Why Are Indian Women Scared Of Asking For Their Rights In The Workplace?

Posted by Akshata Ram in Sexism And Patriarchy
March 6, 2017
Editor’s note: This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #WomensDay to start conversations on how we can achieve a gender equal society. If you have faced gender-based violence, sexism or misogyny, would like to propose policy reforms or write about what families, friends, workspaces and partners can do to ensure gender parity around them, write to us here.

We have come a long way from the days when the primary responsibility of women was taking care of the house, rearing kids and cooking for everyone. Women have given wings to their dreams, conquered great heights, learnt to multi-task, keeping their family and professional requirements in mind. They have shattered the glass ceiling and it makes me very proud to be a part of this revolution.

As women, we want to give our best shot at all times in the workplace. However, there might be situations or circumstances which require us to take a break, pause and give ourselves some time off work.

Some Of Them May Be:

1. Pregnancy: Health issues are also involved, related to this. There may be those dull and difficult days when giving her best at work may not be possible for a woman.

2. The life-changing event of having a baby. It’s a known fact that after a baby comes, life changes in a big way. Staying long hours in office may not be possible, taking that call at odd hours from the confines of your home may not always work out. Kids falling ill, PTMs, projects, exams, annual day and so much more. These are all bound to affect work life.

3. Then there are other responsibilities of adults, such as taking care of old and ailing parents, parent-in-laws, siblings, or any other dependant. Again, there could be situations which require the woman to step out and take the time to sort these out.

Now, except for pregnancy, the other two are common for both men and women, right? Then why should there be any difference in expectations from both genders?

Would a man feel or act apologetic or feel guilty and promise to make up by working on a Saturday for the day he took off to attend his son’s school function? However, if it’s a woman, doesn’t she usually end up giving explanations and promising to make up for such days?

Breaking the news of pregnancy is not very easy for women. For one, the first thing that runs through people’s mind is, “Oh! There she goes on a long paid vacation of four months, I wish we could get that.” I too was guilty of thinking like this and couldn’t wait to go on a maternity leave.

Only when I actually delivered, did I realise that those four months were the toughest of my life. It’s tougher than the 12 hours of stress in the office. It ain’t easy and if you give me back those eight hours of undisturbed sleep, I am more than willing to forego my maternity leave benefit. The lady in question who has to spill the beans will always find it difficult. Imagine it being your promotion year or just near the comp season. The woman will resign herself to not getting that promotion and wouldn’t raise her voice even when a mediocre pay hike or even if nothing is doled out to her.

In fact, I have seen a good friend who is really hardworking and sincere, experience this. She was hesitant to spill the news as her boss was due to be promoted to the next level and she feared that being a key person reporting to him, this may impact his promotion and the wrath of this would be taken out on her. It doesn’t even have to be about your own promotion. What if a man was in the same place? Would he be so easily suppressed? I bet no.

A man is known to be more ambitious, demanding and someone who will not settle for something less than what he wants. Don’t you often hear women work to put their degree to use, so that they don’t get ‘bored’. However, according to the society, the primary focus of a woman should always be on her family. Any woman tho defies this age old rigid norm is looked down upon as a selfish and career-minded woman.

Not only men, even women do not hesitate in standing up against each other. Why does no one ask this question to a man? If a working mom has professional aspirations and wants to reach the top, why do we have to judge her and jump to the conclusion that she doesn’t love her family? Do we know how much time she spends with her hubby and kids? No. Also, why should you feel guilty about chasing your dreams?

We are a long, long way from the utopian society where men and women are treated on an equal footing. Till then, let’s do our bit in supporting each other in the workplace and most importantly, changing our mindset about working women and our worth. If we don’t value ourselves, who will?