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.
The picture shows both men and women dressed in business suits on the racing track on their marks. While the track is clear for men, there are household chores like laundry, kitchen dishes, cleaning, etc as hurdles that working women have to face on their path to success!
The image reiterated what has been established many times in endless conversations on gender equity and gender balance at work. The comic represented how difficult it is for women to get ahead in their careers when they walk into the corporate workspace with the added household mental load, while the racing track for men is smooth and straight!
Working mothers immediately connected with the image. The challenge of fulfilling their duties at home while feeding their professionals aspirations and dreams was written all over in the comic image. Despite years of conversations around gender balance/gender equity and the likes in the corporate world, it is often seen that a typical woman’s career trajectory is marked different from that of an average Indian Male professional – especially around the aspiration around work-life integration. We find that an Indian woman’s career curve is defined by her responsibilities of being a wife, daughter-in-law and of course the mother! And, here the burden of dual responsibilities step in causing the inevitable turbulence in the professional life of an average Indian woman!
While Men sail the career ship smoothly, women professionals have to wade through rough waters to eventually make a mark in the professional trajectory. This is validated by the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2014, India’s gender chore gap (difference between the amount of housework done by women and men) is the largest of any country.
A working woman will be able to give pages on the double whammy that she often faces! To balance work and life becomes even more challenging when you do not have adequate support at home. And, not everyone can actually “understand” the struggle. Even for a seasoned businessman like Anand Mahindra it took a personal experience to empathize with the struggles of a working woman.
As much as it is difficult for an outsider to empathize with a working woman’s struggle to balance work and home, the elusive goal of achieving a work-life balance is proving harder for woman professionals.
One of the main reasons for this knotty situation that women face is that we set extremely high expectations for themselves. It is a myth that high expectations would set you up for success. However, the reality is they cause failures!
For example, it is nearly impossible to be a good mother, every day, every hour and every minute. So, tell yourself that it is ok to lose temper once in a way. You will find ways and means to make it up with the kids!
As working mothers, we tend to silence our struggles and feel completely dissatisfied about all the innumerable tasks that we do on a daily basis. Also, being a working mother, never slay yourself to being both a mother and a working professional. Instead of being self-critical, try to be self-compassionate. But when you reach out to other working mothers, you would realize that you are not alone in this battle. Every other woman professional faces similar struggles or battles both in their homes and workspaces.
Given this situation, it would be a good idea for you to invest in relationship around your both professional and personal lives. It is good to have a quasi-family at work and cheer-leaders outside of workspace to keep your energy up and to remain intentional about your careers!