Here’s why I am the Badass Woman@work

I opened the Sunday Times to devour its contents hungrily- one of the perks of the weekend is being able to read the newspaper leisurely as against a weekday when I am in a mad frenzy with the toddler tugging my dress and me trying to scan the front page, the business section and the global one in a speed reading session with one eye on the clock ticking by.

This Sunday though I was disappointed reading about the shocking and appalling percentage of women in India that is employed (27%) as against China which tops the list with (64%) and US (56%). We are marginally ahead of Pakistan and Arab countries – well that’s nothing to cheer about given the pathetic state of women in these countries. It left me with a morbid feeling, I wasn’t really expecting the stats to be so bad given the host of  measures MNC’s are taking to promote gender diversity.

I do not want to get into why’s of it but rather look at this meagre 27% of which I am a part and ask- do we have it easy? Right from fighting the misogynistic people around, to being mansplained and shouting our voice hoarse to make a point and being accused of being too emotional, its akin to walking on a tightrope. Thinking of the past 10 years I have spent in the corporate world, I sometimes feel we are partly responsible for it. By succumbing to whatever is meted out to us, not being vocal we are only encouraging the culture to remain as is. Thats when I made a conscious decision that I will do my bit, in changing the workplace culture. Not by shouting my voice coarse or getting into a feminist march but by saying “NO”, challenging the stereotypes in my own way without throwing a fit and bit by bit, day by day, from one woman to more- I firmly believe things will change.

Here’s how I do it!

  • I am not the official cake cutting person at birthdays/farewells Doesn’t it irk you that whenever there is a social gathering and after the person in who honour it is being held has cut the cake, the song has been sung, someone will randomly call a woman employee to cut pieces of the cake for everyone. I never liked doing that job even when I was young for fear of messing up the Cake. I really suck at such things. I would just duck behind someone or pretend to be busy on my phone. Later I started finding it odd that why are women only asked to do this job. Lately I have started suggesting people- let each one cut a piece for himself/herself and have it. I was glad to see people were fine with the idea. So women unless you really revel in cutting slices of cake for others, its time you just open your mouth (other than for eating cake)
  • There was a time when I was intimidated with a huge crowd in a meeting room- it had nothing to do with the gender of the people. The moment I had to speak, I had sweaty palms, my stomach churned round and round, I had this fear that I would fart out loud. I hastily spoke what I had to and prayed that there we no questions. As I grew in my career, the boardroom had fewer women and more men. I am in a situation now where we are just 2 women but talk, ask questions, challenge and can be heard as loud as the men. Women are often sidelined in meetings. Sheryl Sandberg had once said that women fear to take the head seat the the table- that fear needs to go. I have even gone to the extent of holding up my hand against a guy who was interrupting me and said very clearly and calmly “Let me finish”. Trust me, once we learn to speak for ourselves, and stop being intimidated, a major battle is won
  • A man/woman meets a working mom- the question asked in all probability would be “how are your kids? Hows their school going?”. Why not ask her “Hows the project you are working on? Do you need help”. How often is a dad asked “How are your kids? How as their exam? I am not saying its never asked to a dad but he would often be asked about work. Is it something to do with the way we are wired? We look at a working mom as a mother first, working professional later. I make sure I ask the same set of questions to working parents, sans gender.
  • I remember a few years back I was in my appraisal discussion and one of the corniest things that was listed out was how well I have been managing the cab bookings for any events, taking visitors out etc.. To be honest this was a job thrust upon me- being a non party person I never had an inkling about which pub served the best handcrafted beer so I was spared booking the place but there were a host of other things like arranging cabs, making sure people board them in time, coordinating, etc etc which I wasn’t spared. While the guys did this work too, most often you found it to be women. Some men even had the audacity to joke about it saying thats what women are good at- not technical but secreterial jobs. So when I joined a new place, I was quite clear about being completely clueless about picking a place. Luckily I found people to be more accommodating here, which worked well for me. I have also resolved that if such a situation arises in future I shall be open about my preferences and not shy away from saying a “NO”.
  • We own our career- its not built overnight but requires years of perseverance, dedication, a good network and being damn good at your job- this goes without saying. As a woman when it comes to a promotion especially as we move higher up the ladder- I find we are often unsure about ourselves. There is no such perfect checklist but given a high level list of 10 points- a woman who can give herself a perfect tick on 8 will hesitate to go and talk to her boss about her promo. She would rather wait till she can tick all the 10 and then decide to talk. That could mean a year lost while her subordinate or junior picks up that promotion. A guy on the other hand may tick 5 boxes but would he shy away from having the talk? So what if I have never done this role, there is no reason why I can’t do it now? This is reason many women lag behind in promotions. Even when it comes to new jobs, women are less confident of selling themselves for a role which is different from what they have been doing.

