Break the glass ceiling within YOU

Article by Dr. Divya Kumar, Associate Manager – Research, Avtar

Reunions are very always special. It is the time when we take off from our routine, eagerly await to see our pals to relive our cherished moments. It is beautiful to take a trip down our memory lane. It becomes even more special when it is with our all-girls gang. Every year our college alumni association team would send meet invite to our batch. But it was always the “regular few” who come together. This year we speculated whether the meet will be called amidst the COVID-19 , and just then our alumni team sent our first-ever virtual reunion invites. To everyone’s surprise, it was a full house! It was lovely to meet “virtually” every one after so many years. It was amazing to see little kids and families coming together. Truly, we all have come a long way, and each of our lives changed so much. It was amazing!

Reena, our college topper joined the reunion for the first time. She is working in a multinational bank and is a mother of two children at the junior school level. She is in the mid-stage of her amazing career and one of the identified Hi-Po talents at her organization. I was super excited to hear, but Reena did not have that vibrancy as she spoke. Her motherly guilt and more expectations from her at work is not supporting her in any direction and is in the dilemma to choose between family and career. It was just not Reena with this mind-set, but a few more working moms shared the same.

So, I decided to decode the questions that were pondering within me. Why woman like Reena(s) who have made significant progress in being recognized as outstanding managers, aren’t making it to the top? What is derailing them?

In today’s competitive corporate environment, women employees find it a bit more difficult to charter a plan, especially at their mid-career stage. Work-life balance is a major problem for today’s working women. The demands of full-time work conflict with the relational factors in their family life. Women feel they have to make difficult decisions that leads to the sacrifice their career or family, with little understanding of the influences that affect decision making. With the technological advancement of our work modules creating a clear boundary between home and work life is no longer possible. The traditional concept of work-life balance has now evolved as work-life integration. Work-life balance is a separation of your professional and personal lives whereas, work-life integration is a connection between work and personal life. Interestingly, organisations have started to embrace the idea of work-life integration with their career enablers like flexibility, remote work, childcare support etc.

But again, what is still that one factor that often disrupts or derails women professionals? Hay Group examined the performance and paths of 12 of the highest leading women in one Fortune 500 company and other executive women of global organizations. The study reveals that the highest-performing women had in common a strong orientation toward achievement. It is instrumental in driving an advancement to a large extent. To have control over your career requires you to be INTENTIONAL. The word “intent” refers to my mindset at the time of a specific action, and it’s something many don’t think about. While being intentional may mean you have to think more, purposeful actions yield better results as it is the ability to change what requires to be changed with maturity.

Here are the steps which can help you to create alignment of your goals, values and actions-

  • Identify a clear goal that you want to achieve professionally
  • Break down identified big goal into small objectives attached to timelines
  • Assertive and strategic planning enables you to be disciplined with your time and priorities.
  • Invest in professional development by staying open to new opportunities
  • Find innovative solutions to your workplace problems
  • Network and discuss with peers and colleagues to gain new insights
  • Track the progress will motivate to steer it in the direction of attaining your goals
  • Never hesitate to communicate and negotiate on what you want to your reporting managers

Be INTENTIONAL as you will certainly make a DIFFERENCE with more maturity and purposeful engagements to reach your desired GOAL!


YOUR PRESENCE & POWER MATTERS IN THIS WORLD!

Article by: Archana Sathish, Strategic Design Unit

“Women are born to cook, do household chores, and be responsible for childcare”. To be precise, people in older days believed, “women are not just born, but fit for only these tasks”. To rewind the Indian society also believed in child marriage and certain bizarre practices such as Sati, female infanticide etc. which is very rare today compared to what it was in those days. 

Thanks to Industrial revolution and Education which had actually changed the whole idea about what women are “also” capable of. Let’s just say that earlier women just accepted the rules and restrictions constructed by the Indian society. But if we see today, right from driving a train to holding the highest office in the Government, women are present everywhere. Women today have the courage to voice out opinions whenever necessary due to the given exposure. 

As we all know that women still do face obstacles today at the workplace, maintaining the work-home integration, and various other responsibilities. But the way women tackle issues at work and at home is praiseworthy! Yes, it is now widely acknowledged, and pretty much accepted, that there are no differences between men and women in either capability or potential as women are proving themselves again and again. However, whilst this is true of all the professions, and broadly across all manufacturing and service sectors, there are still some stark limits to perceived parity. 

