“Be the change you want to see”- MK Gandhi
My mom has always been a homemaker and I love her for raising and supporting me and my siblings. But sometimes I question the purpose of her two decades of education. I hail from India where it is not uncommon for women be homemakers rather than working professionals. In fact, in India more than 90% of educated women born before 1970 ended up as homemakers due to lack of opportunity. According to a report published by Huffington Post in 2016, for every 54.6 employed men, there were only 14.7 working women. And 70% of working women give up their careers or turn to part-time work once they become a mother.
I have always believed while statistics and data may help make good presentations, they do not change human behavior. It is realization, which comes from empathy, that changes human behavior. But realization not followed by action is a waste of emotions. You only have the right to change yourself. And if you change for good, it might inspire the people.
Once I understood the need for gender equality—especially in the workplace—I started taking and supporting action. This is where the revolution must grow:
- Individual. I have worked really hard to eliminated all the stereotypes that unknowingly creep in my mind. I feel honored that two out of my three professional stakeholders are women and I learn a lot by observing their work ethics and leadership style. What are the stereotypes you harbor? They are not very obvious but we all have them.
- Family. In any family, the freedom of every women is determined by her education and financial independence. I proactively spent time with my mother to help her invest money in mutual funds for her own retirement and independence. The women in your family are just a decision away from a life of independence, but they need a nudge to prioritize their independence. How can you help your family?
- Private Sector. Jobs and businesses are the only two ways a women can be financially independent. The best employers are well aware of the need for professional equality, pay parity, and equal opportunity but there is still a long distance to be covered. We need better paid family leave policies, job mobility, and flexibility. When women have to fight for basic rights, then they compromise on lot of things which need to be eliminated to attain equality. Both male and female business must introduce gender-neutral professional development plans. Also, inviting accomplished external women leaders to interact with the female workforce within their office is a great initiative that changes the possibility points for women.
- Government and Policy. Government holds the power to shape the policy decisions within the country. Even the private sector can be influenced through female-friendly policies favored by political leaders. Make school and college education free for both boys and girls. The quality of public schooling in India really needs to be improved. The government post designing the policies should also try to update them on a regular basis so they are relevant to the changing needs of the society.
- Society. I try to pledge a certain section of my investment income to NGOs helping underprivileged women. Empower the weaker parts of society, especially uneducated women. Teach them enough language, mathematics, and employment skills for them to berelevant in the constantly changing business environment. Every penny and minute spent on a good cause matters.
Change always starts with one person; others merely join the cause because they believe in it too. Start by changing what you can change. Start by doing what you can do to help the women you know realize their true potential. Will you think beyond yourself? Will you read and forget this blog? Or will you act now to change.
Most of us are waiting for the world to change without realizing that the world is waiting for us.