Empowering Women Starts Young and with You

Article by: Sumona Chetia, Executive Content Development

I vaguely recall myself as an eight-year-old practicing a group dance choreographed by our English Ma’am. This dance wasn’t any typical group dance. A twist accompanied it. We were supposed to sing on our own and match our steps to the song. And the song was penned down by our Ma’am. The 8 of us who were part of this extravaganza for our annual parent’s day celebration weren’t much happy about it. The prime reason being it wasn’t a song of our choice. The first stanza of the song went something like this, “Hum hain nariyan…jalti chingariya. Desh ko karenge roshan…”(Hindi lyrics).

Our tiny brains couldn’t grasp a word of what we were singing or dancing to, but our Ma’am focused on making us look brave and smart as we sang at the top of our lungs. On the day of the event, we were excited because we were allowed to wear our pretty ghagras (back then, Bollywood had a huge impact on us). But what followed left us embarrassed. Ma’am had put chart paper cut-outs of a shield on our blouses. And we had to carry similar cut out of swords as we perform onstage. I was hoping for a miracle to save me from this possible prospect of being the fun talk of the school. And so it happened. I secured the second position for showing academic excellence in that year. As I was a sub-junior, a teacher instructed me to queue up with the other winners so that I don’t get lost during the prize distribution ceremony. That means I didn’t have to perform that funny group dance. My English Ma’am looked dejected, but she had to let me go. And off I went happily to stand with my peers and laugh at my friends doing the silly dance.

Years later, I understood the meaning of that song. The lyrics translated to the feelings of a brave woman wanting to make her country proud. Women Empowerment, in particular. And those paper shields and swords was to visualize the warrior in us. I let out a deep sigh of despair. Did Ma’am not explain the context of the song to us? Or I didn’t pay attention? Whatever that was, one thing was for sure that our English Ma’am wanted to instill the impression of a smart and independent woman from our early school days. Such a humble yet, powerful attempt!

Do you have a daughter? A young sister? Or any girl child within your family? If so, then now is the time to reap the seed of “You are a wonder woman!” in their hearts and minds. As they say, change begins within the home.

Let’s look at a few feasible ways on how to empower a girl at an early age and transform her into an empowered woman for the future-

1) Boost her self-esteem

It works like a charm! Be it her first dance recital or her first work of art. Every little creative work that she does appreciate it for the way it is. Make her value her worth. Build her confidence.

2) Celebrate her self-expression

Let her dress the way she wants. She may prefer princess outfits or opt for something like jeans and tee teamed up with a pair of sneakers. Don’t force on her the ideology of how a girl should dress up.

3) Shun the negativity

The truth about body shaming and beauty standards should be laid out for her to differentiate between the right and the wrong. Teach her to combat negativity by introducing her to the healthy notions of body positivity, race, colour, and creed.

4) Lead by example

Show her how you treat your female colleagues, relatives, friends, or acquaintances. Be the role model that she deserves at the early stage of her life.

5) Incorporate gender education

To empower young girls, make gender education compulsory. Guide them in understanding the basics of gender equality and disparity. Refrain them from the evil social prejudices.

6) Enhance their communication skills

Let young girls voice their opinions on every little thing that matters. Offer them the chance to recognize and develop leadership qualities. Over time as parents and guardians, you can mould a girl’s unique abilities and transform her into a respectable and responsible citizen of society.

7) Provide education

Last but definitely not the least, provide girls with education. That’s the most basic but also the most important. Let them pursue their studies to the extent of their capabilities. No one has ever regretted by presenting a girl the gift of education.

As a child, I lost my chance to understand the power of women taught by my wonderful English Ma’am (forever guilty but more than that grateful for her visionary approach), but I was lucky enough to be surrounded by learned parents, supportive elders, and inspiring role models who showed me the right way to empowering myself. You can do it too for the girls around you. Lead a good way and they will follow you.


Investing in women for a better world

Article by: Manasa Sai, Senior Consultant

The word ‘investment’ brings in an image of money in my mind. However, when I think about it from a working women’s perspective: investment means money, the faith that people have on me, and the kind of responsibilities that I am given in an organization to work with.

I remember my first salary negotiation as a college graduate. The company offered a ball park of my monthly income and I used all my cards to negotiate for a better pay. Finally, the interviewer using a soft tone told me that “look men use money to take care of their families whereas women use it for shopping!”. So I decided to share a beautiful story of how I spend my money.

