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.