Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Glass Ceiling

We had this discussion at work the other day: In this day & age, do women still have a disadvantage in their workplace, on account of their gender?

Personally, I have never in my career of 5 years felt discriminated against by my bosses or my colleagues; because I'm a woman.

Yet, there are more subtle disadvantages that I think a woman faces in the course of her career; the biggest of them being the social expectations of getting married & having babies. I know many good female students from my b-school who opted out of careers in order to raise families. The ones who are still in careers & are married, clearly have a preference for 'less stressful' jobs so that they could be home in time to enjoy a quality married life. It certainly is a matter of personal choice & priorities; but is it not also a matter of social conditioning which forces women to see 'home-making' as their role?

The thing about the glass ceilings is that, its easy to miss it even if you're directly under it.

24 comments:

suramya said...

Its all about social expectations and mutterings which tell you to concentrate more on settling down with a 'nice guy' then giving an impetus to your career, thats always secondary, I seem to be on the receiving end of such comments a lot nowadays :(:(

clickable said...

I would have to say yes. The social conditioning starts early...even as early as childhood where parents give dolls to girls, and macho cars to boys. However, I do feel that the "motherhood" instincts are naturally present in women; so women have to make difficult "choices", whereas it's never even a question posed to men if they are going to make any choices when they make babies. Good, thoughtful post there!

Moi said...

Even if there were no such thing as "social conditioning" I think women (with exceptions, of course) will still willingly prioritize family over career as Clickable says "motherhood" instincts come naturally to women...My ex-boss, a 50 year old American let go of motherhood and adopted kittens instead....she made sure she took leave when either of her cats were ill or they needed her attention.....guess, home/family comes first invariably for a woman...

666 said...

a male perspective... hmmmmm good to listen to what women think

Jas Bhambra said...

I think besides the social expectations, a woman's brain is primed for motherhood, family and altruism.

I think its changing though, or atleast in the west. I know of a woman who works in another lab and she and her husband want no kids. As well I remember her asking my other friends (who recently had a baby girl) whether they really wanted kids...

diyadear said...

treu radha,
but gess women have a more important role in the future nation building n cultural bonding which forces her to concentrate on home n family more.. i think women shud be proud of this responsiblity n think it highly honorable than any other lucrative career..

Radha said...

Suramya,
Haha, I've been there!! :)

Clickable,
Exactly my point!

Moi, Jas,
I agree that maternal instincts come naturally to us. But isnt it unfair that we have to make a choice between career & family? How often do we hear a man say that he opted not to have a family so that he could focus on his career?

666,
Well the male perspective is welcome :)
Do you think we have a level playing field?

Diya,
I agree that the role of women in a family is unique & a treasure that only we know it is! This is not a post about 'right' or 'wrong' but rather about having a choice.

Moi said...

I'm not sure how many women will be fine being the bread earner in the family, with men staying back at home to take care of the family....i know when my Father-in-law decided to take voluntary retirement at 50 and not do anything at all but chill at home, and help her with her chores, my MIL, brat that she is, was less than happy about him staying at home the whole day and she being called a retiree's wife at a rather young age of 44 ..hehe

Ads said...

R, the glass ceiling IS there, more than at the workplace, in our minds!
The question is, whether work's important enough to break thru this barrier or not. And most women do not think it is! And then there are other who endure mutterings!!(ditto suramya!)
As long as both are happy, I mean really content with the choices made, both's brilliant!!
I am more worried about a slew of women out there, most of my friends who are so miserable having chosen one over the other...and it could be either one. I hope I save myself from that trap...

Radha said...

Moi,
Thats so sweet! :))

Ads,
I agree that the ceiling is up there put by women themselves, maybe its our indifference or our social conditioning that we are not bothered by it very often. As you rightly said, in the end what matters is that we're happy with where we are in life!

Optimistic Guard said...

Radha this is a good subject, social expectations and conditioning is the main reason most people in our society do what they do, this not only effects women in our culture but also men in a lot of way, family, career choices and things like these are effected immensly by what "others" expect. Questions like what will people say? hold more importance in our culture and society than our own happiness and joy, thats the sad part.

Radha said...

OG,
Well, its not really 'What will people say?'; but more a case of 'I'm a women, I should want this'. But I agree with you that social norms make a lot of our decisions for us!

Little Miss Muffet said...

well, i have felt a difference sometimes when i used to work.."she won't be able to do it, but he can" types...yes, social conditioning has a lot to do with it...as women, we are expected to take care of the family..no one thinks it's a big deal if we have to give up our careers or dreams..but if a man were to ever do it, i'm sure he would be called"chicken" and made fun of...

