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/


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.


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.