I generate active income by working for an amazing company named “AVTAR – The Power of Diversity”. As soon as I get notified about the pay remittance in my mobile I mentally calculate how much I should invest in my LIC policies, my brother’s education, our family’s healthcare insurances, and the last minute household purchases. Though my brother tells me that his certification is not important, I tell him that investing in self-development will never go a waste. I then sit down to re-check if I can spare some money to spend on my sketch book and the acrylic paints because the artist in me wants to revamp her painting skills. Wow! I didn’t know that I would become this person one day. To conclude, investing in women is like investing to uplift an entire family. If we handover money to a woman she will immediately start thinking about: keeping her family fed for as long as she can, to educate her siblings/children, to allocate money to support every family member’s personal goals, to pay all the internal and external bills, and to cover expenses that you never anticipated. Despite all that mentioned she will also save some money for the next month’s expenses just in case something goes wrong (this is where overthinking helps us :)).

It is a wonderful idea to invest in women in terms of giving us bigger responsibilities as well because women feel guilty of not being able to complete the given responsibilities on time. If someone tells us that they ‘believe in us’, until we get the acknowledgement that the task is successfully completed we will never be able to sleep peacefully. My dear readers let us break our biases and invest in women for a better world.

AVTAR offers “B-Divine Unconscious Bias” workshop for Organizations, so do enroll and become aware of your biases.


Corona or Dalgona?

Article by: Athira Premarajan- Research and Content Development Associate

You know how it works. Fresh today and gone tomorrow. That’s the pace of social media trends. There was a time when a ‘winking beauty’ from Kerala, took over the social space of the entire world. Though it stayed for a little longer than anticipated, it was long forgotten the very next week! Now trending are the frothy Dalgonas. This will forfeit too. So will the Corona.

Rising to the challenge is not new to any human being. We have learned to survive the odds even during the hardest of times. Journeying through the most unprecedented times of the century, we are slowly regaining our world step-by-step. In this process, the role of technology in leading us is huge. It has opened the window of possibilities and opportunities – Learning from home, cooking from home, celebrating from home, invoking from home, working from home, et. al. Among this, the popularity, reach and requirement of ‘remote working’ or ‘work from home’ concept tops the list.

Though it was already in the scene, remote working had not gained limelight until recently. The social stigma that sustained with remote working was long gone within a couple of days since the outbreak. Although, it is sad that a pandemic had to teach us the vast possibilities of the different tools and products made by humankind. Anyway, better late than never! This opportunity has proved the world – both employers and employees, the availability of alternatives. This has made a huge impact in the lives of millions of women – who are trying for a job with flexibility, who has requested for flexible working hours, and for those of who wants to balance familial duties and earn, working from home. Now, just to list out the benefits, how has this window of opportunity given the women workforce a breath of fresh air? Let’s find out!

Time for Dalgonas (*wink*):

Working moms often are seen working tirelessly towards bridging the gap between her kids and her motherly duties. This unexpected vacation has given her round-the-clock chance to bond with her kids, dishing out their favourite snacks and of course, the trending Dalgonas!

Update and Upgrade:

Skill building is an essential aspect of any business. In lieu of the time spent on travelling, working moms can now focus on upgrading skills and knowledge from the vast ocean of courses, webinars and workshops available online.

Multi-tasking and Crisis management at its peak:

Going through sibling crisis is a more complicated task than even the pandemic, a mother would agree. Not saying this would give her a certification but, surely does this innate talent helps in her everyday tasks, especially in her work. Prioritising also falls under this.

Better Control of Finances:

With online services shut, travel expenses hitting zero, and complete home under control, financial matters have never been so much easier. The cognitive capability of women takes a new spin every time while planning the week, accurately listing the requirements, which again benefits them in their work to better plan and process.

In the Comfort of Home:

Productivity is never better when you work from home. Believe it or not, it is proven as well as approved! Nothing better than the comfort of one’s home to concentrate and get creative.

Women are the masters of handling situations. Be it at home or away. In the era where we are proceeding with our baby steps to incorporate AI in every field, our world is not far away in reaching the sci-fi imaginations. Women, nevertheless, we can all agree, are beyond imaginations – their strength, capability, discipline and perseverance, most of which are her innate qualities.

Though the scenarios may differ than what is mentioned above, with the lack of domestic aid and online food services, we sure can find time for doing our favorite hobbies or learning new things. Understand that no one has their day planned accurately. Pull out one hour from those lazy evenings or preferably weekends, to rejoice and explore what you loved doing or what you always wanted to do. Look at the brighter side and make use of this unexpected vacation to procure expected and productive outcomes.


