Happy International Women's Day. As the world celebrates International Women’s Day in the middle of pandemic, this year has given me a unique opportunity to reflect and write my thoughts as it comes. I know its been almost a month. Could have not written this any earlier. The urge to write this article, in conjunction with this month's celebration is irresistible, being a woman who truly care about such an important agenda. So, there you go, the continued guilt of not writing one and the birth of this article....
This recent celebration made me to reflect on my own journey, establishing a demanding career as an engineering academic while building a young family, and before you know it, a decade is nearly gone. Sometimes, people fail to see what a commitment it takes, juggling with everything while your own biological clock is ticking like a bombshell!!! Nevertheless, it's a journey to celebrate and share proudly. There are many women out there who have done this successfully well. Bravo!
On another note, I am often intrigued by the debate that goes around about gender equality and misconceptions surrounding it. At times, some people talk as if all men treat women with inequality and start blaming them for all their misfortunes. At times, people also miss out those women who treat a fellow woman insensitively! I would like to think and probably, believe that the inequality that we are talking about is not restricted to a particular gender and the way they mistreat the opposite.
In fact, if we take the gender out of the equation and just treat another fellow human being with mutual respect without judging their physical and biological nature with inferiority or superiority, maybe half of these problems may not exist, particularly in most male dominated fields of career. It is also very important to understand and remind ourselves that, our biological nature of both genders is not the same and in fact, that’s what makes us special and complementary. Hence, as women, we are not designed to act like men in most circumstances. Unfortunately, whenever I attend women empowerment workshops, we are always taught do things like men to survive in a corporate world, especially women in engineering; the world that I am most familiar with.
I would like to take a different stand to this. I personally feel that women can be a good leader, the one who will still be highly respected amongst men, just by retaining her own fundamental nature as a woman. Women has a natural tendency to be protective and caring, or better said, a mother-like figure. She can be gentle and firm at the same time. She can be fierce and compassionate, at the same time. She can be rigid and flexible , if she senses a good cause to be flexible.
Women are actually complex beings, emotionally. But, these emotions make her more receptive and sensible to the people under her care, which is actually a plus point. So, labelling women to be ‘emotional and sensitive’ and seeing that as weakness in a corporate world, or a world filled with men in a certain profession, is another flawed perception. Emotion is NOT gender restricted. There are men who reacts very emotionally too. So, it is not fair to label women this way, whenever things go wrong. In fact, we should respect anybody’s emotion and help them stabilise if there is a need; not a mere correlation of emotional scale with the gender.
Women are beautiful beings, not limited to physical attraction but intellectually too! She is attractive in the way she cares for people. She is elegant in the way she shows her kindness. She is stylish in her special way of decision making, often careful and inclusive. She is artistic in the way she expresses herself. So, in careers with male domination, do continue to help women find her voice, by supporting her emotions and not mere labelling. It takes a true gentleman to touch those boundaries, and luckily, we do have some around us. However, it is undeniable that we also have men who undermines women and sidelines them. While this remains a challenge, woman herself will need to rise above these challenges. The very restrictions that we face, are not the ones which are imposed on us by such people, but the ones that we set upon ourselves, shaped by the limited perceptions of people around us. So, the ecosystem that we are trying to build for women to thrive, needs to be healthy one, regardless of gender. We need both men and women, who are not judgmental. While I understand most of those flawed perceptions and judgements, are built possibly by our cultural differences and upbringing, it is important to continuously challenge our belief system to adapt and evolve; the greatest revolutions in history of mankind has taken place only because we chose to challenge those firmly held beliefs.
On this special occasion, I also would like to salute all women who sacrificed their careers and decided to stay at home for the sake of their children and their well-being. These women are unsung heroes and they should be respected for their choices, as raising a child is a serious profession too! Worst still, a profession without any salary, accolades or at times, recognition! You women, always amaze me, as I simply do not have the courage to let go of my own career, so I secretly admire those who did it. I would like to highlight that these women who made these choices consciously, are VERY courageous indeed! They portray themselves at the 'pinnacle of career sacrifice' as they dedicate themselves to raise their kids. So, it’s another misconception to look down on these women and treat them 'worthless'; sometimes these women themselves look down on themselves, a common scenario and I've come across many. Just imagine, what a well-raised child can do in making the world a better place to live in, just having the right kind of qualities in a chaotic world. Time to re-emphasize, Raising a child is a serious business, Another important profession too! Lets cherish these women and my heart goes out to them on this special message in year 2021!
Happy International Women’s Day Ladies, from a woman who sees beauty in another!
Much love, Poovarasi Balan (31st March 2021)