Voices Sunday, June 08, 2014 - 05:30
By Veena Sethuraman Let me start with this disclaimer - I am not a feminist and I don’t believe in shouting from roof tops on women empowerment. The more we scream, the more we re-iterate that women “need” to be empowered. Pardon my arrogance – Bullshit! I am a humanist and I am proud to be so. I was recently invited as a guest speaker to a Womens’ conference. The speaker before me spoke about a few corporate laws and touched upon “what it takes to be on the board of directors in the corporate world”. As a part of it, she walked the audience through the statistics related to women on corporate boards across the world.  Well…interestingly, the statistics looked pathetic around the globe. Surprised? Not surprised? “Glass ceiling” has been overly discussed (and abused) in the last few years. Ironically, it will be the most discussed topic on Womens’ day across the world. Especially, in the corporate world. So, why is it so hard to break? Is it really unbreakable? I, being a “want-to-break-the -ceiling” corporate woman, went looking for answers to these questions – a search within and externally. Often, I observed, this so called ‘ceiling’ becomes hard to break because THE person thinks it is hard to break. And self-perception becomes reality here.  The other day, I was talking to a corporate women who is doing very well for herself. In our conversation, she said “My biggest challenge is – there are many meetings that I attend in which I am the only woman in the room with 10 male counterparts. And I clearly feel how uncomfortable they are, when I put forward my point of views. This makes it difficult for me to express myself.” So, I responded – “Is it your perception? Or Is it real?” She thought for a few seconds and said…”Looks like, it is my perception. They have never expressed it”.  Here, the answer is internal. In yet another conversation, I was dining with two of my female colleagues turned best friends. From office crushes to appraisal discussions, from baby feeding to designer gowns, no topic would escape our conversation. That’s when I heard a statement “Women managers are very difficult to deal with. They can be very unprofessional”! I laughed it off responding with a “Really”?. But, this conversation stayed with me. (Though I have come across this dialogue many times before) I have had good experiences with all my women managers till date. So, should I call myself lucky? I think I am luckier, as I have had good experiences with most of my male managers as well.  Some managers, irrespective of their gender can be difficult to handle. But, what leads to this female gender specific stereotyping? To me, it sounds as if, we expect women to be sensible all the time. Hence, when they get trapped in work stress it is more difficult to accept. Because I have never heard someone saying, “Male managers are very difficult to handle”. To cut a long story short, here the answer is external. Well….the glass ceiling in itself is breakable. But, such internal and external ceilings need to be broken before we hit that glass ceiling.  But, as they say in a cosmetic ad…. Because you are worth it!  Veena is a behavioural/leadership trainer and a Psychotherapist/Counsellor who loves to observe human behaviours and marvel at the art and science behind it!
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