Forging a distinctive path

Parimala S Rao | Updated on December 13, 2020

Ensuring women-centric workplaces

Women “belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception,” iconic US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist and champion of equal rights, famously said in an interview to ABC correspondent Lynn Sherr. “We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mould because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination,” said Ginsburg, who passed away some months ago.

The central theme of Archana Venkat’s book, Seize Your Career, is that it is the women themselves who must take the key decisions in their lives, especially those relating to their careers.

As the author says in her introduction, “it’s ok to have a career, make sacrifices, and feel proud of one’s achievements, no matter whether anyone else believes in them or not.” Archana’s deep insights into issues unique to each career woman stem from experiences shared at a women professionals support group run by her in Bengaluru, and her recognition that no two women can have a similar career path. Each has her special strengths as also challenges specific to her family, cultural milieu and type of workplace.

Stop short of goals

It’s a trite observation that women can do everything men can, but in reality it is far more difficult for women, who have to apply learnings gleaned from one another in their specific context, to forge a path towards the goal they are aiming for. Invariably, too many women stop short of their goal, settling, instead, for a decently paying job that causes minimal disruption to family and social relations.

So, how does one prevent this? How to ensure that an organisation is truly women-centric, in the best sense of the term? Who is responsible for sensitising managements on how women need to be supported to reach their full potential in the workplace, and what needs to change to enable such an environment?

Importantly, even in male-dominated corporate environments, women’s roles are influenced by what women think of themselves and of other women. It is this reality that underpins Archana’s slim volume, packed with important insights drawn from the case studies of 10 women, each with largely different career paths and their own distinctive experiences of white-collar workplace realities. Based on actual incidents, the stories are fictionalised.

Whether it is about taking up a job early in life, and continuing to pursue a career path without a break, or deciding to prioritise child-raising, giving up crucial defining years in one’s professional progress, or returning to corporate life after a break, only to find one has to run faster to stay in the same place, the author concludes that no one can make more rational choices than the women, who must own their careers.

This is equally true of negotiating for better pay or promotions, creating family support and, most importantly, a strong professional network. The stories show that while women have achieved success in their career, it has not been easy, despite the benefits of a good education and a support system. The case studies encourage readers to evaluate their own positions and dynamics in the workplace.

The reviewer is a former journalist

Published on December 13, 2020

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