Hmm, so I went and read the post you mentioned and surprisingly agreed with a lot she said, though I think I would go further and say that some of that advice would apply to men with kids too, to protect against the singles/married with kids divide you mention. I don’t think she’s advocating not taking due time off in case of illness or not telling anyone about a pregnancy, just providing only required information when necessary. I think in case of a job interview or an upcoming promotion things are stacked against women it they mention a pregnancy or even an upcoming marriage. The thing to remember is that we are only taking leave that we are entitled too and if additional information is going to jeopardize something else I think we are entitled to withhold it until it’s actually required, for e.g. I might only inform the office I’m pregnant when it’s 3 months not 1 month. You might find this book interesting “Women Don’t Ask, Negotiation and the Gender Divide”. I read it recently and was struck by a fact she mentions, women inherently expect more fair play. We expect to get our promotions, due credit for work done etc. without asking for it. But men seem to know that it isn’t enough to do your bit and expect credit. So maybe the blogger’s perspective is on similar lines, a lot of women feel that we should be honest about our personal life when in fact it isn’t our bosses business at all and it’s in our interest to keep it that way?

    • no i agree that personal life is nobody else’s business. but i just had a maid lie to me and join work in her 4th month (it was winter and i couldnt tell she was pregnant) and finally leave in her 7th month when she couldnt conceal her pregnancy and couldnt work anymore. i was hopping mad. if she was pregnant she should have told me – i would not have let her do anything strenuous and mostly she should not have signed an 11 month contract. its a job where you have to take care of children and my kids get damn upset if their carers change every 3 months and i have to take time off to train them all over again, do police verifications, check their work etc.

      and this was an unskilled maid – i expect educated professional women to let their companies know if they’re planning on quitting. as early as possible. I understand why a company gets upset if you save it to the last minute for them to start replacing you. its not their business, its simple courtesy, if you feel any loyalty towards them. mostly because there are laws and they cant sack you if you’re doing your job efficiently. because yes, a business IS about bottom line. if you can keep working and plan to be back after maternity leave, that is different.

  23. Just returned to work after maternity leave. I don’t think the quality of work has changed at all, but I had a male colleague make a passing remark that women who have had babies are no longer very serious about their careers since they have “family” and all that.

    The biggest problem faced by women today is that discrimination is no longer the open, straightforward enemy. While policies all say equality, sly comments like this and the attitudes behind them tell a different story. And no, these people wont say it out loud, then how are we supposed to fight it?

    • this is when you wish lawsuits were as prevalent in india as they are in the us. i work for a pretty big (and consequently, pretty paranoid) us company. one statement like that would have hr scrambling to kick his ass and apologise to you here :)

      what india needs is a goldman-sachs style lawsuit against one major firm. all the others will toe the line then!

        • I totally agree. I am working for one of the state governaments in the US and I have also worked in private sector before that. The work culture is so nice over here that I just take it for granted. Only when I hear stories from friends in India that I realize we should change.

          I also noticed that in places where there are more Indians, we do Indianize the culture like working late nights and inviting your bosses for an extravagant Indian dinner. I don’t see any Americans doing such things. They just work and get out and they don’t hesitate to leave in the middle of the meetings because they have to pickup/drop/attend to their kids. If someone is trying to be overconcerned about deadlines, they even tell them on their face to get a life.

            • (In case this comment doesn’t get nested, this is in reply to cluelesschick’s comment and the comments that followed in that thread):
              I’m afraid US is no unbiased utopia. We face the exact same problems of workaholics being rewarded and family being blamed in case an employee performs below expectations. There are women (engineer and other professional) organizations in the US that pursue these topics in conferences and then with upper management etc. And in my experience (with due apologies to any HR on this list), the HR (as a dept) is there to protect the company and not the employees. There is a subtle difference there. A HR apologizing for an employee’s wrong behavior is to protect the company from being sued by the victim and not to actually do the right thing. This might sound utterly cynical but is a pretty well known thing in a culture where you can sue at the drop of a hat. About the top down percolation of change that you mentioned. I read this article from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook (ex VP of Google) that made a lot of sense: http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2009/10/05/facebook-coo-sheryl-sandberg-unedited. She seems to be saying the right things especially sitting in a position as high up as hers.

