Monday, 21 January 2008

Women@work


I was travelling back home as a young student on a train from New Delhi after my bachelor final exams and I met a mother with two hyperactive under ten sons. We got talking and I liked her simple straightforward nature.

I don't remember much of the conversation I had with her, but one thing has stuck in my memory. When asked whether she was working, she answered, poker-faced, ' yes, I work. At home'.

Many years later, this memory got jogged when I was going through the Telegraph newspaper. An interesting article as to why women top in schools and colleges but do not reach top positions at work. So here goes:


What women want

They certainly don’t look for burnouts and marriage break-ups

Talking heads on the idiot box and conference junkies have a subject they turn to again and again — the empowerment of women. In the HR arena, the so-called glass ceiling seems to be reflected everywhere. A single Indra Nooyi making it to the top of Pepsi International provokes tonnes of pontification. Reams are written on how we need to throw up more opportunities for the fairer sex.

At the bottom of the pyramid, this is a non-issue. On farms or at construction sites in cities, women shoulder as much of the work as men do. They get paid less, true. But that’s another issue. In terms of opportunity, they probably are on a par with men, particularly as they are more responsible and less liable to disappear on jags. Workplaces that make provision for childcare report a far better response from women than men.

It is in organised sector jobs that women seem to get a raw deal. A new study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce says that only 3.3 per cent of working women reach top slots and 17.7 per cent the middle level. The study surveyed 1,053 women — 222 rural, 363 urban and 468 from metropolitan cities.

It you look closely at the findings, you will see that it is not principally the environment or society that stops these women from making it to the top. The bigger reasons are lack of support from their families and their own personal inclinations.

“It is fashionable to say that society is depriving women of job opportunities,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant Shashi Rao. “Women say so too. But do they really want to be part of the rat race?”

According to a study by consulting firm Accenture, most people (70 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men) do believe that a glass ceiling exists. Other studies show that American women get paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. But 60 per cent of them are happy with their salaries, compared to the slightly higher 67 per cent for men.

“Women know how to achieve a better balance,” says Rao. “If it is necessary to compromise on career ambitions to take care of the family, they are prepared to do so.” Rao points out that studies of Indian Institute of Management graduates show that very few women reach high levels in the corporate world. (Nooyi is an aberration.) But many of them seem to be doing very well as entrepreneurs or consultants. “They are very successful,” says Rao. “But they have made their own world where they can work at their own pace. The last things they want are burnouts and marriage break-ups.”

“Yes, there is a case to be made for discrimination in pay,” continues Rao. “But when it comes to a promotion or rising up the corporate ladder, it is very often the woman’s own choice. Don’t pity the mid-level woman manager whose male colleagues have left her two rungs behind. She is perfectly content where she is until the do-gooders start talking about how she has been discriminated against. This is an equally important pro-choice issue.”

Most of the “break the glass ceiling” advocacy comes from the US. But how does it really fare on this score?

Consulting firm Grant Thornton’s 2007 study on women in management — part of its International Business Report — says that the proportion of businesses with women in senior management is the highest in the Philippines (97 per cent) followed by Mainland China (91 per cent). The US is No 13 with 69 per cent. India records 56 per cent. The US has the same rank when it comes to women in senior management. It chalks up 23 per cent against 50 per cent for the Philippines and 42 per cent for Brazil. India has 14 per cent.
So is it good or bad for India? Leave it for the women to decide.

THE WORKING WOMAN IN INDIA

Where they work
Private sector 47.1%
Government 24.7%
Public sector 15.3%
NGOs 12.9%

And what holds them back

Lack of time (for networking etc) 42%
Reluctance to change jobs or geographies 34.66%
Family responsibilities 16.67%
Others 6.67%

(Source: Assocham study — Women Top in Education: Why Miss Top Positions?)

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Line of Control

Helooo there all the makhnas and soneyas! It has been quite some time since I contributed anything to my bloggernama!

The turn of the year does this to me---letting go and making fresh new beginnings is a fulltime job na?

Paparazzi is at work and papparazoes are in the news ala Britney Spears (poor thing, my heart goes out to her). Anyway more about her in my subsequent blogs.

The Shahid-Kareena break up was the talk of the tinsel town, and the new handsome jodi of Saif-Kareena created quite a flutter. Newsprint had its dedicated reams to why Shahid-Kareena split and there was some talk of Shahid's stringent does and donts for Kareena, which stifled her.

Anyway, whatever the cause of the breakup, it is none of our business. But this left me thinking....

I can only give the feminine side of the viewpoint as I am a woman. My male readers are welcome to put forth their point of view. What I am going to say is mostly common to both genders. I know several of my friends who live within controlled relationships without even knowing it. No, not the 'Agnisakshi' kind of control---Husband Nana Patekar was a control freak of the worst order to wife Manisha Koirala in a movie made about 12 years ago (ughhh, shudder...)

In the guise of love and affection, most husbands/male partners call the shots in relationships full of does and donts. Turn vegetarian, dont expose, dont cut your hair short, dont be vivacious, dont speak with male friends, dont work or do cook , do clean, do iron my shirts, do take fulltime care of the kids, do compromise on your job are some such codes of conduct which become set in stone over the years.