Do Women Have What It Takes to Be Great Leaders?

Article by: Shobhika Ramanathan, Associate Research Analyst

The topic itself gives us a suspicious question as women are already multi-taskers. But why is there a persisting doubt against them as great leaders? There are many instances where women prove that they have all the qualities to hold the position of leaders.

According to the research done by Harvard Business Review in 2012, with a database of 360-degree reviews, women scored as equal as men in handling leadership positions. The surprising fact is, when the same research was held in 2019, women in senior leadership roles remained relatively steady as same as when the original research (2012) was done. This is one of many such examples.

Gender shouldn’t be a factor determining a person’s leadership qualities – a person’s leadership abilities depend on their strengths and personality traits. Women see leadership roles from a different perspective. One research states that 65% of women describe a leader as one who shares their knowledge to uplift his/her team to reach success. When this attitude of women is put in managerial roles, it can make them stronger and effective leaders.

Let us take a look at why women should be given the throne:

  1. No “Nos” To Multi-Tasking 

Women are used to multi-tasking since their young age. Managing many works at the same time is what she had mastered already. Hence, for her, this is a go-go!

2. Patience in Full Battery Level 

This doesn’t conclude that women are always polite. But they know how to handle a situation or an argument without losing temper. Given any situation, she knows how to tackle them.

3. Already A Winner Against the Odds

Yeah, some people would say otherwise, but being a woman, we know how to work against the odds. You know why? Because we have always faced discrimination and restriction – regardless of which, many women have come out and stood up for themselves and succeeded against the odds in flying colors. They have the drive to prove people wrong, who put a barrier in their way and succeed in whichever path they are working in.

4. High Scale On Emotional Intelligence

The ability to recognize emotions in yourself and others and relate is something that accounts for a great leader. Married or not, a woman always possesses this character. With this power, she can handle all kinds of people with clarity in what she wants for her team and herself.

5. Easy Mingle Policy

Normally women don’t stay alone in any situation. Although she is always with her companions, she clearly knows whenever a decision must be taken. And, it will always be in favor of everyone else on the team. This fact helps her more when it comes to an organization. It gains her respect for being the kind-hearted individual she is and will for sure cheer her to go on.

The above-stated points are only the match’s highlights. The real match is yet to begin. There are for sure many other qualities of women that suits up to the mark, to fit in as a leader in the corporate world. So, come on let us try to understand those boons and reserve her a seat!


How to beat the cultural definition of gender-based roles?

Article by: Athira Premarajan, Research and Content Development Associate

Janaki waited anxiously to hear about her culinary expertise at her new home. She was so proud of herself applying all that her mother had taught her since the day she stopped going to school as she was told it was time for her to learn domestic chores. Leaving her colourful textbooks behind, which mostly had untouched leaves of Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan, she happily obeyed her mom’s advice. Within a year’s span, Janaki saw herself in the new red saree draped beautifully around her – leaving her home – being welcomed to her new family.

“Janaki,” whispered her mother-in-law, “I am glad you got it right. He always likes his Rotis soft and fluffy”. Unexplored still stayed in the dusty corners of her open wardrobe, Bond and Narayan.

Disclaimer: It isn’t a tale. Also, not a real story. But it is an inspired piece from thousands of lives who are still alive today. There are two aspects we can infer from this: The hefty burden of familial duties a woman is bound to carry and lack of knowledge of education. We sure aren’t in Utopia or the Barbarian era. However, some of the ideologies we keep quite are Utopian or Barbarian. It is really not necessary to state the obvious but, time and again we have been failed by traditions and ideologies, which are outdated. Yes, gender discrimination is an earthed topic, still hot on the plate. However, the measures taken to curb it is always off the plate.

Before traversing globally, let’s take our nation’s state on the same. According to studies, Indian women spend an average of 300 more minutes than men doing household chores. Now, is it because men are not healthy enough or they have less than 24 hours as opposed to women? No. It is the centuries-old practices and lack of sensitization that holds responsibility for this data. Even in the families adopting the best of gender equality practices, chances are that certain unknown biases act up, in turn, making women responsible for house chores and caregiving.

Now, how can this be curbed? Is there a written set of rules and norms? No. Have they conducted studies on it? Yes. But here, especially during the time of the pandemic, we are putting out an easier set of activities that the men allies could adopt in creating a better home for your other half.