  24. Hmmm. Just to give this some context: I know Jessie personally (we were classmates in b-school) and she has done extremely well for herself in the workplace.

    I do not agree with all that she says about “rules for women” but I can understand the broader message which I think is relevant. IF you want to succeed in a corporate world, or actually in any work world, you may have to play the system. “Playing the system” is obviously much more nuanced than just “don’t wear purple to work ever” but the basic idea is: you can change some of the rules some of the time, but don’t try and change ALL of the rules all of the time.

    I actually don’t think that following these particular set of rules would enable success for women, mainly because there is a demonstrated warmth-competence trade-off for women in which competent women are automatically perceived to be less likeable, whereas this trade-off does not exist for men (see work by Susan Fiske at Princeton). It seems to me that following these rules would make women appear more competent but much less warm and that could hurt them. In the end, the highly competent woman may not be promoted because she just isn’t liked. But I do think that picking out the more basic message embedded here – that you need to look around your own workplace and see what works and play by the critical rules – is quite central to success.

    n!

    • oh – you know her? thats nice … 6 degrees and all that.
      i understand that each place has its own work culture. but culture is organic. we’re part of that culture. men have created work place culture because they were in it longer and today if we’re going to part of it, we’re going to have to change it. by doing good work and being ourselves.
      and the first people to lead that change should be the women on top.

  25. The worst thing one can do is not protest to whats unfair and just adapt n change n learn to survive it by making life tough for urself..n thats pretty much what jessie paul is suggesting.
    Yes ..i agree changes are hard to make, but they must be made..not so that we can live an easy life..but so that our children, the future generation doesnt have to deal with the same issues that we are dealing with. Things MUST change.

    2 mths back my sis had to refuse the post of Branch Head that her company was offering her ‘coz she has a 4.5 yr old and a 10 mth old to manage. The decision was hers and she made it ‘coz she knew she wouldn be able to do justice to the position, given the amount of time she wants to commit to her family at this stage.
    n most of us women are indeed making these tough decisions today. At every stage we make a choice and do our best in terms of striking a balance and i think the employer should appreicate that..instead of us pretending that it doesnt exist.

    That apart…to forget gender for a min..any human, parent/married/single wotever status..needs to learn to strike a balance btw professional and personal life. Both MUST exist and one shouldn’t comprise on their personal life to lead a healthy life.

    I think it is an indian thing to think that men can spend endless hrs at work and are not needed arnd at home. Even here in the us..i’ve seen some mgrs take for granted tht indian resources will stay back at work for endless hrs, work over wknds n holidays and not complain about it.

    Its time we men n women.. worked on chaging this attitude instead of disguising ourselves!

    • recently a mom told me her husband HAS to go out for drinks after work because he gets info and networks. now this is a working mom with a 6 mth old and a 3 year old, struggling to keep all the balls in the air. how come its okay for him to go for a drink while she goes back after work and feeds the babies?

      • Ya..thts another thing I forgot to mention..the crap about importance of being active on FB n twitter n socializing. If one doesn’t have the time and/or interest for such things..one should be able to choose to avoid it. My work Quality should be able to sell me, not my socializing skills n the num of parties I attend! If only there isn’t that crowd of ppl who choose to advance themselves in their career by drinking with their bosses, it would make life easier for the rest of us!
        I know I keep going back to my sister’s eg..but that’s one person I know abt so well..and no one can accuse me of making any assumptions : Ideally,she would love to take a break from her job n be a STAH mom or freelance for a bit..but can’t afford to for financial reasons. So, she goes to work to do her job n thereby earn money…not to make friends(tho in the process she obvsly does!)..n her organization recognizes and u’stands that n respects her for her quality of work and SO has been very good to her with flexi-timings n other such requirements. Unlike my mom’s office..which demanded her to attend parties n what not..n I know she had a very challenging time to keep her job n give us children attn. (PS: My mom is in the advtg field..so they were mostly late nite parties n stuff.) Now after all these years..my mom has learnt to say no to places she doesn’t want to be in and leads her work life the way she wants to. Another instance of changing times.

