Saturday, April 05, 2008

The rural women and management...


As I promised, this one is related to rural women and about the discussion I saw on the 33% quota for women at the Panchayati-raj level. I will also echo my views on women in management, touching upon the issue of the “glass-ceiling” in a different perspective.

In that Barkha Dutt hosted discussion, one of the ladies talked about how women get unfair advantage in terms of the timings at her work-place. She said that inspite of having night facilities for safety purposes, they still refuse to work late nights on one pretext or the other (fancy this statement coming from a woman herself!). Well, the reasons may be many, but her frustration clearly showed that she was pissed off that women always got the advantage in such situations. More on that later, though.

Now this very woman had the same notion as we have about the rural women-folk – they are merely puppets in the hands of their husbands and that the 33% reservation is not going to do any god for the women-folk there. She said that women should be more empowered. Renuka argued that this is merely the first step and asked her in what other ways can they empower women? She clearly said that this reservation gives opportunity for women to get a head start and make up for all the years of oppression they have faced. When asked by the other lady as to whether it was correct to club women into another “category” like the SC/ST/BC, Renuka had the same response again.

Both these women had their own valid points. The first woman was afraid that reservation would a) It would make women separate and remove the main point that feminists advocate and thrive on i.e the equality of the sexes
b) It would not be effective in the long run as it would not create talented women but merely “falsely” empowered women

Renuka was also valid because
a) She saw reservation as merely the means and not the end to the problem. She looked onto reservation as a platform of equality and justice
b) She sees this as the first step towards total quality and achievement of 50% working women in all walks of life

Both are opposite statements, yet they are true from the perspective of the point-makers. The first lady came up in an environment where she saw that women had it easy and giving more freedom to women only reduced their ability to work harder and grow further in the company. Reservation meant more freedom and less work by less-talented people. Renuka came up fighting for her place and her rights. She was not treated as an equal (as in the first case) but she did not see any leverage being meted out to women. For her, reservation was a way to get things straight. I hope the point is clear by now – It’s all about the perspective.

But who is right? I feel Renuka’s argument is more appropriate to the scenario we see here. Women in villages have long been oppressed and denied equal status in the rural areas. Reservations will atleast reduce this to a certain extent. I can’t say that it is the best solution, but it is a very feasible solution as of now. Coming to the misuse of it, well reservations have been misused, like any other law in India. That’s something we can’t prevent. Bur when you consider the last 50 years, the SC/ST quota has improved the lives of many. In a country like India where the caste system will still remain in the blood of many citizens, we need reservations to counter this effect till it vanishes completely. Same is the case with the 33% reservation – we need it to ensure some justice is indeed done.

Consider the classical management question related to gender - Are women more suitable for management than men? Why is it that companies prefer women over men?

Well, do they? We have seen that women usually get one of the best placements in any college (that’s a fact, please don’t deny it girls) in India atleast. But how many women do we actually see in the top-management of any company? The average may not even come close to 1. So the verdict can be that women don’t make better managers than men.

Well, clearly that’s not true. Women have not been in the field of management for a long time because women were stereotyped as not being manager-material. Companies realized over a period of time that women bring freshness to the organization in terms of the ideas presented. Since their thought process is different, they tend to see things from a different angle. This bode well for companies, especially those that targeted women. Women can certainly do a better job than men on that department.

Companies in the modern era feel the need for women because a healthy sex-ratio is needed at the top-brass for better management. There is no glass-ceiling as such and I feel that it is merely a myth. Suppose there are two equally talented people who deserve to be in the top-brass. One is a man and the other a woman. People would prefer women only if there are not adequate women already, else the man is referred. This does not mean that a glass-ceiling exists. Suppose there are no capable women in the company, why would it force itself and get a woman on top? That would only ruin the company in a way.

So the glass-ceiling is only a myth for me. Unless I personally witness any such thing that would refute this, I will not believe in the fact that glass-ceiling prevents women from becoming great managers!

Ciao till the next one.

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