Does The Working Indian Woman Have It Easy?

Author’s Note: An amateurish stint i.e my 9th grade project to address something relevant to current events. (No recent changes have been made whatsoever).

Since the beginning of time women were never equated to men and immediately undertook a subordinate position in society. Mrinal Pandey’s ‘Girls’, illustrates the frustration of a young Indian girl under the gender pressures of her family. She realises that her family perceives her as a ‘burden’ on their lives and that as a girl, she fails to bring honour and pride to her family as the men and boys do.  Although modern times have proved to be more forgiving toward certain unfairness in society, the discrimination against women still prevails. Recent events in our country itself support this claim such as the Delhi rape case which was a violent demonstration of man’s need to exercise power over woman. Moreover, the role of working women in society has more cons than pros which makes establishing their role not only in their work place but at home as well, a real challenge.

Manusmriti, the base of ancient Hindu law and conduct of society suggests women have an obligation to seduce and provide immoral temptation and desire to men. If such an accusation was true, then it would imply that by controlling the desires of men, women controlled their actions, which is contradictive. In fact, Manusmriti starts by describing the beauty of nature; plants, animals and the surroundings. However, it restricts men from witnessing a woman giving birth; a natural process. If men were to observe the pain of childbirth, they would be more sympathetic towards women or even amazed by their strength. Even fifty years ago; most women were hired only as typists, assistants, secretaries.  Over generations a mindset has been created that women are the weaker, inferior sex and thus incapable of being independent.

Today, the work place is problematic for Indian women; there is competition, various unfair prejudices and a constant worry of the children while the woman is away from home. Everyone can agree that a woman is the mother of her children and so holds a greater responsibility of them. Now for working women, they have a constant guilt of being away from the children; how they are doing in school with homework, tests, extracurricular activities and exams or worse; whether they feel lonely in the absence of their mother. Indeed, it is hard for them to balance their moral obligations as mothers and their careers and probably the ugly truth is that to excel in the latter the prior will be less acknowledged. The political term ‘glass ceiling’ describes an unseen yet inevitable barrier that prevents minorities such as women, despite their accomplishments and qualifications from reaching the top of the ladders of the corporate and industrial world.  The bitter sweet reality is that not only India, but the world recognises this inescapable career obstruction that working women are unfortunately subjected to. However, to remove such obstacles is easier said than done as they are based upon such gender mindsets that have been well embedded in our society for generations before and probably generations to come.

A recent study showed that the seriousness of their jobs compelled certain single women to remain single and some married women to not want children anymore. However, unlike the middle class woman who can hire help, the lower class working woman carries a heavier load. Ironically enough, most of these women are our own domestic help who have three to five children including grandchildren to look after. She has to also clean her home (after cleaning a stranger’s), take care of the family and also see to their meals. We live in a country where spousal rape is not illegal and domestic violence is a norm; where sex-selective abortion, female infanticide and child marriage are a practice in which women are demonstrated as mere pawns in a game of chess. Some of their husbands gamble or drink away their money and so the woman has to bring home double the income. It is a pity that even though she is the breadwinner of the family, the lower class woman can be physically abused if she works too late. With the addition of women inequality and one third of them being illiterate, it prevents women from striving to higher paying jobs or any jobs at all which hence lessens the female labour participation of the nation. This in turn could soon threaten the country’s progress.

Pregnant women are hardly hired which brings us to the primary factor of hiring women; physical attractiveness. Most of the time the workplace does have many women, but all who suffer the corporate hierarchy where they are deprived of senior management positions. A corporate behavioural study proved that men having housewives feel women in the workplace are less suited to leadership roles and are more unlikely to promote them. Unequal pay despite the Equal Remuneration Act (1976) and night shifts that open doors to sexual harassment, are more stereotypes and unfairness that women have to work around in male dominated companies and industries. Even though 11% of the 250 odd Indian companies have women as CEOs, the trials and tribulations that her sisters bear do not cease. Indeed, the Indian working woman does not have it easy.

© 2016 Pia Krishnankutty & springtidevoice. All Rights Reserved