      • Just want to share an interesting point. We were in Japan a few years back on husband’s work. Japan has a more rigid men/women divide in all spheres. The men have to socialise after work hours as a matter of course. There are in fact cab services, in which a pair of drivers work together with one vehicle. They park outside pubs and when an inebriated client wants to to go home, and has his own vehicle outside, one driver drives his vehicle home and the other drives the client in his cab. Then, dropping off the tipsy car owner at his house, both get back into their own cab and go off for their next client! Women, too, are used to an absentee husband, to the extent that if a husband comes home early, she doesn’t know how to handle having him there in her “women’s space”! Also, women are actively discouraged from working after marraige. The men do not know how to handle a woman colleague unless she is in a “servile” position. One of my husband’s colleague, who was in quite a senior position in her parent company had serious issues getting them to take her seriously, and had to ask to be relocated back to India. Even the Japanese language has different words to use when a man speaks or a woman does.
        Your post reminded me of Professor Higgins in “My fair lady” who says: Why can’t a woman be more like a man? I say, how different is a man from a woman actually? Men say women gossip. Doesn’t the endless news and the even more endless discussions on them amount to gossip? How is it more “intellectual”?
        Sorry for a long comment, but these things- the apparent upper hand that men feel they are entitled to just on account of being a man just p—-s me off!

  26. Agree with what you’re saying but don’t understand how that Paul woman’s post has anything to do with feminism. As far as I can see she doesn’t claim to be a feminist; if anything her views would be regarded as anti-feminist or patriarchal, if not regressive. There are much more powerful and influential women out there, who one would hope, hold more progressive views. So I wouldn’t say her little post is a blow for feminism… rather just evidence that patriarchy still exists among women, which we know anyway.

    • LOL!! well its not a scale thing, is it? to my mind, any woman writing on career and suggesting that you dont talk about your ‘feminine’ problems is a bit of an insult if you ask me. its not as though we go around telling people we’re clotting. oh oops.. i think i just discussed a feminine problem.

      • Everything she said was ridiculous. Had never heard of her but apparently she was something big in Wipro? Which surprises me… that their senior management has such regressive ideas because I’d thought they’d be a more progressive company. The funny thing is that whatever she said is untrue because at least from an HR point of view, companies are more accepting and even encouraging of people having a work-life balance because they recognise that happy employees are more productive and also stay with the company longer.

  27. I was at a leadership off site recently and I was the only lady in a group of 17. We sat around in a group and our instructor asked us to speak for a minute about what was “most important to you, strengths and weaknesses and anything else you would like to share”. Can you believe I was the ONLY one who spoke about my family? And I know for a fact that there at least a handful of really caring dads in that group. I feel bad for the guys who face the pressure to “be a man”.
    Of course, then there were idiots who asked me if I trusted my husband to take care of the kids in my absence. Sigh.

    Well written, as always.

  28. This is my kind of feminism, girl! I talk about whatever the heck I want at my work place. I juggle whatever parts of my life that need juggling. I do my work whenever I can, and I attend to whatever child or home related matters need to be attended to. It has nothing to do with me being a woman and mother and wife. Its just the equation that works for our family. If my colleagues are uncomfortable or whatever, they have to learn to deal with it! Too bad! I think its mostly our attitude more than anything else, if I am matter of fact about it then people respond likewise. If I hesitate and feel shy and whisper (ha ha) about my period, they will do so as well.

