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Being a working women

By: Deepti Jakhar -Thu, Mar 4 06:48 PM

Find the new updated wish list in our Women's Day Special

Three women from three different decades discuss life at work, getting ahead - and of course, the glass ceiling.

Despite the phenomenal changes taking place out there - a recent survey in the Economist says that over 50 per cent of the work force is now made up of women - we know, as professional women, that it isn't easy, and that there are other battles out there to be won. But it has gotten better than it once was - and what better time to remind ourselves of that than on Women's Day, which is around the corner.

As women, our choices are many and challenges different today, yet we find that there's still a common thread that binds women working from the last three decades. LIFESTYLE got three working women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, to give an account of their struggles and their triumphs. We found that though work places have become more women friendly, the glass ceilings still exist. Here are their stories - they serve to not just remind us of how far we have come, but also allow us to imagine how far we can go.

R M Vishaka, 46, President, Fortis Life Insurance. One of the most successful women in her field, Vishakha has been covered by many financial editorials for her success story. Having worked for 25 years she feels saddened to see a lack of ambition in girls today. She says: "I did commerce at a time when science was the only logical choice to make. After graduating in 1984, I wanted to pursue my CA article ship right away. Nobody wanted to even give me a chance as I always seemed to carry the baggage of my gender. The general view was I would soon get married and quit. Using my father's contact, I finally landed a job in a team of 12 men.

They actually hired a woman typist to make themselves feel a little more comfortable around me. After even more struggle, I got to do my first real job of an audit. But when I reached the office, I found out there weren't any female loos. A guy had to stand guard for me to use the men's bathroom! There was a lot of curiosity for a working woman those days, as well a textbook kind of respect. You couldn't wear sleeveless blouses, cut your hair short or sit at the back of a colleague's scooter".

"The pressure wasn't so much to perform professionally, as you were already considered avant - garde in many ways, but to prove that you're domestically viable. For this reason alone, and on the advice of my grandmother, I took a public sector job with New India Insurance as opposed to a bank job that was considered 'fancier'. I joined them in 1987 and at the age of 25 in 1989 ( which was considered late back then) I got married.

The 90s were tougher with the private sector opening up. The advent of more women into the working arena changed the dynamics substantially.

One still had to fight biases of women being in senior positions. I remember walking for meetings with my junior, where his hand was shaken first and I was considered his secretary. As for taking leave, you could never give a 'sick child' excuse as that was considered doubly unprofessional coming from a woman.

It was in 2000 that I joined a private company and realised the cutthroat world where a woman had to constantly prove herself more. Since most of these organisations were headed by professionals, there was even more of an opportunity for competition. I used to feel bad when I couldn't bake cookies for my children, but then it took a lot of training to understand the value I brought to their lives. It wouldn't have been easy without a strong support system of my husband and parents, just like it wouldn't have been possible had I not accepted my own need to work. MY TIP: Don't give up your ambition for anything. You have the choices today that we didn't.

Siboney Sagar, 36, Attorney - At- Law/ Advocate: Siboney took the unlikely route of litigation ten years ago. She studied at premium institutions and worked under the best to prove her competency. She feels women should use their gender to their advantage. She says: I went to study law at the Columbia University in New York before doing a specialised course in the National Law School, Banglore. My first professional stint was under the Attorney General of India, Mr Soli J Sorabjee and that really put me ahead of my peers in the field. A woman has to excel constantly to get her due, which is not always the case for a man. Litigation itself wasn't as women - friendly a field when I joined due to the nature and hours of the work involved. Though for me, I didn't ever let that come in the way of my success. My gender in fact helps me forge ahead. A major part of my job is advising and counselling and I think women are better at doing that.

In my 20s I found it tough to break the gender barrier. When I entered a board meeting I realised that people weren't only not ready to hear out a 28- year old but were actually more averse to hearing out a 28- year old woman.

It's only now in my 30s that I work at my own pace and time as an advisor. I've done the hard work and I'm enjoying this time. This time that we live in is great for working women, as there are so many of us. Like most of my clients are women entrepreneurs and they love working with other women. The world is turning towards women for the field good factor, especially at the workplace. MY TIP: Don't apologise for being a woman. Bring womanly qualities to work and make them work for you.

Neha Chopra, 28, Financial Executive: Neha started to work four years ago. As a goodlooking, fashionable girl she has often found people judging her more on that than her knowledge of economics. She works harder than her peers to prove them wrong. I specialised in economics from Illinois, Chicago. To my surprise, I found, it is still considered unwomanly to specialise in finance and numbers. I started to work immediately after, as an Associate with Hewitt Consultancy. That was 2003 and as my first job I was glad that I was in an evenly distributed team. I worked under a female boss and I must say it made life a little easier.

It's the women who are making workplaces more women friendly.

They just know how to build relationships and understand you. They have already been through the struggle and empathise with you.

I feel even though the work place has become more women friendly - the management at my current workplace prides itself in taking care of its women work force but a woman's personal challenges haven't disappeared. Like if I dress up in a suit, I'd be accused of using my womanhood to my advantage. If a man does the same, he's just a sharp dresser. Also, if you start getting ahead too quick, you are never given the due credit. A woman's success always has a 'catch' attached to it. MY TIP: Don't let yourself be judged for your wardrobe or after- work socialising.

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2010. MTNPL. All rights reserved.

Courtesy : YAHOO NEWS

 
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