Lotus Reads said...

Yeah, I am one of those women that gave up a really lucrative career to stay home and raise my kids. No one asked me to, but the minute I held that first tiny bundle of joy in my arms I just knew I had to...that was a long time ago and I have since gone back to work, but if I had to do it all over again tomorrow, I would in a heartbeat! I suppose those maternal genes and some social conditioning had a lot to do with it!

Radha said...

Ms. Muffet,
Yes, you're right, we're kind of lucky that there is no stigma attached to us choosing to stay home! :)

Lotus,
I'm sure its every bith worth it !! :)

Megster said...

A little bit of both I think..we do after all learn from our parents and if I ever had a child, I'd love to be like my mom:)

Anitya said...

Well, I can't imagine it; I got sad again watching about one more 'honor killing' in today's CNN and that happened in London.

Moi said...

looks like the entire own woman force turned up to comment here :DDDD
some issues ring too close home , i guess!!!

Kanishka Agiwal said...

Do you have a level playing field? I would say yes. Depends on the part of the world you are in. I have seen plenty of women occupy senior positions here in the US but back home I am not too sure. In Dubai I am definitely not sure. That is a male dominated society all over.

Radha said...

Meghna,
Thats true! I wanted to be like my dad as a kid :)

Anitya,
That was awful right? Its bizzare how such things happen even in modern western cities!

Moi,
:))

Kanishka,
Well, I agree & I disagree. I agree that the discrimintaion is much less in the west. But its untrue that it does not exist. And I dont mean overt discrimination like 'I wont promote you because you're a woman'. I mean subtle discrimination.

kaya said...

The first misconception I think is that WOMEN are biologically programmed to go in for that MOMMY thing. Western movies with thirty something women sprouting statements like MY BIOLOGICAL TIMECLOCK and crap like that.
It seems ironical that a woman will make every effort to break from the mould of traditionality, do her emancipation thing, and then make a statement like that.
In our part of the world where more and more women are now completing their education and choosing careers other than the non threatening (to men)SCHOOL TEACHER/DOCTOR options.
I worked for roughly 15 years after which we decided that since my husband could support us without my salary, I should stay home. Growing up in a single parent family (my dad died when I was 4)with a mother who was not home in the conventional sense, I can say that if a woman needs to have kids then she needs to be home or in a job which gives her own timings.Like her own business, unlike a 9-5 job working most often for assholes, who when you need to take a few hours off because maybe your kid is unwell (esp of desi bosses) THEY act as if you are faking it, and want to go shopping or to the movies. Its very nice to earn your own money, and to be able to afford a housemaid, but a time comes, when much like a baby that is not breastfed, the bond between mother and child suffers.
How often do we not sit the kid in front of computer/TV because they are driving us NUTS?
Life was easier when I worked and paid someone to burden my guilt.That way as a working MOM I could justify my crap day @ work, and not wanting to deal with sticky hands and screaming kids,and thus buy my way out with some toys etc.
Now, I deal with it, and have learned there is no cop out on MOMMY @ home.
Its twice the hard work. But having said that, I am AWARE of who my kids are talking to, what they are doing, and am available for them when they need me.

*WHEW*!!!!!(sorry yaar!)

Radha said...

Kaya,
Wow, this has been the longest & most passionate comment on this blog. Ever. :))

Well, women are human beings and they have their own dreams & ambitions...Some want to become doctors, some want to become CEOs, some want to become moms, some want to become CEOs and moms at the same time.

No one dream is right or wrong. Its totally a matter of personal choice.

My point really was that the choice of living their dream is not often available to all women. Do you agree?

kaya said...

I agree,but tumnay kabhi socha hai that it even works that way for Men.We never think of them but as the main breadearner.Society puts so much pressure on them too.
Kitnay khwab rehay jaatay hai unkay bhi. Chakki mai pis pis kar.
Yes, we do not very often get to live our dreams, parents, lovers, husbands. But how many of us do?
Most of us male/female stumble through life and try to make the best of what we have.Sometimes let down by resources, some by incapabilities and some by incapacity.
Perhaps it seems most prominent for women because she has to juggle two careers,because for so many years her main role has been home maker. And today despite her being so emancipated, she still cant fully shed that load. because biologically she is defeated.

Radha said...

Absolutely true...I know quite a few men who would've loved to be house-husbands if it wasnt such a taboo :))
They have a glass ceiling at home!!