'With a tiny bag and small legs, crying like a chick who broke its eggs,
I walked to school like a sluggish turtle, thinking that was life’s only hurdle
But as I grew, I came to know; Life’s got a lot more to show,
Filled with challenges every day, a plethora of opportunities on my way,
Each day I open the door of my life to see, a new challenge moulding me to be a better Himani.'
That was a poetic introduction from a desperate poet in my heart who woke up with the “so-called” excitement of writing down my experience as a woman in this complex society.
Women are the very reason for humanity to exist! And yet another baby girl, born in Jabalpur, brought up in various places, grew up to write this article. I am the second daughter to my parents, and so my birth didn’t create much excitement for my grandparents. I was almost brought up like a son, learning all the activities which usually boys do during their school days.
Be it playing musical instruments, learning taekwondo or fighting and being the daredevil of the family, I equally cooperated in giving a “son-like” feel to my parents, but only till my teenage.
Differences start becoming evident as girls grow in age, then step out of their homes for education, job or marriage. And I was no different in experiencing and accepting facts. Is it the conditioning of a conservative society like ours? Or was it a self-created notion by us? Or something went wrong with people, and they started behaving weirdly when I spoke of going out alone after sunset? All through my school days, we learn about equality in terms of gender, caste, race, religion in the long redundant paragraphs of our ugliest Social Studies textbooks. It was only till the time I was paying for my education!
When the time came for me to get paid, I am told of my gender and implicit constraints associated with it.
Having worked in the construction industry and having an engineering background, just like other engineers around me, I craved for a technical profile and getting my hands dirty on heavy Caterpillar machines on the site. But the only difference between other engineers and me was my gender. On the one hand, were they, least interested, yet called by the site supervisors to learn the activities and take responsibilities in future. And on the other, it was me, vice-versa (because writing details still boils me up). Reason being the so-called “physical strength” of the male majority in the company which hardly had a role to play. Witnessing the unfair attitude of the site managers for long, lead to a catharsis in the form of a formal “speech” by me on women’s day when they were celebrating so-called “feminine skills” of women, like multitasking.
When the VPs of all the divisions finished with their so-called “one-day glorification” of female staff’s work, I began saying -
“I am overwhelmed to hear the respected VPs celebrating the day, praising the women around but what we witness regularly is a bit different which hampers our growth to a large extent. The usual mindset here is that women are physically weaker and hence are only fit for software-oriented jobs. Women don’t have logical skills and so, are fit to do clerical jobs. I was even told by one of the training officers right at the beginning of my job that we don’t promote women as much as men here because women have a lot of after-marriage responsibilities…”
And it went on for a few more minutes.
Although the HR was taken aback, almost all the ladies around me supported on what I said and agreed that they faced similar situations in their respective departments. It made an impact on my performance appraisal, and rapport with the department heads as the news spread that “a GET girl (Graduate Engineer Trainee as we were designated) unmasked the narrow mindedness of “male majority” in the office in front of an HR. I had the satisfaction of seeing changes happening after I raised my voice and that kept me motivated at the workplace. No lady was a “yes-woman” any longer. At least one strong message I could send out successfully was:
Make a choice, to raise your voice and not get suppressed by the noise.
About the Author
This article is written by Himani Keswani, a PGP 1 candidate at IIM Nagpur. She completed her engineering from Amrita University, Coimbatore. Apart from IIM Nagpur, she also had B-School admission offers from IIM Vizag, IMT Ghaziabad, IMI Delhi, DOMS IIT Kanpur and Great Lakes Chennai. She is also a member of the Placement Committee at IIM Nagpur.