By Aashisha Chakraborty - a PM Yuva author and Write India winner
We all know that unpaid work takes up maximum time for a woman, be it in India or across the world. In India, women do about 9.8 times the amount of unpaid work than men. And willingly too. In many families, due to traditionally perceived gender roles and unequal distribution of labor, women tend to drop out of the workforce.
Many a time, women join green and struggle to get mentors. At the start of their careers, this is one of the most important phases of learning on the job. OJT or on-the-job training is a key part of an employee’s onboarding. When women don’t get proper training or appropriate mentoring, it might impact their careers adversely, making them leave abruptly or affecting their self-esteem negatively. Another problem is procuring sponsors; certain industries may not be so enthusiastic to sponsor projects spearheaded by women.
Not all industries have the mentoring or buddy problem. But sometimes, those women that do receive mentoring are treated like a pet at first, trained and cultivated energetically but soon when they seem to get competent, ambitious and confident in their roles, they start being perceived as threats with a volte face in the attitudes of the mentors.
“… had always lauded my work. But as I started getting noticed by the senior leadership— including his managers, he stopped inviting me to meetings and indicated his displeasure many a time when I spoke to leadership directly without asking him.”
How many times have you heard things like these?
This is how support systems crumble with mentors turning indifferent, condescending, or even hostile towards their mentees. The mentors or sponsors start feeling undermined or bypassed as the women professionals start proving their credentials as they grow.
Sadly, one reason for women not being able to have lasting careers is that working women are not supporting each other enough. The few women at the top sometimes tend to get possessive of the coveted roles that they are in. They will be generous and appreciative at the outset, sharing positive feedback and even giving good advice but when the time comes to suggest names for key assignments or advanced roles, they would go for ‘safe’ male bets, ending up making the professional journey of a starter woman as hard as it had been for the mentoring woman.
When we come to prove ourselves, the game gets nastier. Many women become victims of the impostor syndrome where they keep second-guessing themselves, wondering if they really deserve the kind of accomplishments accorded to them or if they are defrauding themselves. This can be quite dangerous to someone who has been baptized into the ideas of ‘incompetent womenfolk’ and that can reflect in their conduct, attitude and lifestyle.
It is difficult to navigate our workspaces with the implicit systemic prejudices and unconscious biases against the female sex that still exist. It can be quite a challenge to deal with microaggressions on a daily basis. If you face exclusion and gaslighting so often, you will not want to continue working in such a toxic workplace. A safe place to work is the most important prerequisite for a working woman to find her rungs on the career ladder. Only when these blindspots are closed can women think of establishing a lasting and rewarding career.
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