This year Women’s Day theme focuses on Equality in the World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.
Although workplace world is changing for women, we are still long way to go for “Work place equality”. We need more focus on equality of pay, leave entitlement, especially paid maternity and extended child care leaves, special leave entitlements for family & elderly care, protection during pregnancy, sensitivity during breast feeding leadership positions & even sexual harassment at work place.
We also need to encourage our girls to pursue broad range of careers (like military & sports) and choices beyond the traditional soft jobs like teaching banking etc. We need to teach our girls to dream big.
Another barrier in women’s career is their own self defeating belief and bias. Marriage, pregnancy child birth, breastfeeding and child care should not be considered as barrier or full stop in a woman’s career.
Women these days are facing lot of challenges at workplace, home and society due to multiple roles that they perform. We expect women to perform perfectly the role of a homemaker, a daughter, a daughter in law, a wife and many more roles besides a demanding job. As a result, women suffer from false guilt for not fulfilling expectations of the family and people around. It leads to increase in anxiety, depression, panic disorder and eating disorder among women. Apart from good working environment at workplace, attitude of society toward working women needs a drastic change. She should not be pressurized to push her limits to emerge perfect both at work and at home.
We also need to positively acknowledge workplace success of women. Women tend to face hostilities both at workplace and home if they are successful, despite the fact that the quality of life improves significantly when the woman of a family also works. Women should not be made to feel guilty for their professional work as having both parents working outside is good for child’s overall development especially for girls. ‘She is very career oriented’ is still viewed as negative compliment in our society.
We need to inculcate such values in the youngsters that they grow up as more supportive colleagues. We need to have families who share household responsibilities to provide for healthy working environment. Families where there are less gender discrimination (like mother going for work and father sharing household responsibilities) produce more confident children. As Prime Minister had once exhorted the Nation in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that we need to bring ‘attitudinal’ change in our boys so that they learn to respect the women. The men of young generation should contribute to career of their partners. We need to change many gender stereotypes. We need to make our boys learn to be gentle in their personality, to love cooking, washing, serving and tending to the needs of children and elderly people at home. We need to make them learn the value of balancing family and careers too. We need to make them learn that although anatomically and physiologically women also have the same dreams and desires. Beside teaching girls to be bold & strong, we need to change our ‘nurturing’ attitude towards boys too.
Although, there has been a vast improvement in women representation in higher jobs and their financial empowerment, we need to change our unconscious bias for working women. There is also the need for attitudinal change in women. They should feel confident to honour the huge potential that dies daily within them. It is not only about equal wages, but it is also about opportunities, career choices and gender roles.
On Women’s Day, women should resolve to ‘Be bold for change’ by challenging bias, inequality & celebrate journey of achievement. Let’s reinforce & support women’s triumphs in careers after overcoming all barriers. Let’s create new work opportunities for women, let’s be bold for change.
(Author is a Psychiatrist, Safdurjung Hospital, New Delhi. Views expressed are author’s personal.)