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‘Women & Work,’ A Different Kind of Discussion

Details:

What: Women & Work, a discussion

When: 11am – 1pm, Saturday, 30 April

Where: The Red Room at Great Eastern Mills, Byculla, Mumbai

How to RSVP: Email contact@theswaddle.com


In conversation with:

Genesia Alves – Writer, tweeter, mother of three

Dr. Ritu Anand – Head of HR for TCS

Nandini Madan – Part-time COO of Dalberg Asia, mother, and avid proponent of workplace flexibility

Harini Sivasankaran – Millennial, corporate executive, toddler mum, leaning in and hanging on

Natasha Shevde – Mother of two, Disney executive, strong believer in the benefits of the daycare system

Anish Thakkar – CEO of Greenlight Planet, new father

Tina Trikha – Former corporate superstar, mother of three, occasional stay-at-home mom, and published author

Moderated by:

Gayatri Shah – Journalist, social observer, mother of two


Welcome to the anti-panel:

There will be no dais, no spotlight; no glorification of women who have never stopped working, no worship of women who have always stayed at home. Because the truth is, most of us fall somewhere in the middle. And all of us are in it together.

Between 2004 and 2011, despite the Indian economy growing by 7%, India saw women’s participation in the workforce fall from 41% to 36%. Statistics differ from other sources (the World Bank has a decrease from 36% to 26% in the same span) but the trend is the same. Women either aren’t being hired at the same rate as men, or are leaving the workforce in droves. Data suggests the latter. In the jump between junior and middle management, the percentage of women employees is halved. A further 90% of the women remaining never make it to senior level positions.

Something is drawing educated, professional Indian women out of the workforce in large numbers — what?

Gender inequality and pressure to juggle home and work are problems for women globally. But there is a unique aspect to the Indian context. We have one of the biggest disparities in unpaid work in the world: Indian women do on average six hours of chores and child care a day, while Indian men only do one. This inequity between the genders at home makes it difficult for women (especially mothers) to work outside the home; the result is that Indian women are the most stressed women in the world.

Who should be looking to solve this problem? Is it corporations, which appoint only enough (unqualified) women to their boards to satisfy the law, or which fire women for getting pregnant? Recent corporate efforts by some to increase maternity leave, provide ‘flexi-timing,’ and establish initiatives like ‘Bring Your Mother-in-Law To Work Day’ are well-intentioned, but they can only accomplish so much, especially when help from partners is so limited (paternity leave is, at best, two weeks) and social pressures on mothers are so strong.

So, maybe it’s the government, which sets well-intentioned policies like the boardroom quota, but still lacks the policy framework that might truly support women in the workforce, like laws preventing employers from asking women about marriage and pregnancy plans? Or how about a government-subsidized creche system?

Or maybe it’s our families, who may have traditional demands and expectations of us, even as they want and encourage us to be financially independent and free of stereotypical gender roles? (But do they, really, when that means the kids will be minded by hired help or left in daycare all day?)

Or maybe it’s our own motivations? When we’re exhausted from leaning in against all of the above, when all of the tips and tricks ring hollow, are we simply choosing to be in a place (home) and with people (kids) where we can have the most impact? And if we make that choice, why is that socially less valuable than work outside the home?

It’s a complex cocktail of all of the above, and seven speakers will be discussing this issue with nuance and candor. You’ll hear from a wide variety of voices: men and women; people who have chosen to prioritize work over family, and vice versa; people with different backgrounds, motivations, priorities, who represent the panoply of pressures and perspectives that make this issue so complex.

They’ll also be discussing solutions — because otherwise, what is the point? And you’ll get your say, too. After the speakers, audience members will be invited to join small discussion groups to come up with recommendations for how we might ease these competing pressures.

Regardless of personal experience, most of us can agree that when women get equal opportunities and make unburdened choices around those opportunities, everyone benefits — we, our children and partners, our families and communities, and our country’s economy. So let’s discuss how to bring this about. Indian women are not damsels in distress; we just need to hear each other out and be proactive.

 

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