Dr. Paramjeet Juneja
Director, Chetak Auto-engineering Products Co. Pvt. Ltd.
“Lady candidates need not apply.” This was the first step in the making of Sudha Murthy’s career. Women in leadership roles has been a topic of discussion since many years. The industry has seen growth in the number of women leaders; Shikha Sharma, Indira Nooyi, Kiran Majumdar Shaw, and Vinita Bali, to name a few. However, as individuals and as a society we still have a long way to go to make our work culture more accepting of talent without gender bias. Today there’s a strong rise in females becoming independent, grabbing any available opportunities that they were denied in the past. Conventionally, women were responsible for house work and raising children. Since, us humans are always working to become a better version of ourselves, women now must take on multiple roles. They must accomplish what they were traditionally expected to do and take on more responsibilities to keep up with their male colleagues at the workplace. I will be sharing the journeys of a couple such women.
Durga Ghatte, an accounting assistant at an SME, started her career in 2014 as an accounting trainee. What was the work culture like when you first started working? “When I started I was very scared, because office culture was very new to me being the first working woman from my family. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a strong prejudice of work culture being hostile towards women. However, in a week’s time I was comfortable in my chair.” How would you describe you progress? “Within a month’s time of starting my job, I was comfortable coordinating with my colleagues and delegating appropriate tasks. Before I used to highlight problems, but gradually I started coming up with solutions as well.” How would you describe the work culture after you settled comfortably in your company? “It was healthy for the most part. However, when a senior male colleague joined the company, I could see him taking me for granted. By this time, I had a strong grasp of my work. However, constant underestimation hurt my decision-making skills and leadership qualities.” How did you cope with this situation? “Because of my persistence, thorough knowledge, and dedication towards my work I could see a shift in his attitude. He started respecting me, and even helped me better my Microsoft Excel skills. My ability to handle this situation gave me significant confidence and success at my work.” What advantage did you find in becoming a working woman? “I have become a financially independent person and can pamper myself. My views are well received and respected in the family and at the workplace. The confidence that I carry has been inspiring for the youngers around me which has given me a lot of satisfaction and happiness.”
Dr. Namrata Garg, a reputable dentist, started her career in 2005 after completing her graduation. She got married right after while pursuing her postgraduate degree. During her post-graduation, she had two kids. What are some of the challenges you faced? “One of the setbacks I remember is that I had to step back from going to an informative workshop in Jaipur during my first year of post-graduation, because my baby was only a year old. Since it was so exhausting to manage both home life and education, I also lived with the dilemma that I am not able to give my hundred percent to either my family or my work.” What came out of your decision to become a dentist while raising a family? “Despite my problems, I feel that working women are more versatile, independent, and can juggle several roles. Through all these years, I have become a strong headed individual.” Would you make the same choices if you could go back in time? “Absolutely. Being a working mother has not only given me more respect from the society, but from my kids as well. This is the biggest certification for me. My views are taken more seriously in the family and at the workplace” What steps did you take to improve your business? “I keep myself updated with innovations occurring in dentistry, through regularly attending workshops and conferences and implementing the knowledge acquired.” What message do you have for the readers? “I believe maintaining work life balance is key to a healthy family and a growing business.”
Through conducting several other interviews not mentioned in this article, and from my personal experience as a director at my company, I found distinct underlying factors shared by most working women. The commonality that stood out the most was the feeling of insecurity, because of the need to always prove themselves at every step. This in turn affected their confidence and potential for leadership roles. Having said that, the action that these women took to counter these difficulties was educating themselves. Whether it be taking salon training lessons or taking management lessons, knowledge is what gave them confidence to power through their insecurities. When competent people work with each other, respect comes naturally. Since, women weren’t given as many educational opportunities in the past, the work culture was very lopsided. It’s changing now.
The numbers are good and growing, but we can do better. Besides lack of educational opportunities, managing household activities also plays an important role. Setback in work life for women becomes more prominent especially after marriage. Due to the sudden increase in home responsibilities, more often than not, their work life takes a hit. They key, as we’re starting to see, is for males to be more involved at home. This would allow both husband and wife equal opportunities to grow their family and profession life. Women not being able to commit as much time as their male counterparts after marriage has been a reason for companies to be hesitant when it comes to making hiring decisions. However, this would not be an issue if both genders take equal responsibilities at home and at work. This correction would have a profound impact on future generations as well. And that is how they will carry themselves when they grow up. Through more awareness, globalization, and western influence, we’ve seen a steady growth in more educated working women. This has made the work culture healthier and more inclusive.