    • precisely what i wanted to say in my kilometre long post. that if we begin to shove our families under the carpet, if we put our hiking/volleyball pictures away – no one else will give it the importance it deserves

      • but why does someone else have to give importance to our hiking/volleyball pictures? and this is where Jessie Paul like woman will give strategies when THEY dont respect OUR life anyways….she was my erstwhile CMO..mind you :)

        honestly, what we want to do with our life should be our prerogative and nobody else’s..IMHO…if all i want to becomes is to be a CMO/CEO/Chairman of a company…then whatever strategy she has mentioned yes it does apply..if otherwise, it doesnt matter a lot..

        remember the chats we used to have about how the Indian IT has totally become one big rat race? these are the examples for it :)

  29. yup! i have been asked at a few interviews if i am ok with “working late” culture that company has. and i have always said that i dont believe in such culture. if i have work that i HAVE to finish i will stay. but not just because everyone does. i have a life beyond this office and if that makes me look like s shirker or unprofessional it is the company’s loss!

    i used to keep telling my achelor friends that dont stay back late just for goddamn ac and free internet. or because you have nothing better to do! someday you are so gonna regret the fact that you propagated the culture!

    the companies HAVE to start looking at its employees as multidimensional human beings and not one dimensional robots.

    cheers!

  30. Fantastic post MM. Maybe Jessie’s next suggestion would be to take a pill that gives you periods only four times a year…or wait, a shot that completely eliminates them…then we won’t have THAT personal problem? Gah!

    You know there are IT companies like TCS that offer 3 months PATERNITY leave to adopting fathers. And other REALLY BIG IT companies that offer FIVE DAYS to single adopting mothers. Sorry for the CAPS. It pisses me off.

    I have to then appreciate my husband’s company. He’s been there participating and pitching in fair share through illnesses, crises, moves, house repairs and visitors. He uses up all his leave and his company has no problem with that. That’s what I call a good work-life balance…and I have a better life too! Maybe we’re poorer financially for our choices because the company doesn’t pay that well, but our lives are richer. Better than earning truckloads of money and the kids not seeing one or both parents’ faces for days on end.

    • now thats another one that pisses me off.
      we’re given 21 days or whatever of privilege leave, casual leave, medical leave.. and then told we cant use it. dude – the reason you offer it to us is so that we can use it, right? i cannot tell you how often we’re told we cant avail of available leave because there is work to be done. wth?

      • oh yeah a total pet peeve! imagine taking SIX working days off in a year or maybe twice a year and STILL being asked can you work on Friday from wherever you are!

        are there people who seriously dont even have that much of a life??!! :(

        M is also similar in terms of not putting in long hours just for the heck of it n all and sadly the growth suffers. but yes we do lead fuller lives!

  31. I would rather take Chanda Kochhar of ICICI as a role model…. with her pretty saris and accessories and heading a financial institution which is supposedly more formal than IT etc.
    I dont at all like the tips given by J Paul. I am very proud of being a woman and dont believe in hiding away the differences. Be who you are and succeed based on your skills & merit.

  32. (My comment is long and I am not sure I want you to publish it. But as an HR person, I recognise the issue most importantly, as a failure of my fraternity. My comment though, is limited to the industry I work in. Would have mailed you, but too lazy to put this in a mail :) Feel free not to publish.)

    I have a problem with what Jessie Paul has written, on many levels. At the basic level, I have a problem with this being classified as a women’s problem. You cannot talk of gender- neutrality and then talk of women marketing themselves differently, in the same breath. Somewhere, there doesn’t seem to be an agreement.
    But what piques my curiosity AND makes my blood boil is how, what essentially is an HR problem to address, is hived off as an employee problem, simply because of the inability of the HR team to handle such issues. If, as an organization or organizations, a woman is being looked on differently from the way a man is viewed, the fundamental flaw lies with the culture of the organization. Here perhaps are some reasons why HR has failed.

