I believe Obama’s now famous quote can and should be understood as “You can measure how well a country, COMPANY, COMMUNITY OR FAMILY does by how well it treats its women”.
When Mallika Sherawat spoke of India being regressive towards women, folks pounced on her for deriding the country in a public forum. But fact remains India is not a monolith, there are a 1000 Indias within Indian society giving room for very different individual experiences. We have many things to be proud of, including a heritage where women were respected and worshipped. But it is important to recognise that even with that cultural background, the majority of our women population have difficult lives with severe limitations on individual liberty, safety and opportunity. Isn’t that fact the bigger shame to our country?
This post is prompted by the #disruptingthedefault movement on twitter by Catalyst, Inc that is “working globally to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business.”
In my field of work, I know what it is like to be the minority or even the only one. We are in a culture where a loud voice and an autocratic attitude can be mistaken for “leadership qualities”, so it isn’t easy to remain soft-spoken and democratic and yet get things done. Not everyone understands a management style where you bring together people and make them care about the project enough to give their 100% to it. As women this is something we do within our families – day in day out, and IT WORKS. That is what brings about true synergy – the best leaders know that, irrespective of their gender. Fortunately Harvard Business School has heard of it and calls it leading from behind. 🙂 But most others haven’t and would prefer the familiar option of a leader who enslaves a team to execute his/her vision. (How limited is that??) Sadly even women try to imitate men and male management styles rather than finding their own strengths and paths.
In the workplace, often men are not equipped to deal with women and emerge discriminatory without even knowing it. How does one deal with someone who doesn’t even realise he is being sexist? Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has wonderful examples of how reality bites. Where does this emerge from? Doesn’t one need to look back at the children they were? The parents they were raised by? The environment and friends they grew up with?
It reminds me of Gloria Steinhem’s words “we have begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters”. Each of us needs to find our own way to change things for the better. Besides other things, I’ve started off with my lil boy. 🙂