More often than not the first thing that catches one’s eye or sixth-sense when looking at a woman suffering from domestic abuse, is not the scar, or the blood or the tears, it’s something else. The unbelievable validation that this woman hands over to that man on a plate. Garnished meticulously and generously with juliennes shaved from her self-respect and individuality too. And yeah, we celebrate International Women’s Day with some gusto.
As hard or unpalatable as this may sound, this has been the state of things for centuries now. Women suffer, women surrender and through all this barbeque, they rationalize the sadistic torturer as well as the masochist victim marinated in their own explanation.
Reasons that have been passed on and burnished through ages, as cultures after cultures, civilizations after civilizations, women and men assume that it is right to oppress the fairer sex.
In all fairness, there may be some latent psychological reward to all this indefinite endurance. Why would an equally capable and human woman, as one is likely to wonder, pick a slaughterhouse with colorful trimmings tucked inside the village instead of a bare barn on a safe but wild trail.
Familiarity helps us keep sane, may be.
It runs the current of times quite deftly and consistently too, for even now that we look around, where concrete forests have replaced pastoral huts and where constitutions, laws, amendments and bills have supplanted patriarchal mores; where corporate races and fast-track careers have tarred barefoot-pitcher-dotted lanes, even now, women love to suffer and then validate it.
Women stack up in the corporate sector and workplace in a skewed manner even today and there is more than just numbers to iterate the imbalance that exists.
Diversity may be receiving a lot of PR varnish and even some actual ticks-in-the-corporate boxes but is it really churning out any actual outcomes beyond shallow statistics?
Hiring more women is not enough if real challenges, opportunities, compensation, feedback and partnership is held back from them.
Whether it is the red carpet of marquee industries like the Hollywood, corporate alleys towards boardrooms with P&L responsibilities, thinly-veiled remarks by corporate honchos like Mr. Nadella, or the struggle for basic amenities and rights like what Malala and others have to go through – nothing seems to have changed much at a deeper level.
Why would a Patricia Arquette mention gender as a word in her Oscar acceptance speech with Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep rooting strongly? Why would Jennifer Lawrence’s wage equality question vis a vis her male co-stars in American Hustle had to come out through a Sony hack?
Discrimination does not stop in this industry when it comes to doling out equal compensation, it pours in during job opportunities, high-rung tasks like production or direction, and an utterly obvious inclination towards male protagonists.
Now extrapolate the scenario to other industries and it’s hard not to gasp when you see what an avalanche a woman has to trudge through every day when she steps out for work.
Laws notwithstanding, our social conditioning makes it still hard and sometimes, even implausible, to stand up as a sexual harassment victim, a divorcee, a single parent and an independent career- woman.
Eyes, whispers, hushed criticism and loud sneer accost a woman at almost every next bold step she takes. She has to fit in traditional molds and keep expectations fulfilled at home while she is supposed to shed all her soft dimensions at work and perform without ‘female’ excuses.
Tabs like the Gallup’s Aug. 5-9 Work and Education survey remind that 17 per cent of working women continue believing they have ever been denied a raise at work because of their gender (when the number is a mere 4 per cent for working men).
Women not only face dead-ends and tough-brick walls on the walk to the upper storey of senior leadership, they also seem to not fight it out or validate it.
No wonder then that ‘Women in the Workplace’, a study undertaken by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey finds that women stay underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline, and the disparity remains the greatest at senior levels of leadership.
This when drilled further, brings out factors like an uneven playing field, lower odds of advancement lower at every level; and other perception issues.
When men get a bigger share of the critical assignments, and consequentially better advancement options, is this because their female counterparts are leaving work early for a PTA meeting or something else? As per a Catalyst study of 1,660 business school graduates men’ projects on an average, had budgets twice as big and three times as women’ and a mere 46 per cent of the women, (compared to 56 per cent of the men) received P&L responsibility.
Companies with no women on their boards underperformed relative to organizations with women board members, and had slightly higher tracking errors, or potentially more volatility, as per a recent Thomson Reuters study, ‘Mining the Metrics of Board Diversity’. And yet, only 20 per cent of the companies analyzed there report having a board consisting of 20 per cent or more women!
Look at what George Mason psychology professor Eden King’s unveiled in a study: women reported receiving less criticism but at the same time 15 per cent of men vs. only six per cent of women came up as potential partner material, re-instating the problem of lower expectations.
Women are criticized less, given softer feedback, and even softer responsibilities; thus making a good case for the bigger jobs, big partner roles and pay that men tend to get in the process.
The problem is not that some men or the social conditioning around continues to exploit women. The problem is much simpler and hence scarier – women still rationalize the exploitation.
If I did not get that chance, may be my boss was showing sympathy or empathy for my family time. If I am being denied that promotion may be the seniors want to invest more time in my grooming. If he beat me, maybe it was I who provoked him. Or maybe because he loves me above everyone else.
Oh BTW, before I forget ladies. Happy Woman’s Day!
— Pratima H