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No, it’s not the viral post by Anne-Marie Slaughter, though that is one article all must read. This post is just an outlet for those things I have been mulling over for a few months now.
Why women still can’t have it all? Do women really ever have it all?
It’s not just a question or a statement, it is rather a fact of life. A truth we deny, even ridicule but face in one form or the other. No matter what anyone says, women have to struggle, sacrifice and suffer in their quest to balance family, motherhood, their hobbies and work. There’s just no easy or politically correct way of saying it and perhaps that’s why women still can’t have it all. At least not easily.
One of the things Sheryl Sandberg insists upon in her book Lean In is that women should sit at the table. And I agree. But consider this.
A woman wants to sit at the table, has every intention and ambition too but then suddenly the man in charge of the table decides it is better to have a man at the table. Why? Because the general perception of people in power is women will eventually not give their careers priority. Those who are not yet married will one day get married and those married will eventually have children one day. Maternity leave and then motherhood are seen as liabilities. According to those bosses at the table, these life changes will somehow make women look away from their careers, make them less focused at work. So what happens is that even before the woman gets to grab a seat at the table, the chair, all the chairs, in fact, are offered to anyone but the ones will uterus and ovaries.
A woman’s family life is considered an impediment to her career goals or a step backwards. Strangely though none of these fears ever surround men or are raised for men, even remotely.
Consider this – a husband and a wife, both become parents when they have a child. The husband goes about his career as usual. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong in that. There is no change in how he is perceived at work either. Being a father is a feather in his cap, a good thing. But when the mother joins work eventually she is seen as someone who is not serious about her career. Questions are raised about her commitment to work. So, being a mother is seen as a step backwards at the workplace. And God-forbid she works in a place which micromanages the time she spends at work instead of the quality of her work, she might as well kiss any career progression there good-bye. And that’s why perhaps women still can’t have it all.
Even before the woman gets to grab a seat at the table, the chair, all the chairs, in fact, are offered to anyone but the ones will uterus and ovaries.
The workplace even today is filled with biases and women are forced to drop out of the race one by one. Or, they are forced to look for avenues which, let’s just say, don’t match with their degrees or what they had trained for. They are forced to go for lesser paying jobs or jobs with no career prospects. So, you see, women somehow are forced to give up even if they don’t want to.
A woman's family life is considered an impediment to her career goals or a step backwards. #WorkingWomen Click To Tweet
It might be said that even one woman fighting can bring about change but you see the change doesn’t come in her lifetime and she ends up being the one who couldn’t have it all.
It is not as if these women are not committed enough or that they don’t have ambitions. They want to and they all fight but the system, the apathy is so deeply ingrained that it becomes a choice between your sanity and losing it completely. So, before you judge someone for saying that women can’t have it all or that it is harder even if we want to, take a pause and think. Think hard.
I have met many women who had to give up on their initial career choices. Was it because they weren’t serious enough? Of course not. Even the insinuation is wrong, sacrilegious in fact . They fought, fought hard but eventually had to move to something else because the system was too rigid and unaccommodating. Of course, there are those who have been lucky to have found their second calling. But still, they did have to give up something, face roadblocks. They had to struggle.
There is always something that a woman gives up or a certain degree of it to achieve the quintessential everything. There is always a trade-off. So, even if she at some point says she has everything and she might, there will have been something she had given up. That’s a reality very few men have to face at least not as a norm.
Actually, the complexity of the issues, obstacles and stonewalling that women face or are subjected to are far too diverse to incorporate within a post. This is beyond just you and me. It encompasses and affects each one of us, even those women who think the others are crying foul.
The systemic barriers are way too much and sadly the fight seems to have stagnated. Dare I say, there are still miles to go before we sleep. There are still miles to go before women can have it all. But there is something that is heartening in all this, slowly, steadily and quietly women are trying to fight this. Maybe not in ours but in a generation much after ours, women will truly be able to have it all.
Your views, please.
PS: I’m a vigorous and vocal supporter of women. I want each and every woman to have it all and not give up anything. Nothing at all. Never.