I have always dreamt of a world which is happy, free-spirited and equal. It’s a dream and remains until today.
The world which I actually live in has fair share of opposites co-existing. It’s not linear and it shouldn’t be else it would become boring and dead.
I am writing this piece which is a summation of all my observations and experiences that I’ve had so far as a woman living in India.
Nine out of ten times, I’ve walk in to a restaurant in Gurgaon with a male companion, I will be given the food menu and my male friend the “drinks” menu. Driving in Gurgaon, if I’ve overtaken a cab being driven by a man, sure enough he would find a way to overtake and stare back with the look that says, “how dare you.” And all this extends to workplace too where these biases come to play but not as blatantly.
I was born in a family where there was no discrimination when it came to men and women. Infact sometimes I feel women were far more empowered than men and they truly were the decision makers. Men followed and proudly so. Hence I grew up to be a very strong woman with a mind of my own, made small or big choices that were important to me and always had the support of my family.
And when I started working 17 years back, this world of equality didn’t exist as I thought it should have. Ironically the world of media, advertising and entertainment influence the masses in the way they think and the choices they make. Hence it is very powerful and can play a very important role in shaping the society and its norms besides of course helping brands becoming more visible and successful.
In one of my earlier jobs at a big media house, I was working on a mandate where the male hiring manager categorically defined his requirement as follows-“ I only want a woman for this role and she must be beautiful, well-spoken and outgoing.” At another time ,in another place ,the manager wanted to oust a very bright and intelligent woman team member because he found her to be aggressive. Aggressive because she would speak her mind out in meetings, would stand up and fight for what she thought was not making sense and always took the initiative and led from the front. The manager strangely found it hard to “manage” her and therefore unfit to be part of the team.
These double standards are common at the workplace. Men speaking out of turn or being loud is acceptable whereas woman who do that are termed “not right for the job.”
Among many reasons why women drop out of work, sexism is one of the key reasons. We face it every day at work in a rather subtle manner but it very much exists. Often women don’t get that prestigious project or a desired position when competing with a male counterpart because a lot of assumptions are made ,in case of a woman-like she won’t be able to give the time required owing to her personal responsibilities or a certain project would mean working long hours, etc.
Some of these equality issues are also deep rooted in our culture. Female feticide, infanticide, lack of education opportunities for girls, early marriages, domestic violence- all this and more has created inequality in the society and this has slowly become an accepted norm.
The world is changing and progressing. Gender equality is now being spoken and implemented in organizations across. Inclusion at workplace is no more a topic that’s left for HR to figure but it’s become a leadership agenda. Many researches and reports have validated that a balanced equal organization are sure to have sustained success ,be more innovative and creative and demonstrate higher productivity leading to higher profitability and value creation.
The government has also taken so many initiatives to help girls and women progress in their lives, launched many schemes, made access to education so much easier by making it free, opening more schools, giving scholarships to bright girls so they can pursue higher education, and many such steps. However equality is a fundamental right and therefore this needs to become an agenda important enough for corporates, governments and the civil society. It is our collective responsibility to create a world where there is no domestic violence, no rapes, no pay inequalities and no biases when it comes to giving equal opportunities for women and men.
I am a mother of a 8.5 year old daughter and I hope that the world I dreamt of, soon becomes a reality for her.
Apoorva Bapna is a senior talent professional at GroupM Media India Pvt limited. The views expressed here are her personal.She is a mother, singer, writer, traveler,curator. She is a firm believer of equality and stands up for what is right.