When Supriya went on maternity leave, she had thought that she would be happy to go back to work on time. But as the joining date came closer she developed cold feet and resigned as she was sure that she would not do justice to her job. She was a conscientious and efficient worker. She however, later asked for a part time flexible arrangement which was granted to her due to her honest and sincere demands.
But that was not the case with Riya. She joined back on time after her maternity leave but could not do justice to her job like she earlier did. However she continued with her job with reduced efficiency and gave the company many headaches before they decided to reprimand her.
The trouble with Kanika was that she often complained that the people in her office did not take her seriously enough. They poked fun at her, laughed derisively even if she had something serious to discuss about the task at hand. And whenever promotions were on the cards, Kanika got ignored. One day, when she confronted the boss about her having been ignored, the boss, a middle-aged man of lots of merit, said, “But Kanika, I get an impression that you are not serious about your career. Then, why should I waste a good position for someone like you? Rather, I would choose someone who is serious about the career.”
Kanika boiled in anger and sought to know what kind of non-seriousness the boss saw in her. The boss said simply, “Look young lady, after you got married, your leave-taking has increased manifold. Previously, you were known to be a woman with promise. Today, you appear to be non-serious. And after you got married, you remained in the festive mood for well over one full year. You did not do your work well but appeared non-serious. We understand that a married girl has a lot of responsibilities at home. But that did not mean that the office would keep allowing her all liberties. We have to run the show, and not a fashion show here.” Kanika fumed and fretted, but could not say anything. In spite of the rude and aggressive attitude of the boss he had a point to make that could not be ignored. There were many grains of truth in what he stated. Whatever he said could not be brushed aside easily. That was the reason why Kanika chose to keep quiet.
This is only a representative story that gets repeated in most organisations. Kanikas’ and Riyas’ abound everywhere. They manage to garner good jobs and do well initially. But the moment they get married, their entire approach to work changes. Family gets a higher priority and work becomes secondary. To an extent, this is bound to happen at least initially. But, in countless cases, women lose their sense of seriousness about career once they get married. Almost every business at least in India has many such stories doing the rounds.
This is most unfortunate. The initial problems immediately after marriage are understandable. But then, professionally oriented women are expected to settle down quickly in the new life and get going with work as fast as possible. Somehow, after marriage, good numbers of Indian working women seem to attach a decreasing importance to work. And that is the reason why organisations do not take women seriously. I know several women who have lost their chances of promotion after they got married.
Unfortunately, Indian women in general are less geared to professional needs and more oriented towards family-life. This is not wrong per se. For, when you enter family life, you are expected to acquit yourself with aplomb and give the new role the fullest justice. But this also does not mean that professional or work life be allowed to be affected adversely.
There are many dimensions to this issue, and each of those requires an independent consideration. That can wait for a later date. But for the present, it is enough to stress that if women get serious about their work, others do take them seriously, some chauvinism apart. After all, all men are not bad; some of them do respect women and can be fair. But much of the respect for women stems from women themselves.