I was one among them- not anymore. This does not mean I have become overconfident or being a blogger and having a flair for writing , I would just use it to sell myself at my workplace. I make sure I do the best job and make doubly sure the people who need to know about it, are aware. I set tangible objectives, have discussions with my manager, ask open ended and specific questions, seek feedback, don’t shy away from talking about my next level.

Being a woman, a minority at the workplace is not easy by any means, especially as you move higher up the ladder. However I firmly believe, the way people treat you depends to a large extent on how you treat yourself. So , instead of complaint in the washroom , next time make sure you speak up in the boardroom- loud and clear.

 

I am taking my blog to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa. My Global rank as of Sep 17 is 935,198 and India rank is 48,300.

Linking up with #ChattyBlogs  September edition. Thanks Shanaya for this wonderful space to share my personal thoughts.

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Linking up with #MondayMusings at Everydaygyan

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(Image courtesy: goodhousekeeping.co.uk)

 

50 thoughts on “Here’s why I am the Badass Woman@work

  1. What a brilliant narrative. This story is almost about every working woman in India, my wife and sister and a lot of women cousins work and have excelled so much, there’s no word to describe it. So yes, change is happening but it’s not up to the pace we desire. It’s sad but then if we give it a benefit of doubt, let’s see how it pans out in a couple of years. Let’s break the glasses and doors together. Keep writing and proud of your journey. Keep it up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are some interesting points but i would like to know if these statistics includes the agriculture sector? Cause that is one major sector in our economy and where we have lot of women agricultural labour. If you like, i can find the figure for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My experience is more to do with corporate sector Adi but the article in today’s TOI spoke about rural and urban India- literate and illiterate. The reasons for diminishing women workforce in organized sector is due to Strenous work, lack of safety and facilities

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  3. Hi Akshata! Now, this is exactly why I look upto you! I am in awe and always inspired by your articles on work especially. It really boosts women who read your articles. Keep going! Love You for writing this one! Great pointers! Muah!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved reading this and is really close to my heart these days… Having worked in the corporate world for more than 10 years I totally can relate to all that you said and have experienced it all too …Post the kids I decided to take a sabbatical…. voluntarily coz I wanted to be around the kids.. and now when I want to get back, there is so much discrimination… Starting from the first round of discussion where your skillsets are talked about.. they reach a point and say I think your resume is not updated… so I mention about the sabbatical… and pat comes the reply – I’m not sure we are looking for someone like “THAT” … almost as if THAT is some contagious disease… And doesn’t matter that I worked till the day before I went to the hospital, what my performance was, the break was a voluntary one and I was not fired… But well that’s the kind of world we’re in

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    1. This is exactly what was quoted in the article in TOi. Mothers asked to justify maternity break. It’s the most appalling thing. As if a break for s couple of years takes away all the experience, skill set and everything else. I do hope you find your true calling. Do let me know if I can be of any help

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  5. In the boardroom, there’s no concept of minority. Businesses cannot think in terms of a resource being a man or woman or lesbian or gay or transgender or whatever. Badass or Goodass, if your performance as an ethical professional is great, you stay. Or better leave with dignity. 🙂

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    1. Well if that was the truth then the real world would have been a different place. One has to develop a bad ass attitude as s woman especially else one cannot really survive in the corporate world. The examples I have listed are not made up but real life ones. If it ain’t unprofessional, what exactly would you call it?

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      1. For a start, Sandberg promotes this badass women thingy in life and ‘Lean In’ cos she’s Facebook’s COO. असली जिंदगी मैं ऐसा कुछ नही होता। सबको अपने जॉब की पडी रेहती हैं। Let’s accept it!

        Secondly, I’m with you Aks. Treat women as equal and women shouldn’t score brownie points when peers are soft on them. During appraisal, अगर साल भर काम किया हैं, तो blow your trumpet! Promotions are never given, they’re notched… but with performances. If a peer deserves promotion, notching it from that individual is unethical.

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  6. I have always admired your drive even when we worked together. You are bang on, on how things work in the corporate. Some of these things does seem unfair when it happens to us but life isn’t fair anyways. We have to deal with them sometimes by being tough. I have a few takeaways here as well. Extremely well written Akshata. Way to go girl!

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  7. I don’t know how to cook. Well, enough to be able to survive but not how a woman is traditionally expected to know. And I’ve done Hotel Management! Absolutely loved reading this article. At so many places, I’ve felt awkward because I haven’t volunteered to help cut the cake. But there’s this one hilarious incident I recall. Have to share it here. We were a small team of 3. My boss asked my male colleague to serve us all ice cream. But when we tasted it, it seemed funny. As if the ice-cream had fermented or something. My boss went into this pantry to investigate and figured out the problem. My colleague had cut the ice while it was in the paper carton. And so all of our ice-cream servings had paper shreds in it. Turns out the male colleague had never served ice cream in his life! Misogynistic and privileged, yes, but makes me laugh out loud every time.
    I so agree with each point in you post. I once quit my job because I was passed over for a promotion which I deserved more than the person they hired from outside. Sorry, I am making this comment so long. But had to share these two things. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I couldn’t help nodding along as I read this post. I completely agree with your take on feminism. More often than not, we do not need the feminist marches (though there is a time & place for them too) in our daily life. It’s the subtle yet significant changes we enforce that will ensure that we change the attitude & actions of those around us.

