Friday, November 20, 2009

Woman Power

Margaret Thatcher is reported to have said – If you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.

Arvind Singhal in his article writes that India has after China, the second largest number of women in the workforce. An estimated 480 million jobs are being performed by women. Till recently, most of these jobs were largely relating to physical, menial labour. And rather than helping in the empowerment of women, added to their exploitation since they not only had to be a wife and mother and homemaker, but also a secondary wage earner having little or no control on utilisation of what they earned through their hard labour. A silent revolution has since begun.

So different from what it was in the late ‘60s. My mother wrote to my grandfather. I have an offer to work in a bank. The children are grown up and I have some time to spare. I am contemplating taking up the job. Her father, gently admonished her, your husband is a senior government officer, what will people think? That he is not earning enough to keep you and the children happy? ( My father’s salary to be honest, was really a pittance as were the salaries of that time). Is that the impression you want to convey? I do not think you are doing the right thing. And heeding his advice, my mother never took up the job.

By the time I grew up, things had begun to change. Girls were educated, and many went ahead to do their post graduation too. For few, it was to bide time till their parents found a suitable partner. Some of us were lucky, we were allowed to work. There were not many opportunities, and it was not easy,

Now, it is a different scene altogether. There are an equal number of women working in any given organisation. Not just soft skills. They have entered areas that were once exclusively a man’s domain . The first woman on the shop floor is reported to be Sudha Murthy ( wife of Infosys Technologies founder Narayan Murthy). In 1974, she was upset when an advertisement for engineers in Telco ( now Tata Motors) specifically barred women from the post. She sent off a letter in protest to J.R.D Tata, and with due credit to the great man, she soon received a call for an interview and thus became the first woman engineer in their organisation. Women have since proved they can get out of their offices, work at project sites, get their hands dirty and meet deadlines with ease. Late hours have not deterred their enthusiasm either. And their multi tasking abilities ( hitherto proved at home ) stand in good stead along with their inter personal skills.

A surge of women working in white collar jobs will have a great impact on a number of factors in the coming years especially in urban India. An increase in dual income households. Women with lesser time to devote to the home. An increase in demand for ready-to-eat meals, of third parties who can take up routine housekeeping roles, a requirement for nannies, cooks, for online shopping and home delivered goods. Products targeting women – like formal wear, financial services, grooming centres will be sure to mushroom. That would mean no waiting at the ‘chakki’ centre to have whole wheat ground to flour, no pulses to be soaked for the next day’s breakfast, no tamarind to be soaked, no nappies to be washed, no peas to be shelled, no queuing up outside movie theatres on weekends, thanks to a host of conveniences that were unavailable to us few years ago.

With more freedom and confidence, women will probably look at their role in the home differently. As it is ‘marriageable age’ has undergone a huge change, a few grandmothers themselves ( having probably been home bound at a very tender age and living their dreams through their granddaughters) recommend that the children work and attain some level of financial independence before they get married. How often we hear people say, she is just 22, let her work and enjoy life , why burden her with responsibilities, a husband and children? Which may be a good sign but consider the impact it will have – late marriages, fewer children. The dynamics of the family in India will definitely undergoing a change. How well, we adapt to the changes and yet not let go of our family values will remain to be seen.

I am sure it affects every family. My elder one is married, but says babies can wait. The younger one who has just begun her career, says marriage can wait. I have no problems either. But there are issues. I worry when the younger one is still at work late in the night. And I am getting older too. Would I have the same energy to step into the role of a grandmother with ease many years hence? Can the nanny substitute the grandparent? We’ll have to wait and see.


  1. Such changes....and you are right...what an impact this all has. What I have actually found here in North America is that what we, as women, struggled for so long with in the 70's...equal opportunity and equal jobs, is now being looked at askance by young women ....reversing the trend already and deciding to opt out of career. The pendulum swings....does it not? I am glad I have a son because I am one of those fiercely strong women in construction who worked so long and hard to prove myself in a 'man's world' that I would have a hard time understanding a daughter taking an alternate route. Of course, we are products of our time, n'est pas? Thank goodness women did work hard to gain equality...what I am reminded of constantly is that ...yes....this is now true. But it is still a matter of choice of the women. I agree, I just wish all women would realize that they should always have something to fall back on... in hard times.... so they do not have to be dependent on someone else.

  2. We have women in forefront in Indian Navy... times are changing for the best. :) A very well written post Radha.

  3. Nice post, Radha. Now, most of the girls are professionally qualified or post graduates. Most of them like to work for some years at least. Then become so independent that they are scared to get married because lot of adjustment is required in all fronts. If they get married also, starting a family is postponed. My sons are 32 and 30...don't know when they will say 'yes' for marriage. I think they would like to chose the girl and we are waiting for something to happen! As is in your case, we are getting old too. We must have some stamina to enjoy being with the kids. Now, this is going to be the norm.

    Like you said, all facilities have come. We get cut, peeled vegetables, fruits etc. Dosa batter...everything. Only thing is all are running and busy. No free time for anything.

    Somebody should give a good idea to balance old (our) times and the new times! Like it is happening in the US and European countries, men should take equal responsibilities in running the family, unlike our times, where women took care of everything. Otherwise it is going to be very tough for women...again women are the sufferers.

    I had written a post about Sudha Murthy in 'People whom I admire' tag, about the incident you have mentioned. She is a simple woman even now!

  4. Nice article. I just read a few hours ago that a lady is being trained in Mumbai to become the first female electric train driver. Kudos for her.

  5. very poignant post, specially the last para..makes you think.

    your husband is a senior government officer, what will people think? That he is not earning enough to keep you and the children happy...exactly the way my father him it was humiliation if his daughter or wife worked.

  6. Things have changed for better. But still there is lot to improve.

  7. It's really a wait and see policy for now. But women need to be more careful due to the difference in intentions between a woman and a man. If you notice, the evil intentioned have major contribution of men. Please take care.

    Garden Lizard

  8. Trish, Sandhya - the comments make the post more meaningful.
    Indrani, Renu, SG - Thanks
    Bhavesh - welcome to the blog.

  9. A balanced article well written


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