What is it that motivates you to get up and do something?
How often do we get a chance to do something big but let the opportunity pass, as we are not crazy enough about them?
Do we thank the big influences in our lives – God, the Universe, our parents, our legacy, our jobs - and remain comforted that we don't have to face hardships or situations that others do?
How often do we remain silent as we hear someone say something sexist, misogynistic or patriarchal and let it slide?
Why? Because we are not crazy enough to defend what we believe in!
Having grown up in a privileged, liberal family with years of heritage where gender did not matter and every male and female in the family was given equal opportunity, the real world, when we stepped out as working professionals, seemed unreal and unnatural.
My aunts born in the early 1900's were educated and liberal; our dinner table and filter coffee conversations revolved around politics and the arts. My paternal aunts were looked up to by my uncles and not in one situation did I think this was exactly the opposite outside of our homes.
My maternal aunts were all post graduates holding posts of seniority in public services; they all chose to marry in their late thirties and chose their own partner.
In contrast to the ecosystem I grew up in, the real world was sexist, misogynistic and patriarchal.
It initially irked me; I tried my best to avoid people who were like this and I soon realized this is most of our population. We continue to live in a society where questioning gender roles is condemned, and where 80 percent of men continue to believe that changing diapers, bathing and feeding children is a mother’s responsibility. In a three-year ICRW research study in five countries, India scored least with only 16 percent of Indian men saying that they had a role in domestic matters such as laundering clothes, managing the kitchen or housekeeping. Most other parts of the world have house husbands for whom it’s a choice.
As I grew older and took on positions of influence, it bothered me that I did not fight enough for gender equality. It soon became evident that it would be a great disservice to my upbringing if I did not voice my dissent and in small but sure steps through my writing that would speak loudly and boldly about gender issues.
I wrote furiously about gender inequality at work, casual sexism, maternity, dehumanizing effects of discrimination based on gender and Mansplaining.
I'm personally aware that during my successful career, people attributed my success to me being a fairly attractive woman, to the inches of my clothes and heels and not to my intelligence and leadership. This is not uncommon.
Female successes somehow are not attributed to the talent, hard work and leadership of women. Female politicians, corporate leaders, movie stars and sports women all have been subjected to this verbal abuse that sometimes even turns physical.
Now, do we do enough as women to further our own agenda for equality? I don't believe we do because we continue to struggle with the same issues of glass ceilings, pay parity, dress code for women, short maternity leaves. This is clearly reflected in our dismal ratios in every field, be it corporate, public service or politics. According to a study conducted by Geena Davis Institute in India, 94.1% of our professors, 90.5% of high-level politicians, 60% of journalists and 85% of doctors being male – making it hard to steer far enough from the patriarchal society that we are in.
It bothers me that women post maternity have to struggle to get back into the talent funnel and it bothers me that there aren't enough public places for women to breastfeed – I am already imagining solutions to be able to influence and change these issues.
When we started working on WIP it had the singular focus of launching a network that was online, professional and easy to use for women in the corporate world with a focus on Pharma. Currently, The WILL Gender Quotient Index (GQI) for pharma companies, which measures the gender maturity of the sector remains at a low GQI < 0, which implies that the pharma sector is still at the nascent stages of building eco-systems for gender-inclusivity and women leadership. According to a WILL Forum India study, the average percentage of women in the workforce in most sectors is between 15 - 35%, the average percentage of women in the Pharma is between 10 - 15% only.
WIP: Women Inclusion Progress launched as an informal LinkedIn group, has the power to metamorphose into an engaging network that inspires, encourages and ignites passion amongst women to be brave about their career choices. It also is the one tool that allows women to network, collaborate, share and empower. It is a platform for women to contribute. It’s a result of a passion to be proud of every woman and her achievements.
In the meantime may I request each one of you to please go crazy about that one thing you want to change, shamelessly use the WIP platform to do so?
I am so inspired by Larry page who said "I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. In fact, there are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name."
May I know your name please?
(Kanchana TK is Director General, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI)).