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The more things change

by Gitanjali | 13 August 2013 | No Comments


When I was researching issues related to family life for my book, “The Great Indian Family” in the early 2000s, I did find that no matter how husbands and wives, mothers in law and daughters in law renegotiated roles and responsibilities within the home, the stress and conflict just would not go away. It was then that it dawned on me that perhaps the root of the stress did not lie within the home at all. The problem lay in the workplace which, I said worked on the “Buy one, get one free” syndrome. Workplace norms and practices had been formed in era of when the man was the breadwinner , and the woman the homemaker.

When an organization hired a man, it assumed that there would be a wife, to take care of the home, the children, elderly parents, indeed the man himself, all he would be required to do was to take care of his work. In a vastly changed environment where the man’s wife is likely to be a working woman, who has to deal with exactly the same set of expectations from her organization, and there is effectively no “free” person to take care of any one’s personal needs, the demands of the workplace have not reduced, they have actually intensified. Stress and conflict are naturally, are almost an integral part of our lives.

Organizations respond to this by introducing yoga, meditation, creating ‘’family days’’, etc. However, clearly, the real solution would be to make the big leap, and create a revolutionary new workplace where each individual, whether male or female, could take care of his or her personal and professional needs.

Organizations have now made the recruitment, retention, and upward progression of women a fairly important priority. And yet the more things change, the more they remain the same. We do not really need statistics, though these overwhelmingly support, what we already know, that to varying degree, women continue to shoulder most of the household responsibility, and that at the workplace, women’s progression has not only not improved in the recent past, it has actually slipped somewhat.

It’s not surprising, then, that young women today are faced with the same dilemmas that their mothers and grandmothers confronted when they were entering adulthood. Indeed, if truth be told, perhaps their reality is even more confusing. They have seen women choosing any number of paths to navigate life’s journey, and yet, somewhere along the line, they all faced the same roadblocks.


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