By Neha Hassija
A couple of weeks back, in a talk that I attended, the speaker made a mocking comment that despite the tall talk women do about gender equality, terms such as ‘manning a department’ and ‘manpower’ are still very much ingrained in their vocabulary. On similar lines, during a recent conversation, one of my male colleagues asked me why I was not encouraging my son to use my maiden surname or my name as his middle name instead of my husband’s.
Personally, as a working woman, wife and mother, these things do not matter much to me.Agreed, ‘talking right’ is important. But, more important than that is ‘doing right’. A progressive vocabulary without having a progressive mindset achieves little.
Every time when ‘she’ is denied the right to study or pursue her dreams – is judged by her clothes or the colour of her skin – is forced to give up her career or loses on a well-deserved promotion or faces gender pay-gap – is questioned by potential employers “when do you plan to marry or have kids” – is raped or eve-teased or physically and mentally abused and every time ‘he’ is told, “Be a man or Big boys don’t cry” – gender disparity raises its ugly head.
A survey report released in March 2021 revealed that in India, 85% of working women claim to have missed out on a promotion or hike because of their gender. Hyderabad based Komal Singh young working professional shares, “My organization believes in women empowerment and takes pride in having an inclusive work culture. But despite this, there is a subtle gender-pay gap that is never openly talked about. We women folks have to prove ourselves much more than our male counterparts.”
“We need to consciously unlearn the gender biases and work towards building a better-balanced society where scales do not tilt in favour of any particular gender”, feels Bangalore based Neha Shrimali.“Every one of us has a weaker side and have the right to express our emotions. We have to stop perceiving men crying or expressing their emotions as a sign of weakness or as a womanly gesture. By doing so, we are not only insulting the men but also the women”, she further adds.
An ardent cricket enthusiast, my son goes for formal cricket coaching. He also has a couple of aspiring girl-cricketers in his class. Just last week, he participated in a friendly city league under-12 cricket tournament where the captain of his opponent team was a young-dynamic girl – she also was the only girl in her team. Now, that is what I call a real change.
“Individuals need to be rewarded based on skills and merit and not gender. We have plenty of examples around us where women and men are breaking the shackles of gender stereotypes and emerging as winners. Unfortunately, we also have an equal number of examples to quote where people consider it fashionable to talk about gender sensitivity but seldom practice it”, says Jai Sharma.
Equality in a true sense can prevail when we walk the talk and create a progressive ecosystem where both men and women are respected and given equal opportunities to collaborate and grow. Till then, just merely saying “People at work” instead of “Men at work” will achieve little.