In the course of her nearly three-decade long career, Apurva Purohit, President, the Jagran Group, has met tens of thousands of working women, young and old, and heard about their daily realities.
In 2013, that prompted her to pen down Lady, You’re Not a Man — a book aimed at women just entering the workforce.
As she says, this was the age many would be getting married and either drop out of jobs due to pressures of marriage and childbirth or stay on and feel the double burden of coping with household crisis and office deadlines.
In her new book, Lady, You're The Boss! , published by Westland that was released last month, Purohit addresses the issues that senior women face at the workplace. Their challenges are slightly different. There is complacency and stopping to strive, there is mid-life crisis, there is stereotyping, tokenism and the below-the-radar issue of menopause. There is also the challenge of not being job-ready for the top role as organisations have failed to give you difficult postings and assignments.
Much has been written about the double bind that working women find themselves in, balancing work and home, as well as fighting the multiple challenges of biases, discrimination, lack of opportunities to top jobs and so on. But Purohit has a very refreshing take. No strident rants at all. Rather, the books have a light touch, filled with funny anecdotes, the situations are dealt with humour — often self deprecating — but at the same time are empathetic too. Purohit also does not shy away from blaming women themselves for some of the pressures they find themselves in, pointing out the suffering, sacrificing role we tend to play.
Just as it happens in life
Read the book and you find yourself nodding at the situations as they are uncannily like the ones you have put yourself in. “We rush home from the office to oversee homework and organize playdates and rush back again to finish the project report on time. We make sure the kitchen cupboards are stocked with food when we go away on work trips, including labeled meals. … We baulk at the pressure and dream of solo getaways. But secretly we love being needed this much. We enjoy the feeling that everything will fall apart if not for our herculean management skills.”
Meet Purohit and her conversation sparkles just like her books. So what should women do to climb the career ladder as rapidly as men, you ask? She responds: “I ask women who come to me for advice, how important is your career to you. Most will say they balance their career with home — giving 50 per cent time to work and 50 per cent time to home.”
Says Purohit, “That is completely a wrong idea. How much time do men put in? They are putting in 80 per cent and you are putting in 50 per cent. Naturally they are getting ahead. If you are serious about your career, in a 30-40 year career span, only for five years — the child rearing years or that of looking after elderly parents — family should take predominance. Rest it should be career.”
But women don’t look at things like this. “If you are serious about career, there is no balancing and no 50:50,” says Purohit.
“They also ask me “Can I have it all?” To that I say, yes, you can have it all, but not at the same time. In 30 years you will get everything but only if for 25 years you make your career predominant,” she adds.
Have women in senior positions
What can organisations do to help women realise their true potential? Purohit actually praises organisations for making things better with initiatives like flexi timings, crèches, helping with commutes and so on.
But above all, she says, what is necessary is to have women in senior positions. “In my organisation, I have not done anything extra. What I have done is ensure there are more senior women. The moment there are more senior women the subconscious message that goes out to younger ones is that, ‘oh, I will not stagnate here, I can reach the top too’.”
Are we alienating ourselves?
Are we overdoing the sisterhood act these days? Organisations have women’s hour, there are gender-based social groups proliferating everywhere and too much fuss on Women’s Day. Wouldn’t this end up alienating male colleagues?
“It’s a valid question. In this bid to make diversity succeed, are we going to alienate ourselves?” responds Purohit. She says that in a career we should always project ourselves as professionals and never as a man or woman. “Having said that, today, there is a huge imbalance between men and women. The professional world is largely designed for men. If you really get down to it, right from the AC temperature to the desk design, everything is skewed towards men. Therefore for a short time, special attention to the disenfranchised section — women — has to be given. I see nothing wrong with it,” she says.
Finally, her tips for women to be truly the boss of their destinies:
1) How you see yourself is how the world will see you. If you treat yourself with respect, the world will treat you likewise. So see yourself as a professional and act as one.
2) Never let it be a choice. It should always be an “and” and never an “or”.
3) Try and become financially independent. Respect comes when women don’t have to depend on anyone financially.
4) Learn to take control. Only you can build the bridge you have to cross. Don’t outsource or externalise your problems. Just take charge of it.
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