    • Industry – I work in the IT/ ITeS space and Jessie does too. This industry, given the kind of growth spurts it witnessed in the last 15- 20 yrs of its existence (in India) has directly resulted in people growth happening at a similar pace. If you are an engineer who joined this industry 13-14 years ago, chances that you are a part of the senior management in your company, are greater than 80%. Compare this with the 15- 20 years that it takes in most other mature industries – what you have are people who have been made to believe that they possess ‘managerial’ competencies required to run an organization at that level. The sad reality though, is that they are not. And 2010 heralds the dawn of this realization (and the consequences of having such incapable management), in many of the country’s IT majors.
    • HR as an Art and not a Science – HR in the IT/ ITeS space grew at the same pace. People needed to be hired in droves and an extra pair of hands were always welcome. Given the paucity of qualified HR talent (and no, I am not talking only of B-School graduates), anyone with a working knowledge of English, qualified as an ‘HR Executive’. Ten years later, these HR folks are at near- senior management levels, left with their communication skills but a limited or no understanding/ plans for how to take their HR teams forward.
    • Organization Culture – when at B-School, I believed this to be the most ridiculous of all HR concepts. 4 years since joining the working world, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumption. Org culture gets defined in 2 ways. The first is where an organization takes an active call to drive certain behaviors – this gets reinforced by various activities – who you hire, what behavior you reward, who you promote. The second way that Org Culture gets defined is where there is no set list of acceptable/ unacceptable behavior. The behavior then is led by the CEO/ Senior management of the company.
    • HR as business – even today, most HR folks (and a lot of them from the category I mentioned above) squirm at the mention of numbers. It is almost as though HR and measurability are mutually exclusive. So most HR teams are happy conducting parties, giving away gift vouchers and creating happy birthday mailers. While they are not bad things to do, more often than not, these exercises are conducted at the cost of doing what is basic, core HR work. This, in my opinion is the biggest reason why HR has failed in many places. Won’t elaborate further though, cos it may not entirely have to do with your post.
    • Core HR work – HR as a function revolves most importantly around Performance management. It is a shame that at a time when we are able to measure most things in the world, Performance measurement continues to be a black hole. Most HR issues then, arise as result of this handicap. Here’s an example. A company I know offers 1 day a week as work-from-home to all mothers with children below 5 years of age. While on the face of it, it appears to be a woman- friendly move, isn’t equality at the work place about not making such a distinction? Why not just let every parent take a day off? Instead, most companies will hire 2 additional members in HR to track if this benefit is being misused. Given it’s a weekly thing, this person will go on to make a career out of checking if everyone who is making use of this benefit is a woman, married and a mother. Why is this tracking important? Where is the fear of misuse of this benefit arising from? If you as HR had robust methods and systems to track me for my high performance, will you continue to track me for how many leaves I take and how many hours I spend at work every day? It is exactly what you mentioned in the post – if taking calls in the middle of the night or replying to mails on my BB through the day is acceptable and even appreciable behavior, why not the reverse?

    We ape too much of the western world without stopping to study feasibility in the Indian context. While we celebrate Nitin Nohria being made HBS Dean, the Indian corporate world has a long way to go, in terms of maturity. My company acquired a US company recently. Most of the counterparts I met at the US office had soft boards overflowing with pictures and memorabilia made by their children/ family. People spoke of their family quite openly with you. At the same time, their work ethic involved spending exactly 8 hrs at work and leaving for home early. I never once saw a person (either man or woman) spend time on the phone, making personal calls. No coffee breaks and a 30 minute lunch break is all they allowed themselves. Lunch was had at desks.
    The story is different, in the case of our employees in Europe. At the time of hiring, I am not allowed to ask any questions except for details of relevant experience and qualifications. People do not discuss personal matters with you and all relations are strictly professional. And yet, while the US allows people 3 weeks of maternity leaves, employees in Sweden are allowed 2 years off.

    There is something then, to be said for this culture that has come to be acceptable in both these lands. Sadly in India, we do not have a consensus. Benefits (especially in Indian companies) are usually legal requirements that parade as benefits. The fact that no Indian company has been able to establish itself as a globally commendable MNC, from an employee perspective, is testimony to this.

    That companies need to use such divides as crutches for their own inability to drive employee performance, is pathetic, to say the least. While some would say women need concessions, I disagree with the thought. If men and women are who constitute your employee population, it is necessary, as a company to provide for the basic needs of both sets of people. Gender neutrality or employee neutrality, in my opinion, is not about taking away my identity as a man or woman. It is about my company being able to recognize (now, more than ever), the differences that the employees bring to the work place; at being confident of and ensuring that the culture, processes and systems I have put in place (either as the management or as HR) are competent enough to be able to address most concerns and at driving away or at least minimizing the biases that a lack of such systems, might lead to. That, to me is the role of HR. Someday, hopefully, we will get there :)

    (Phew, so sorry at the length of it)

  33. I so agree with this post…Its always a different treatment if you are a girl in your workplace…Many managers(guys) assume girls cannot or rather will not work as hard as the guys..I hv no idea whr they get this theory from! Its always a struggle as a girl to climb up the career ladder as easily as a guy can…such is the state of affairs now…pathetic!