  • Fix your Ideologies:

The term hereditary, as a matter of fact, is a term that we own up to proudly – for the caste, race, region or any such category we belong to. These come with a couple of tagalongs – traditions, rituals, ideologies – which has been imprinted in you probably even before you turned four! Out of the several good aspects these tagalongs carry, you have been taught or per se experienced certain illogical set of norms meant to be done by a particular gender. A boy usually runs to the grocery store while the girl does the dishes. This stigma apparently has affected several other of our routines inflicting a sense of gender inequality. Fix it.

  • Sensitize your Peers, Correct your Elders:

You may belong to a set of prominent broad-minded thinking peers. However, when it comes to reality topics like washing one’s own clothes or dishes, these forward thinkers would still be at the mercy of their mother or wife. Or for instance, your mother asks to leave your plate on the table after dinner, offer to clean it by yourselves. In two words: Identify and Rectify.

  • Put that down, ‘he’ will lift it:

Well, we cannot alter the biological form we are born into. It is true that several jobs require people with good physical built and sometimes not. And there are certain roles that cannot be fulfilled by a substitute. However, judging a person’s strength based on gender is unacceptable.

Note: Saleswomen and women working in the service industry also feeds their family.

  • Remove the Social Stigma:

Women, often a victim of this, is usually stamped with duties pertaining to house chores. Surprisingly enough, accrediting to the ascribed talents and acquired knowledge, women themselves find it odd when men help them in the kitchen cooking or doing dishes. Nor will they find it easy to involve in financial decisions. The need of the hour here is a ‘Reset Button’. Do you have it ready?

  • If it is Boy, Engineer, If it is a Girl, Doctor:

Bet you remember this dialogue from the famous movie ‘3 Idiots’. Well, it would be boring to iterate it in any other format. This and several other scenes in this comedy epic captures a load of gender disparity issues. Watch it once and think about it. And, prevent it from happening with you.

Good luck and be the driver of change!


Choices women shouldn’t have to make

Unprecedented times. Unplanned for reality. These are some of the descriptors that may be used to define the state of countries, societies, organisations, families and individuals, today. As individuals, micro-constituents of entities that are strategizing to beat the challenge, how about taking the crisis by it horns, embarking on an introspective spiral and contributing to better ways of living?

This is what we at Avtar Women did and we now have this list of Top five choices women (half of the sky!) shouldn’t have to make:

1. To choose between family and a career

This is a global phenomenon. Women’s workforce participation rate is substantially lesser than men’s across geographies, across societies. The male breadwinner, female care-taker family model results in many women (pursuing careers) taking a break at critical junctures involving care-giving – motherhood or elder care. While this may be a choice many women consciously make, in many cases, the decision is not entirely the woman’s. If organizations are to be cognizant of career enabling needs of women and families more supportive of a woman’s career aspirations, this will be a choice any women will not have to make.

2. To choose educational courses perceived to be lighter and easier to pursue a career on

This is unfortunately a choice that millions of women/girls have had to make. Encouraging girls to take up courses that will lead them on to ‘manageable’ careers (that will ensure quality work-life integration) is common place. Why do you have to pursue an MBA or an engineering is a question many girls get asked. This is a choice; we wish women do not have to make. Ultimately, what one becomes is what one dreams, what one is encouraged to dream! 

3. To take a pay cut as they make successful career comebacks

Gender wage gap is prevalent, across organizations, across sectors. While discerning organizations are working towards ensuring gender wage parity, this becomes more pronounced when women make career comebacks. A 2019 research by Avtar revealed that 69% of women on career breaks in India, anticipate a pay cut when they make a career return. If organizations are to critically look at the talent potential of this talent pool and women on their part proactively plan come-backs (undertake up-skilling interventions and negotiate with potential employers), this choice could be nullified. 

4. To take ownership of three Cs, even as young girls

This is how gendered roles are driven when children are boxed to activities at a very young age. When little girls are told that they have to warm up to the 3 Cs – Cooking, Cleaning and Caring pretty early (because that would benefit them in the future), the choice is many a times sealed. This perpetuates gender stereotypes and the gender skew in care-giving continues. This is definitely a choice young girls shouldn’t have to make.