Women comprise a significant segment of the workforce. And, while the number of women working today is a substantial increase from past years, there’s still a lot that can be done to increase the number of women who are not only part of the workforce, but remain engaged and active throughout their careers. 

Why are women important for workplace?

One possible reason is diversity. Diversity at work brings together different types of energies that complement each other. In a male dominated culture, the workplace loses out on all that women bring to the table – multitasking, customer-centricity, teamwork, a nurturing mind-set and so on. 

This does not mean that men don’t have these qualities, but women by design are more conditioned towards these characteristics. 

Secondly, women make for nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population. For a more balanced workplace they need to be represented equally, too. Actually, they need to have an equal representation in the larger scheme of things everywhere. 

Ready to look at some facts and figures?

  • By 2050, India Will Be the Most Populous Country in the World.
  • By 2027 the working-age population in India will be almost 20% (18.6%) of the entire global labour force.
  • Reaching gender parity would have a bigger impact in India than in any other region in the world.
  • Increasing women’s labor force participation by 10 percentage points could add $770 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.  
  • India’s labour force participation rate for women is low due to lack of suitable work, especially for women, is not readily available. Flexibility in work timings and proximity to their households are important.

When we have to talk about attainment of goals or building a solid workplace culture and atmosphere, traits such as empathy, intuition, and optimism of women are required towards the benefit of the company. Their emotional intelligence and passion helps to create a healthy and positive workplace relationship and well-rounded workforce. 

Male dominated workplaces is slowly turning into a myth. This might be the result of gender willingness, career intentionality, and confidence of female employees. To conclude, women are fighters! They are born to bring in revolution to the world!

 Let us all continue to respect their capability and recognize them for who they are! 

Reference: https://www.catalyst.org/research/womenintheworkforceindia


FACE IT. CHALLENGE IT. FIX IT.

Article by: Archana Sathish, Strategic Design Unit

Be it Politics, Technical/Non-Technical, Film Fraternity, Sales and many more challenging industries, women are omnipresent. We should feel delighted to have such notable figures in this world as they are proving themselves over and again. But are we looking at it right? Are we witnessing the deeper insights of women being in such varied industries? Are we are just looking at the bright side of it? Every situation has a boon and a bane. The question is have we looked at the bane? How many of us have noted the original reason for women employees quitting their jobs? How many of them speak up in case of serious issues? How many of us know that the darker side dominates over the brighter side in workplace? Women maybe mentally and emotionally strong. But do they have enough strength to face various situations? To be very honest, the challenges faced by men are completely different from the ones faced by women at work.  

As we know that harassment has always been a ‘bone of contention’. According to sources and reports, around 87% of women in workplaces do not file a complaint or do not speak up in case of any harassment. Also, around 60% of women face unwanted sexual advances at workplace. Yet they remain silent for various personal reasons and fear of losing their job. It’s not that it is inexorable, but can be minimized as companies are obliged to maintain a POSH Committee (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) for the safety of their women employees and staff. 

Workplace sexual harassment prevention has been a top priority for companies going into 2020 and will remain that way long after the high-profile scandals of the last year have faded. As a result, companies may have provided mandatory sexual harassment training to employees, consisting of definitions and clichéd examples. Just an insight though, there is an app that can help you track the number of times men speak over women in meetings. It’s called Woman, Interrupted. Load it on your phone and place it on the table. It doesn’t record it simply tracks when a woman’s voice is interrupted by a man’s. There are limits to this app. It’s not completely inclusive of women and men whose voices pitch outside the norm. But it can provide a rough, data-led way to show your boss the problem.  On the other hand, working mothers today who are called as “multitaskers” face good amount of issues due to work-life balancing. Surveys says that 44% reported that work-life balance is the toughest challenge in workplace. It’s 21st century and women from all around the world want it all; a blissful family, a rewarding career and some solitude to find some time for themselves. It’s not easy to juggle this as being a full-time working mom comes with bouts of stress and guilt for not being able to give equal time to work and family. But every will has a way! Women can speak up for flexible working

hours, modification or any amendments in shift timings as it is any day not safe for women to just take a walk alone post 9pm. Working mothers could have talks with their manager to consider scheduling important meetings during the time when the kids are asleep. They could allocate an isolated place for just working. Also, company managers can put themselves in the shoes of a

“People’s Manager” as they regularly inquire about their work-life situations where women communicate to them in case of any difficulties or stress faced by them.