  34. This

    We’re not men. We’ve never been men. We don’t aim on acting like men (perish the thought!).

    reminded me of

    This –

    Women who want to be like men have no ambition

  35. So true MM! The bra-burning/ colourless/ “floral”-less feminism is so in the past. It’s more about knowing what you want and being happy with who you are.

    I have noticed of late that more men than women crave for work life balance. It probably comes from the hangover from the times when there were very few women in the corporate world – and they had to prove themselves all the time. But at the same time, I notice a lit of women who take the work life balance a little too far and come to work just to escape the MIL and other responsibilities. If a balance has to be struck, it has to be on both sides. If the companies have to accept us as witty intelligent human beings and not machines that churn report after report, a whole lot of us need to be conscious enough to not get paid just to come to work for a few hours of entertainment. They are not really doing justice to anyone – they aren’t around for their kids, and they aren’t around for the team.

    It’s really sad that there was a time when work was a part of our extended lives – now our entire life seems to revolve around work. It’s unfair! As long as both parties know that the goal is the same and it doesn’t even take much, there really shouldn’t be any problem. But the challenge is that there is really no balance.. Even in places that really emphasize on work life balance – it’s either only on papers or it’s taken too far by the employees.

    • men didnt know what a life was. now they do know that there’s hiking and surfing and they WANT that life just as badly as we do!

      i love the rest of your comment too. very thought provoking.

  36. thank you! linking in to this post because what i have to say will take a post! it won’t fit just a comment! and thanks for bringing this to our notice. That a lady of such an impressive profile should say this is disappointing to a young and ambitious girl like me.

  37. I commented this on her post
    “Ms Paul, exec branding is different for women because no one, specially givers of advice like yourself chooses to tell them to brand it differently. Basically what you said is not female specific, yet you chose to address it to women alone. Men are as guilty of all the transgressions mentioned, yet you do not address it. The women I have known and worked with are extremely professional and if I may add better groomed than the men I have known at work. Why perpetuate the stereotype. Women do not need this advice- they instead need advice on how not to be doormats at the workplace.”

    Lets see if it gets published!

    • you know it doesnt matter if it doesnt get published. what matters is that she sees what others have to say. and if we say it in a polite way, she wont mind thinking about it.

  38. MM I really liked the bit about taking the calls on Sundays. As a single guy I have always hated the way corporates punish ‘singles’ for being unattached. U are expected to work ‘later’ and come in on the weekends. I have had people wake me in the middle of the nite without a by your leave or an apology just because I am single and it is assumed I do not have anything better to do than slave it out. Speaking from experience, this trend seems to be more common in corporate who tom-tom work-life balance and provide unused gyms and common rooms at work. Thanks for the outspoken post.

    • oh you’re most welcome. even as a single person i had a rocking personal life and i didnt appreciate my weekend being ruined just because someone else’s kid had a fever or whatever. i am all for compassion, but not for one person’s privileges impinging on another’s rights and that includes the company.

  39. Interesting discussion, and of course the whole point of blogging is to share one’s opinions. so not quite sure why sharing mine – whether you agree or disagree – is such a bad thing. it’s diversity. I also appreciate those of you who actually read my blog before commenting, because context is a valuable thing.

    I’m not saying change shouldn’t happen or isn’t happening. And I’d love to see posts from those of you who have caused change – it would be most heartening.

    From a country perspective, India is a country with a huge number of applicants per job, and that is going to increase when the second demographic jump takes place. Many of these job-seekers are looking for ways to quit poverty, and just get out of the village. Hard for those of you who haven’t gone through the experience, but when you’re desperate you tend not to worry too much about the balance bit. that comes when you’re not worried about food and shelter. I think India is one of the few countries where an income of around $5000 pa puts you in the top 10% (or even higher) of the population. In that context many of the things you and I would like or even take for granted in the workplace, becomes a luxury.

