Consumer goods company Procter &Gamble’s first #WeSeeEqual Summit, co-hosted with UN Women, in Mumbai recently, saw change-makers from across the globe sharing inspiring thoughts and stories about stereotypes and challenging myths that prevent an even playing field for women and men in all areas of life.
We zeroed in on one of the interesting discussions of the day featuring award-winning Indian actor Neha Dhupia and her husband actor Angad Bedi, P&G’s Korea vice president Balaka Niyazee and her husband Kausar Niyazee, an ex APAC software leader CISCO in conversation with TV anchor and moderator Mini Mathur.
The conversation centred around P&G’s latest advertisement campaign for Ariel, the third in the series, Sons #ShareTheLoad, which has reportedly received over 20 million views already, and counting.
1. Set the right example
Making a case for raising sons and daughters equally, the discussion started off with the screening of the last Ariel advertisement that showed a father apologising to his daughter, and in effect all women, on behalf of all the men who have not thought of the pressures of home adding to a woman’s burden and thus setting a wrong example for both their daughters and sons. How the dad resolves to lend more than a hand in household chores from then on is where the advertisement ends.
The latest advertisement, takes up from where the last one left off, with a mother realising her role in teaching her son the importance of lending a hand.
2. It is a myth that men don’t want to be involved in running the home
Mini Mathur pointed out that the narrative is that women own the primary responsibility for the home and family and very often end up leaving the workplace or sidestep any career advancement when they have kids. There is an equal narrative, she added, that men don’t want an equal role at home.
Balaka said: “We have all lived through these myths that women are the primary caregiver and if a time comes in a working woman’s life when she has to choose between an amazing career and an important task at home, people would always think she is selfish if she chose the former.”
“But I know many men who have thoroughly enjoyed their paternity leave and hated when it was time to come back. It is changing, but it is not enough.”
Angad Bedi narrated how he had been brought up to do his own chores, whether it was the laundry or wash cars or fix snacks. He agreed though that his friends at that time didn’t see it necessary to help around the house. “The change we all are witnessing is for the better. We have to align forces with each other.”
3. Technology takes the lead
Kausar felt that saying our lives are very different from our parents would be an understatement and “it will be very different going forward, for our children. What is making this change is technology. It is gender agnostic. You see only the content in an email, not whether it was sent by a male or a female.”
“Technology also empowers, my 73 year old aunt from a very conventional background, runs a business using a smartphone.”
The third facilitating role of technology according to Kausar, is “creating awareness, making information and knowledge available, creating a level playing field for people who have been marginalised and neglected. And awareness drives action.”
4. Little eyes are watching mothers, and fathers
Women spend three hours more than men attending to household chores, Balaka cited from a recent P&G survey. “We have to champion the cause of #ShareTheLoad so that the boys and girls we raise see equal.”
The daughter of a naval officer, Neha Dhupia shared how her mom chose to leave her thriving career in customs when Neha was eight years old, to be a stay at home mother. She on the other hand chose to go back to work nine days after the birth of daughter Mehr. “I called my mom to ask if I could do it and she said: ‘If anyone can, it is you!’ We have seen our moms stay at home, for various reasons and we are hoping our daughters don’t have to go through that at all.”
Mini agreed that if you grow up seeing your mother doing most of the household work without questioning it, it is difficult to enter marriage with an expectation of being an equal partner.
When you share your aspiration people become a part of it, said Balaka narrating how their daughter Samaira understands and supports her need to work.
5. Love means sharing… the load
Neha was succinct. “I’m happy that Angad and I are representing the three words: it is Share the Load, it is post-Valentine’s, and not I love you!”
Kausar took a page out of his life to narrate how he used to be the typical husband, until the family moved to Dublin and the lack of house help saw Balaka struggling to keep up with both home and work. “It appealed to my sense of fairness, and I had to brainwash myself to see the appliances as gadgets with buttons to be pushed. It was a small gesture on my part but had a huge impact on her,” he said. “The concept of sharing load is not one off, you should look forward to it on a daily basis. If she is going early, then I step in and help her and vice versa, it is how you visualise each other’s days.”
“It is not about taking away her job list,” agreed Mini, “but owning the list too.”
Angad, who is cricketer Bishen Singh Bedi’s son, felt he takes after his father who is a great cook and helps his mother at home. “They made no difference in the way I and my sister were brought up. In fact I had to travel by bus to the training ground about two hour’s journey away since my father said I can only get a car the day I can afford a car and get a driving licence.”
6. Allow her to dream a dream
Citing another figure out of the survey, Balaka pointed out how seven out of 10 women in India said that they would give up bigger responsibilities at work to share higher responsibilities at home. “It means that there are fewer women in the workforce than the population, but if 70 per cent of the 50 per cent workforce is gone, that is a huge unutilised talent potential from a corporate perspective. From a societal and individual perspective, it is a huge loss.”
“Sharing the load is not going to solve the problem magically, it’s a symbolic way to start recognising that it takes two, the family, to make these aspirations come to life.”
“It is more about sharing the dream than sharing the load. Husbands can do many things on a daily basis, big and little, like attending PTMs for instance. And companies like P&G can make workplaces more gender agnostic.”
7. A happy home means a happy you
Boys of today will be husbands of tomorrow, and to help them understand the value of their life partner is the responsibility of us parents, said Angad. “Today if you can help your spouse, shoulder the responsibility, in a good way, it results in much more laughter around the house. Why should responsibility be a word laden with a lot of burden, you can enjoy and make it fun, evolve with it, that is the way we try and do it at home.”
We have to normalise the sharing of chores, felt Neha. “For instance, I nurse our child, he burps her. It is really easy for us.”
Empathy for your partner is most important at home, for Angad. “If you have a happy home only then you can have a happy professional environment.”
The winds of change are already being felt. A survey in 2015 found that 79 per cent men thought household chores are a woman’s/ daughter’s job and ‘outside’ work is a man’s/ son’s job, in 2016 it was 63 while in 2018, it stood at 52 per cent.
Clearly, the road ahead is long but sure. How do you #ShareTheLoad? Write to us at [email protected]