The first time I started reading, talking & writing about ‘Gender Sensitization’ is when I was preparing training modules & conducting workshops for line managers to women who were either supposed to go on a maternity break or were back from one. I had a difficult time finding myself a job after the maternity sabbatical. A new mother is considered a liability rather than an asset even at this age in time by a lot of corporates. Sadly, Gender Sensitization is neither a part of our school curriculum nor our social upbringing.
I assumed that insensitivity towards the female sex is happening just at the workplace! Lucky me, who was living in a nuclear set up independently, didn’t realize that this was common for a lot of women at home as well!
“Don’t enter the kitchen when you are having your periods.”
“He is a man; he can travel for work & stay overnight in another city. It doesn’t suit a lady.”
“Why do you need to go to an office party? Come back home after work, your husband & kids need you here.”
“Don’t you think this attire is a little inappropriate for someone your age and marital status? Wear something more your age & ladylike.”
These are only but a few examples of what a lot of women I know around get to hear from their mother-in-law, sister-in-law, or other older women in their family. WOMEN – when have been at the daughter in-law’s place at some point in life. They chose to forget their struggles & turn a blind side towards the needs of someone their own gender, their own family.
In my personal experience, people are still better sensitized towards the needs of a female at the workplace. But our inherent nature & the patriarchal mindsets we all experience day in and out sometimes impact even the best of us.
Managers, at times, assume that a new mother would pass on an assignment that might call for late working hours or travel because her child is now her only priority.
A lot of women, no matter how incredible their performances may be, aren’t even considered for higher roles post their wedding or giving birth because it is automatically assumed that they will not be able to perform well or will not be able to balance their family life & work life well.
Is there no place for an ambitious, career-oriented woman here? This makes me think! What can we in our day to day lives do to sensitize ourselves enough towards the female sex at work as well as at home? To not make them feel excluded. To ensure that no biases govern our decisions. Well, here are some tips I can think of –
- COMMUNICATE – When at work, if someone in your team has recently started a family or had a child, don’t assume, even in their best interest, that their family now is their only priority. We don’t do that in case of new fathers, do we? Talk to them and check if they do want to take up that assignment or project or role or travel plan etc.
- EMPATHIZE – For a pregnant lady or a new mother, there is a lot that she is dealing with – physically, emotionally, and even financially. Comforting them with kind words or gestures will only make you a better team member. Empathize with their situation & see what help you can be to ensure that she succeeds in her career.
- TALK – As a parent, be responsible and take up gender sensitization as an important topic to ensure that at least the next generation is more compassionate & sensitive towards equality.
- LET HER DECIDE – This goes for women at your home as well as your workplace. Let them decide what’s best for them. They are smart & equipped enough. Do not try to put the burden of your decisions on them & prioritize things for them. They are natural multi-taskers & know how to be an excellent manager while being an amazing wife & mother at the same time.
- WALK IN HER SHOES – This goes especially for older women in the family. If they aren’t reading this, this goes for all the sons & daughters who owe it to their female family members to take a stand & talk to the ones being insensitive towards their needs – be it your mother, your sister, your ‘pados wali aunty’ or anyone else.
- GO BEYOND THE 4 WALLS – Do not limit the empowerment to just your house or workplace. Extend it to your house help, their children & people around. Associate with an NGO working towards gender equality, raise your voice and opinions on social media, talk to the extended family every chance you get.
Attaining gender equality and sensitivity is neither a one day task, nor should be limited to just one day. Because Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not!