Indian economy has changed tremendously in last 15-20 years. Liberalisation of economy and globalisation has created manifold growth opportunities for women, whether qualified, semi-qualified and even uneducated. The outlook of society towards women is gradually changing. Today a woman represents a symbol of new aspiration. An old saying goes – “Educate a man, educate a person. Educate a woman, you educate whole family”. Gender equality has been a tough nut to crack till today in the 21st Century. The issue of Women Empowerment has been one of the core agendas of various organisations. Committees have been formed for women empowerment, by-laws have been passed for promoting women at leadership positions across organisations, incentives of flex-working timings are being slowly and gradually provided by organisations to encourage women to pursue careers after maternity breaks.

Inspite of the initiatives undertaken for women empowerment, a gap still persists. Today, on Women’s day I would like to wish all girls, mothers, daughters and sisters a very Happy Women’s day. Amongst all the hurdles for women such as perceptions of society, gender bias, challenges at home front etc., which are usually blamed as obstacles for our professional as well as personal growth as a woman, I would like to share a different outlook on the same issue. In this article, I will not be discussing on the problems faced by women commonly known to all, rather I would like to throw light on how we ladies tend to restrict our own growth through self-created paradigms, thereby failing to identify the opportunities around us.

To begin with, let’s discuss how a career of an Indian girl normally takes shape. A girl studies ambitiously with good grades gets qualified and in most cases picks up a suitable job and starts working wherein, a job position may demand long working hours. However, the halt comes when she gets married on attaining a so called ‘marriageable age’, gets married and enters motherhood. This stage is typically when she has to either take a pause in her career or give up altogether in a typical Indian scenario. However, in most cases, a qualified woman who has pursued a successful career initially before her marriage decides to restart her career once again after she is settled at personal front. She realises the gap as compared to her male counterparts due her absence in the work field. And this is when the struggle begins…the initial low confidence, striving to prove herself against her male counterparts to fill in the gaps, and the urge to re-establish her identity... at the same time managing the family.

Irrespective of the external factors that create hurdles for a woman, moreover there are factors which are self-developed by most women due to her own paradigm that obstruct her growth. I would like to discuss some instances where women don’t step forward at the professional front when there are opportunities.

As a Chartered Accountant, most of the professional events that I have attended such as Study Circles, Institute’s seminars, Conferences, exhibitions or networking events, I noticed that female participation is hardly 20% inspite of the fact that the passing percentage of girls is generally higher than boys. Though the gender participation ratio is irrelevant, what is relevant is the fact that in most cases, women prefer to not participate actively at such events as against male counterparts. The prefer sitting in corners of the room, prefer being in groups of other women known to them thereby being in their own comfort zone. Another observation is the fact that they hesitate to talk openly and network even with other females present in the room. At the buffet, females generally tend to take their food fast and settle in chairs off to the sides of the room. So ladies, I am sure everyone is aware how important it is to network professionally, interact and make your presence felt in order to give a boost to your career prospects. So ask yourself this question - who is to blame for holding yourself back, for not being considered equal at work front when you are publicly welcomed at professional events where you have a chance to equally participate and you don’t participate actively. Are your male counterparts to be blamed?

Another observation is about asking for help and mentors. Normally its easier for men to find a mentor, women need to take an extra step to find mentors. This is where women need to be assertive regarding asking for help to seniors in profession and mentors. It’s all about breaking the barriers within, take the extra step. All it takes is developing the confidence to march your way, polishing your technical skills as much as you can which will ease you to sit across the table for discussions with your make counterparts.    

Many a times we women tend to create a mental barrier towards our male colleagues, mostly as male chauvinism. Once you are clear with your objectives, and convey how you wish to work forward, you can indeed develop a good working structure with your male colleagues. It’s all about taking the initiative.

You have to accept the fact that you can’t do it all!! Aim for the sky, but understand your limits and commitments. This will help you balance your life well. Learn to delegate your tasks inorder to be able to multi-task. You have to accept the fact that you cannot do everything at the same time. Try to make your partner a real partner by communicating and sharing responsibilities at home front.

Most of the times a common tendency of ladies is to accept things to easily rather than reasoning it out. For example, girls in their 20s easily accept that things change after marriage and that they will not be able to pursue a full-fledged career. This thought process makes them quit their careers easily. Instead, why not plan in advance as to how to have a fruitful long term career alongside family responsibilities, for example, planning in advance for flexi-work timings with employer, developing  career path/field such that it will enable to work conveniently. Advance planning is thus necessary. Do not quit easily.

Be firm to put your ideas across in an affirmative manner supported by facts and figures. Do not hold back. Speak affirmatively.

Also, the ICAI has taken various initiatives for women CAs such as setting up the Women Empowerment Committee, a portal for flexi work timings, conducting seminars and RRCs at regular intervals solely for Women CAs. Take advantage of such events for developing your networks. In my opinion these are the best platforms since the participants are only Women CAs, most of who are in similar situation as you are. It helps develop an amicable professional relationship and a rapport. Different study circles are now taking initiatives to set up a Women’s wing. For example, J B Nagar Study Circle at Mumbai has set up a Women’s Wing two years ago, conducting seminars on both technical and non-technical topics relevant to women development thereby enabling both professional and personal growth. The study circle’s project “Rahe Hum Savdhan”  wherein a team of Working Women -Chartered Accountants majority having small children, with a team of women counsellors who are experts aim to bring some difference in the lives of the under privileged and the society at large. The goal is to alert kids and their parents from abuse and trafficking. Workshops are held in some municipal and government aided schools to educate children on general safety rules as well as the basics of personal safety and to create awareness among young children. Thus, such platforms would indeed help for your overall development and make a little contribution to society.

A woman is worshipped in the form of Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Durga and Goddess Lakshmi. As per research, women can be good leaders since they have high emotional intelligence as compared to men thereby managing teams better. Thus, a great professional network can be formed amongst women to bring about a change not only professionally but also to the society. It is just a matter of confidence and self-belief that we can manage to achieve our personal and professional goals.

Today is the luckiest time for a woman. It’s only a woman who can understand a woman. Thus let’s make this Women’s day indeed a Women’s day by making it happen, by joining hands, by mentoring other young girls around you to achieve, by extending a helping hand to other women in need, break your internal barriers and motivating yourself to go beyond boundaries no matter what and above all taking care of yourself by not being bogged down!!

A successful woman is not the one who has a successful career. A successful woman is the one who balances the family and pursues her personal goals successfully.

Celebrate the spirit of womanhood on this woman’s day by liberating yourself with confidence and self-belief. Happy Women's day to all!

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Hetvi Sheth
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