Every job has its own value and today people are paid based on the intensity of their job role and designation. We believe that today the disparity in equal wages/pay aren’t existing as an alarming issue. Yet it’s happening in some parts of the world. Reports say Equal pay was listed as the most significant issue in the workplace by 51% of women in Britain. Over the last decade, male graduates could expect to earn 20% more than female graduates. This is why fair remuneration was of the biggest factors. Hence, women employees decide to move to a new job. 

How do they tackle such issues? Every women wants to be successful, isn’t it?

Firstly, sort out your priorities. Both personally and professionally. Ask yourself, what can be compromised or completely non-negotiable? What are the jobs you need to be marvelous at, what are the jobs you can be ‘just good at’? Try to make such adjustments and be clear in what you prioritize. Also there is nothing to feel ashamed of thinking that “I can’t do so much work” 

Master the art of delegation. But again, you are in the safer side being clear in what you should delegate, and what not to delegate. This can save you from fatigue and burnout situations. When it comes to personal affairs, working mothers can get the situation sorted by splitting house work with family members. In this way, everything gets balanced! While working at your desk, you can always stay connected with your kids by making video calls as technology allows you to get to know about the whereabouts of your loved ones. 

For all working mothers out there, every minute is crucial –at home and at work. If we all need to stay productive, all we need to do is keep chatty co-workers, smartphones, Television, casual surfing and other distractions at bay. Plan your weekend and allot sometime for ‘yourself’. Sometimes, it’s really alright to think about yourself, have some leisure time and pamper yourself. Go to a spa, get a massage, watch your favorite TV series, read a book, travel solo, or just do nothing at all as many most of us prefer doing nothing, but just sitting and glaring all day!

It’s all about compromises, sacrifices and constant adjustments to lead a decent- comfortable life. It’s better to be prepared and learn to make the most of your time and energy. The more we know ourselves and our priorities, the more balanced our life would be. So, the ball is in your court! 

References: https://isight.com/resources/guidetoworkplacesexualharassmentinfographic/


FIVE BOOKS WITH STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONISTS

 Article by: Sumona Chetia, Executive Content Development

Days seem longer nights feel stretched. The mundane routine of doing everything within the four walls of your house doesn’t always excite us. But we can add some pop to this lockdown work-life scenario by engaging ourselves in recreational activities. Reading is one such activity. And it can be made more fun by reading books based on strong female leads.

Since ages, the portrayal of women in literature was restricted to gender-biased roles. In Greek mythologies, women were identified as sexual objects rather than individuals. Undoubtedly female Goddesses had all the power, but it was the common woman that lacked. In the later stages, misogyny, and superiority of men took over the pages of literature. Even fairy tales chose to depict women as the damsel in distress in awe of their Prince Charming. It was only during the late 18th century when writers began to create female characters that surpassed the societal description. By the 20th century, a new wave of revolution swept across the world of books, and there was no stopping by. Women writers, female leads, and strong women protagonists flooded the field of literature.

Amongst those infinite gems here are five picks that depicted women in their true empowered self-

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Swoon over Mr. Darcy all you want but, it’s our witty female protagonist Elizabeth Bennet who steals the show. A classic novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, picked on the social norms of defining a woman based on her marital status, manners, and upbringing. Despite the plot of the book set in the era of a patriarchal society, Elizabeth emerged as a feminine power. In an instance, when Elizabeth encounters a question on her relationship with the high-class Mr. Darcy, she replied, “He is a gentleman, I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal”.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Another masterpiece classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, tells the tale of four diverse and well-defined personalities (sisters). Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are the four strong female leads of the book bound by their passion for writing, art, and music. At a time when women were oppressed to stay at home, Little Women gives us a glimpse of how wanting a life outside domestic life is normal and basic women’s right.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay based on a series of lectures she delivered at two colleges of Cambridge University. The narration uses an ambitious fictional character who is on a mission to find quality work written by female authors. What follows is a significant discovery. There are plenty of books written about women by men, while there are hardly any books by women on men.  Woolf points out that a room of one’s own is what a woman requires to write. A room being the space to grow, to learn, and to write. A room being the opportunity for education.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000)

Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’ s memoir (in a graphic novel form) of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. An intelligent, high spirited, and outspoken young Marjane takes us through a journey of the dark side of society amidst a war. She questions the oppression of the regime, the silencing of her opinions, and the banishment of her ideologies.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

A series of dystopian novels by Suzanne Collins, which follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, who is forced to enter into the ruthless fight and death game created by the government, with the aim of controlling the society. Katniss is a strong, independent, and smart woman. She is a symbol of rebellion against atrocities and a breaker of stereotypes. She exhibits girl power in her actions, thoughts, and words.

As society is progressing, the representation of women in literature, be it prose or poetry is evolving too. Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet might now look as someone with many loopholes but undoubtedly those characters helped in shaping the creation of today’s feisty modern woman protagonists. The above list is only a small selection from the bigger lot. Please let us know in the comments section about more such books that you might have read.


Why are women film-makers scarce?

Article by: Sumona Chetia, Executive Content Development

Towards the end of 2019, Bang Geul Yi became the first female main producing director for a KBS (A South Korean television network) variety show. This news shouldn’t have raised eyebrows, but it did. The reason being South Korea entertainment industry displays gender disparity on both sides of the camera. So a female leading a show comprising of 6 male celebrities was bound to be a shocker.

It’s not just South Korea. In fact, all film and entertainment industries around the globe have accepted this as the norm. We have viewed great works of women directors getting side-lined at the Oscars n number of times. Despite a historic number of movies directed by women in the year 2019, not one female director got nominated for the Oscars 2020. What was supposed to be a banner year for women in arts turned out to be #OscarsSoMale

Let’s look at a few possible reasons of sexism in the world of cinema-

  • Lack of women (director) role model:

Directing a movie is a man’s job. That is the perception. And with that mind-set, women can’t imagine standing behind the camera.

  • Are overtly emotional:

Being emotional is an essential element in making art come to life on screens. But the notion is since men have been pioneers in carrying out this herculean task of making movies, the emotional aspect can’t be a good asset.

  • Where are the women?-the excuse:

An article read that many studios question, “Where are the women?” This excuse has been going around since forever.

  • Fewer opportunities to direct a second film:

A research-based report shows that women directed just 4% of the top 1200 films from 2007 to 2018. Of those female directors, only 17.4% had gotten to direct another movie beyond their debut feature (13% directed a second, 2.2% a third, and 2.2% a fourth).

Source: https://time.com/5763937/oscars-2020-female-directors-shut-out/

  • Women genres movie:

A prevailing idea that men make universal themed movies, whereas women’s stories are just for women rules the film-making domain. And this belief leads to distrusting a woman director’s vision.

There are many other societal and structural reasons for the under-representation of women in the film making industry, and those reasons will resonate with every working woman. Lack of opportunities, fear of prejudices, and the denial of acknowledgment further leads to the invisibility of the few female directors that the world has seen. The common key here is to break the glass ceilings and dominate your way through the role you deserve to achieve in a man dominated industry. And more and more female role models are the need of every hour.

A silver lining which failed to get recognized at the Oscars platform is still an inspiration of revolution for many aspiring and present female directors around the globe. With regional names like Sudha Kongara, Manju Borah, Rima Das, Anjali Menon, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, etc… making their mark and adding numbers to the previously single digit is in itself a positive sign. Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma producing a hit series and a movie back to back on an OTT platform is indeed going to set an example of the power of diversity. Irrespective of her gender, the audience enjoyed the two sources of entertainment and, that’s what weighs more.

A shift can be seen post the Oscars 2020 backlash and new D&I norms in the filed of art and culture are possibly coming into force by the end of this year. The picture might not be rosy all of a sudden, but there will come a time when hearing about a film directed and produced by a female will be ordinary and mainstream. 

“Sometimes women can’t ask for control, so they have to take it. Ok? I want you to remember that”- Alex Levy played by Jennifer Aniston on the Morning Show.


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.