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13 Mar 2018 | Gender in Koshi

Juggling ‘two fronts’ – the women of today

Nishikant Gupta

3 mins Read

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Women are increasingly getting an education in underdeveloped/developing countries, despite this by no means being the norm (for example, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 31 million girls are still out of school around the world). Nonetheless, all over the world there are more women today, than ever before working outside their home, and education has played an important role towards this. So, is education (of varying degree) all that is needed for women today? This is definitely not the case, as in the workplace only a handful of women hold positions of power and authority, and the ever-so-existing glass ceiling remains unbroken despite their best attempts.

So, what is preventing women, despite their growing achievement in the public space, from walking shoulder-to-shoulder with their men counterparts? I have spoken to many women colleagues from different organizations throughout the world, and one key aspect which emerged is this – the home environment (considered a private space, and one which has a huge bearing on their day-to-day working life) remains a non-negotiable territory for many of them.

As an Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and Programme Director of Women Transforming Leadership once highlighted: Women need support from their family and spouses to address the challenges present in our current work environments. So, what are these challenges? The women colleagues were quick to point these out. The first hurdle is the ability to be able to juggle between the ‘work-family issues’, which is often more relevant for women than they are for men. Women are viewed as being ‘more sensible, understanding and patient’ hence, not only expected to compromise on many issues, but also provide the ‘solution’ to home conflicts. And, women have to balance this with their work load at office. Secondly, there are fewer risks taken by women for career advancement. This is primarily because the work-family issues mentioned above are often a hindrance in taking that leap towards ‘a better position at a better location’. “Who will look after the well-being of the family if you go?” – A typical question faced by many who I have interacted with.

Today, the focus of many programmes remains on strengthening women’s abilities and capacities in public spaces and the work force. However, it is as important to address the rights and powers women have in the private and personal spheres. It is essential that power relations in the domestic and private spheres be discussed intelligently. It is vital that the limited choices women can make is addressed head-on to foster an environment of trust and understanding between family and spouses. One must not forget that the flow of traditional knowledge from family elders could hold the key to the success of many young women leaders by providing crucial guidance and help in adapting and being resilient to unexpected future risks.

Working towards securing women more such rights will ultimately aid in the closing of the gender gap. This is because it is only then that they can achieve their goals without any inhibitions or apologies. Of course there will be things beyond their control, but what family and spouses can both teach and learn along with women is to give them the freedom and dignity to exercise their own choices. Knowing that she makes her own choice will in turn give women the confidence to not seek permission to pursue her dreams whether within her own space or outside in the world. If we expect women to become global leaders, we have to first and foremost ensure that the ability to make an independent choice is not a mere privilege for the women of today.

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