The number of Indian women in leadership roles is steadily increasing, but for now, they are still in a minority. The Lok Sabha this year saw the highest-ever number of women Members of Parliament, but they still account for only 78 seats, or 14% of the 545-member house. As far as the corporate sector is concerned, a Credit Suisse report recently said that 15.2% of board positions are held by women in India (against a global average of 20.6%). In addition, women accounted for 8.5% of senior management roles, 2% of CEOs and 1% of CFOs in the country. One of the main factors behind the under-representation of women in positions of power is that India, like the world, is still struggling to overcome traditional mindsets and entrenched notions about the distribution of work between men and women. Specifically, there are two major issues.
Leadership traits are rewarded in men, condemned in women
While men are rewarded for displaying leadership traits like power or ambition, women are condemned and criticised for the exact same things. Due to this, women give up control of their careers to their families, children or society. They end up curbing their career ambitions because those aren’t “practical”, and thus end up choosing “safer” or more convenient options.
One major cause for this is the difference in how boys and girls are raised. Boys are told to be aggressive and dream big, whereas women are told to be kind, smile a lot, and ‘dream realistically’. This also brings me to my next point.
Society hasn’t empowered men to find joy in sharing responsibilities
Women today still tackle the lion’s share of house and child-care work. That’s because we haven’t empowered men to find joy and benefit from these responsibilities. Take parental leave for example. Even though many workplaces have benefits for new parents to take time off, men rarely avail themselves of those holidays. Until this mental shift happens, women can’t “have it all”.
So what is my advice to women? It is: Don’t hand over your right to choose
Don’t base your choices on home and kids. Consider other things, like your strengths, weaknesses and skills as you decide where you want to get in your career and how you will get there. I truly believe that whether men or women, all of us are born to be successful. I also want to ask men: is dreaming of a goal and striving to achieve it only a man’s right? Is it fair to ask women to kill their dreams and only focus on the home when they have career ambitions? Men, empower yourselves to take up equal responsibility—and women will automatically be empowered.
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