    @Allytude – i don’t moderate posts on my blog, so unless the blogger software found something objectionable the post goes up by default

    @Tamanna – I wonder if I’ve moved into the second category of women now that I have my own firm :)

    @Rx – do share how you have changed the culture in your firm. I find many firms now working to change the situation but it is slow and not everyone can wait that long. Man or woman your career tends to slow a bit after 50 or even after 40 unless you’re already in the right place, so there is a certain urgency of getting ahead

    @aarabik – couldn’t see your post link. and first rule of success is that you must form your own opinions and not follow anyone else. all blogs are just inputs to shape your own opinions – just like books

    @n! – thanks for the kind word.

    Lastly, those of you who lived and studied in India might remember that when you travel in mofussil buses (like I had to) you carried a safety pin or a pair of scissors to deter eve-teasers. Oh, yes, you hoped that the world would change and you wouldn’t have to cope with them, and occasionally even filed police complaints or got the crowd to beat them up with slippers, but in the meantime you took your own precautions. It was considered pragmatic. so I don’t agree that you have to either change the world or change yourself to survive. You should do a bit of both.

    and I do apologize if I am not able to join back in this conversation. I run a pretty tight balance on work-life and unfortunately blogging tends to often take a back-seat versus vs rev gen and family.

    • Jessie – glad to have your input.
      No – it’s not at all bad to share your opinion. but yes, since blogging is about sharing opinions, i was rather disappointed by yours because it was positioned as advice to women executives. I wasnt aware of how senior you were in your organisation and only got to know that after I wrote the post. Which in fact bothered me a little more because I felt there’d be a lot more young women looking up to your example and to you for advice.

      While i understand that all of us have travelled in buses with safety pins, I do believe the advice we should have been given in those days was to fight back, not to go with the flow. In fact the safety pin example you’ve given is almost contrary to your post. The safety pin was used to fight back. What you’ve suggested is that if one gets on to a crowded bus, they should stick to dressing conservatively and sit in the womens seats and try not to attract attention. To almost be apologetic for the differences between man and woman.

      I know its not the kind of advice I’d like to pass on to my daughter or any other woman. I’d like them to be themselves and fight back if anyone took opposition to that. So I simply responded to that. All the best.

  40. My first comment on your brilliant and thought-provoking blog, which I’ve been reading for the past week or so :)

    A very interesting post, this!

    As a rule, I dont talk about my family at work simply because it can (and probably will) be used against me or contribute to a perception that may not do me justice. Ive seen many competent women around me not get their dues, not because they are ineffective, but because they are conviniently labeled as “always busy with family” by people with vested interests, who are invariably there in every organisation. So why do anything that leaves room for something so unfair? Why draw attention to something that people may use later against you unless it is unavoidable? Yes, I do dicuss my home and folks with a few colleagues who are my friends but dont display pics of them on my table or on my screensavers or volunteer any information about them. And I have been doing it conciously, its a choice. Yes, if women want to pin up pics of their kids in their cubicles, they should. But they should also be aware of the potential pitfalls (which ideally should not exist in a good world, but alas). Funnily enough, I dont see it as any compromise either. If we can mince words or contain expressing our every feeling at home for a bigger cause, I dont see why we shouldnt do so at work. Things would be different if all workplaces respected people for who they are but sadly its not the case everywhere, and there are people waiting to pull you down. And since we are aware of it, it may be a good idea to be a little cautious. What do you think?

    Sorry for the long rant!

  41. On reflection, my previous comment couldve been better-worded, I sound much too vehement! I was just trying to drive home a point because I’ve experienced this first hand and seen it happen to so many competent and dedicated women in all the three organisations Ive worked so far :( I really think that it is better to keep our personal lives away from such misuse! Things are changing in workplaces, fortunately, but I would advise caution! Our families are our strengths, no doubt, but it is so easy for others to make it look like our weakness and use it to their advantage; I’m almost in tears as I write this!

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