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  9. I have always admired the honesty in your writing, Akshata and have no doubts that it is a hallmark of your professional life as well. I liked how well you articulated your views here. This was a very impressive read. I always prefer assertiveness over aggression myself.

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  10. Very genuine and honest narrative. This picture is very true in most of the corporate environment. Applause to you for raising your voice to say “No”… It’s very important to come out of the “Chalta Hai” attitude. Liked reading the post. Keep it up 🙂

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  11. This is like discussion WW4 – so many different troops and possibilities. I too have never cut the cake or even recognized there were more men in the meeting – I am a bit lazy and unperceptive and opinionated. And I often ask men how their family is – because it makes us all human. But others are far more offended I know I need to be more sensitive.
    My personal offence is when we women use our flirtation on men in the office. And I know its possible because I can also turn on that tap a little bit if I need it. Very embarrassing to admit. The youngsters in the mini skirts out-ball me completely, and I have not idea how to advice on the fine line between keeping your dignity and dressing as your own person at the office.

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    1. Hi thanks for writing in and sharing your views. So glad to hear that you are challenging stereotypes in your own way. When it comes to women who use their charm to turn men on, don’t know what can I say. It tarnishes reputation of other women as well.

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  12. I remember once being in a group discussion during my engineering placements and I was the only girl in a group of 11 other boys. I was so scared that I literally shout out my lungs to get myself heard. But now I know better. I do not get intimidated by such situations and rather make my point in a firm voice than shout or even wait politely for someone to ask me to speak. I like doing a lot of things already that may have been thrust upon me as a woman, but I make sure that no body takes me for granted. My ultimate goal is to conduct myself in such a manner that even my kids do not take me for granted.

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  13. You have written this but it seems like I have been there and faced or done it all.
    It’s not easy to survive, us being the minority and that’s why we need to be firm. There’s going to be roadblocks and we are going to be labelled bossy and what not but we should keep going and make whatever change we can, even if small.

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  14. Your insights and suggestions are so valuable for new professionals, Akshata! I guess this kind of self-confidence comes only when you value yourself, your dignity and your skills. Once the director of my school asked me to go to a senior official’s home with a Diwali gift. I refused politely. She assured me that she valued the dignity of her teachers and that there was nothing to be offended in just delivering a gift. I stuck to my point and told her it was not part of my job profile. She accepted it a bit grudgingly but never made any such request again. One must be assertive and learn to say ‘No’ when you are overstretched or are being compelled to do something against your principles. Fabulous post, Akshata!

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  15. Valid points Aks. I still remember the day i quit my IT career to start a small business of my own. Those last few months were filled with stress and gender discrimination. My project was going in red and sudden decision of my TL to take release from the project put me in-charge and i was targeted fort he bad performance of the project which i had no hand. Before i quit i made sure that my project is back on track usually termed as green from a hopeless situation and made sure that my voice was heard. I feel sad for my then colleagues who just started their careers. They literally bend they knee to every situation instead of talking their heart out. My manager always disliked me for being an outspoken person.
    Standing up for our-self is indeed very important. It gives a sense of liberation.

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  16. Loved this empowering post … You wrote it like a boss. I specially loved the point on people will treat like we treat ourselves. Also to stay in the game one needs to work hard and stay updated too… We cannot cry fowl unless we are just as competitive. I remember my early days when I would take in whatever was metted. Never raised a voice, didn’t ask questions. But guys never shy away from asking. I believe young girls need to be nurtured to ask more, to be confident and not get intimidated easily.

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  17. I love the way you penned down your thoughts on this one. and that cake slice example is so true… literally. I am sure your voice needs to go beyond blogging onto a larger public forum. Keep Smashing them out of the park!!!
    Regards
    Romil

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  18. Awesome post Akshata, crisp, clear & to the point. You covered the issue from many angles and having worked in corporate world for over 12 years, I can’t agree more. I once worked with a small company where men had their lunch before women (owing to the fact that the cafe was too small & could accommodate only 8-10 people. When I started going for lunch early when the table was filled with men, eerie silence would spread over table. Suddenly all their discussion would die down and they would gulp their food in haste. It was very awkward at start but I kept at it as having late lunch wasn’t working for me and the patriarchy irked me to the core. Slowly they got used to me and other women stopped giving me cold stares.

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    1. Awesome Gayatri so glad you stuck to your guns. I do hope there are more women who learn to stand up for themselves. So happy to hear about your example. I can almost picture them gulping their food

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