Next is cultural control. My culture is superior to yours, you are not grounded, you seem rootless, you lack conviction, your accent and language is inferior to mine. so much so that the woman actually starts believeing that something is seriously wrong with her and tries her best to mould herself to the man's wishes only to be snubbed time and again.

By the time the woman realises this, it is too late. She is completely entangled in the web of the does and donts and cannot break the shackles.

Men could feel equally stifled in relationships---No wonder sons sound like daughters-in-law and daughters forget their own relationships and start sounding like sons-in-law!


The only way out is to understand and identify that you are being controlled, early in the relationship and take suitable measures like walking out of the relationship or telling him exactly what you think---- that nothing is wrong with you---it is he who is wrong for trying to pin you down, as he in his heart of hearts knows you are the stronger one--your inner strength scares him and he does his best to put you down.


Believe in you own strengths and capabilities, try and cross the line of control and all will be right with the world.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Kick the butt, you asses!

I was slightly early, one winter afternoon, when I went pick up my 7-year old from school. I decided to sit inside my car and wait it out. As I was aimlessly gazing out of my window, I spotted a very young, well-heeled and good looking couple sitting inside a swanky car. Both were puffing on and passing on the same cigarette to one another. I would have looked away, but the sheer good looks of the couple kept my eyes rivetted. It set me thinking about how close they must be and it looked sooo romantic to see a young, good looking couple, sharing a leisurely smoke together.

But suddenly, my rose tinted spectacles cracked, precisely when the couple, hearing the school gong got out of the car holding a sleeping baby which must not be more than 6-7 months old.

I literally had to stop myself from assaulting the pair! How irresponsible can one get?
They must be going to pick up the older child which must be in junior school. Seriously, some people needed to take parenting lessons and the hazards of passive smoking!

Active and passive smoking have become India's growing menace. But help maybe at hand, when after May 31, all workplaces become smokefree zones. But what does one do to educate people inside their houses and cars?

I paste a news clipping from the Hindustan Times on the new work place rule:

Almost the whole of the country will become a no-smoking zone by May 31 if the health ministry, led by Anbumani Ramadoss, has its way.
Homes and designated smoking areas at airports and restaurants will be the only places where one can have a smoke once the government introduces the ‘Smoke-free Workplace Rules.’ Once that happens, India will join the list of countries most intolerant towards smoking.
“The Tobacco Control Act only allows smoking and tobacco-use in designated smoking areas at airports and restaurants seating over 30 people. Once the rules are introduced, these will be the only public places where people will be able to smoke,” says Health Minister Ramadoss, speaking to HT from London.
France and Germany have banned smoking in public places — including bars and cafes — from January 1 this year, following the UK which introduced a similar ban in July 2006.
While individual law-breakers will be fined Rs 200, institutions and organisations allowing people to smoke will have to cough up fines as high as Rs 10,000. “About 10 million children under the age of 15 are addicted to tobacco in India, with 5,500 starting tobacco use every day. Before they realise its dangers, they get addicted to it,” says Ramadoss.
Graphic warnings with pictures of diseased lungs and dying babies on cigarette and tobacco packs were intended to do just that, but will now be muted down. A high-level Group of Ministers including Pranab Mukherjee, Priyaranjan Das Munsi, Oscar Fernandes, Kamal Nath, Jaipal Reddy and Ramadoss set up to examine the “merits and demerits” of pictorial warnings found them to be “inappropriate.”
“The tobacco industry needs new consumers and heavily market to the youth, with 10 per cent Mumbai schoolchildren reporting they were offered free tobacco samples and 20 per cent saying they owned a tobacco brand,” says Dr Prakash C. Gupa, Director of the Mumbai-based Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health.
One in five adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 years consume some form of tobacco in India, with 15.6 per cent of them smoking cigarettes.


Smokers, be warned! Your time starts now.....

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Car seva

"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world"

This verse from 'The passing of King Arthur' in a way describes the turn of time, when one year flows into another.

The last week of 2007 and the first week of 2008 has been filled with action the world over. Ranging from the serious to the frivolous, these two weeks have seen it all. Benazir Bhutto's assassination with son Bilawal and niece Fatima catapulted to world attention, Sarkozy cosying up with Carla Bruni in Egypt, the start of the Presidential race in the US have hogged world attention.

However, most middle class Indians are now occupied with the launch of the Rs one Lakh ($ 2,500) post factory car by the Tatas. This could be the New Year gift of the Tatas to the people of India. The car is going to capture the 300 million middle class aspirations of a nation where more than 50% of the population is below 25 years of age.

Everybody and his uncle would be maintaining a car. BPO kids, college students, retired people ----------everyone would be interested in buying a piece. No wonder that Bajaj group is also planning to enter the four-wheeler sector --however it is not known whether the car will be priced similarly.

But I am dismayed. Indian cities are grappling with traffic jams and poor road connectivity. Indian roads are nothing to write home about and although several new highways and flyovers have been planned, it will be some time before the roads are able to cater to all the tiny new contraptions running all over the place. Commuting is going to be a nightmare (if it is not already!) in Indian cities.

So while we celebrate rising incomes and lowered car costs, the least the government could do would be to build more roads at a lightning pace. Till then, good luck to us!