5.  To be silent victims/spectators of body shaming

Multiple researches have shown that women/girls are more likely to be body shamed than men/boys. Often women choose to not react to seemingly frivolous comments on their appearance and body language, to not ruffle feathers. This leads to power equations in gender thrive, in extreme cases leading to emotional and physical abuse. If women/girls do not really have to make the choice of being a silent bearer, we as a society could go a long way in reducing the rate of crimes against women and children.

So these are our thoughts! What are yours? Add on to the comments below.


In times of Corona: A working mother’s guide to remote working

Coronavirus outbreak, now declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, is taking the world by storm. Every age group, every gender, and every profession from around the globe is hit by this severe disease. Hand washing is a daily ritual. Social distancing is the mantra to live by. A large public gathering is an offense. Educational institutions are on standby. And working from home is the new normal.

As we can witness the dynamic shift in everything because of the global adversity scenario, couples are also making tough decisions on how to divide their share of unpaid labor. In solution, the lives of a large sum of working mothers are not the same anymore. The kids are at home. The elderly have been confined to indoors. The house help and baby sitters have been sent away on paid leave fearing the risk of contagion. And the working mother is unconsciously left to deal with taking care of the kids, combating this infectious disease to ensure her family is safe with the equal focus of meeting the deadlines at work. In addition to that, the majority of social and health workers comprises of women. They are on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, thus, putting them at a greater risk of getting infected.

Coronavirus might bring out the ugly side of gender equality. Couples might suddenly find themselves caught in the argument of who is going to be a breadwinner and who can play the role of a homeworker. Instead of a hard core debate on equality, let’s think and devise the solutions to streamline a woman’s daily routine.

  • Reject the work-life balance myth

First and foremost, it’s only fair if we agree that we can’t have it all. Work and life don’t have to be a tug of war. Instead, develop a synergy between the two and bridge the guilt gap when you have to unplug. It is Work-Life integration like no other time.

  • Set a consistent morning routine

Make a to-do list. Schedule your tasks with a proper timeline. Easy to say and easier to do. The hardest tasks on your to-do list should be completed as when you feel the sharpest and focused.

  • Engage your kids in an activity

Before you sit down to officially begin your work, keep your kids busy with some interesting – craft or puzzle activity. This can also act as letting your kids know that you are in a ‘do not disturb’ mode. While cutting down screen time is healthy, allowing them one while you wind up an important meeting is the smart way to do it.

  • Get on the same page with your partner

Just like you brainstorm ideas in a conference room, in a similar manner use your living room to formulate a game plan with your parenting partner to share the responsibilities of child care and housework. The best example: alternate shifts with your partner if he’s working from home too.

  • Ask for help

It takes a village to raise a child. So asking or taking help from a family member or a friend is not a sign of weakness. In times of Corona, just be cautious of the hygiene habits of the individual taking care of your kids. The same goes for relying on a colleague to help with your project if you are away handling mother duties.

  • Communicate

It’s mandatory to be transparent to your co-workers about your necessity to meet your kid’s needs. In between video conferences, it’s suitable to give the other person a heads up on your work from home environment.

Times are difficult. But this shall pass if the best of human nature can rise to the challenge. Your kids and your parents are the ones who need the utmost care during this time. So even with the lockdown and the pressure of working from home, savour the small moments with your kids and the elderly. Take timely breaks, and have a hearty chat with them. Boost their immunity (don’t forget yours). Sanitize at regular intervals.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Likewise, in this hassle of work-life integration, your family’s well-being is the silver lining. Because in times of Corona, you need your loved ones to be safe more than a pat on your back for being a superwoman.


The double whammy every working woman faces

 

 

 

Article By Lakshmi Vijaykumar, Principal Research Consultant – AVTAR Group

A few months ago, a comic visual that nailed the challenges faced by a working woman climbing the corporate ladder made waves in the Internet world. The image was shared on Twitter by Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Indian business conglomerate Mahindra Group. He mentioned on his self-realization moment while baby-sitting his one-year old grandson at home.

Read More » “The double whammy every working woman faces”


India Inc can fight patriarchy with gender-inclusive policies

Padma, who sells delicious kozhukattais (a sweet dish) out of a small roadside eatery at a busy corner of T Nagar (Chennai), was having a raging argument with her 26-year-old daughter. Read More » “India Inc can fight patriarchy with gender-inclusive policies”


Making The World A Better Place For Women

Article By Shruti M – Presales Consultant , Team AVTAR

Let us make the world a better place for women. Here is a list of things you can do to respect, take care and ensure safety of women. Her well-being and progress matters !  Read More » “Making The World A Better Place For Women”