Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day!

I had the privilege of organizing the Women's Day celebrations at my company this year and as part of the various sessions I helped facilitate during this event today, I wanted to share one that I really really liked. It is a talk held by Sheryl Sandberg who is the COO of Facebook. She talks about why there are very few women leaders in the world today and delivers 3 key messages that I am sure most of us women who are or have been in the corporate world can relate to. You can see her talk here. If clicking on my link does not work, you can point your browser to go to http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

By the way when I was approached to lead the Women's Day event at work this year, I wasn't sure I believed in the cause or the day in itself. Coz the fact that we have a special day for women itself highlights the fact that we consider ourselves second citizens in need for special attention. But then a colleague shared his perspective which started to make sense in my mind. He said that when we work with a team of mixed genders, we do not necessarily think differently when talking to a woman or a man. Neither do women in today's corporate world think I am a woman so this is how I work and this is how it is different from a man's way of working. Nope. The only reason we may encourage forming a diversity group for women is because women in general have a unique set of challenges (that may be due to several reasons or factors such as society, upbringing, family, etc.) which they need to overcome if they want to stay ahead in the corporate world. That is why such diversity groups or earmarked days are beneficial so that they can relate to each other and use it like a support group to help each other overcome these challenges.

Do check out Sheryl's video and let me know what you think!

14 comments:

Choxbox said...

Hi Divs.

Long time lurker. Always like to read about your lil one who sounds very cute.

Disagree with your colleague..he says women have a unique set of challenges. I;d agree if women were one category of ten types. But here women are one category of just TWO types - men and women. Then how can their challenges be called unique?! Also why would he consider society and family concerns of women alone?

I would agree with you more than with him. In college we used to have thsi award for Best Girl Student. There was no Best Boy Student award. We got together and petitioned to have it scrapped. Girls have unique issues they said, so they need to be appreciated if they do well. No thank you we said. Help us resolve thos eissues - we’d prefer that to being awarded for being best among issue-facing folks (=the other girls) alone. And guess what that year the all-rounder award among ALL students - boys and girls - went to a girl student.

Divs said...

Hi Choxbox...thanks for delurking. Glad this post made you do that :-) Did you check out the video? What did you think of that talk?

On the colleague's perspective, I don't think I did justice to his entire thought process by summarizing it here. He never said society and family concerns are women's to bear alone. But in the Indian middle-class society, women have to overcome lots of challenges to even come into the corporate life. And he really specified that this may not apply amongst our immediate surroundings but more so in villages or lower middle-class families. Things are not very different in that strata even today.

And I sooooo agree with you on scrapping the Best Girl award. What the heck does that mean? Are boys best by birth??? Jeez!

Would be interesting to hear your perspective on the video though. Do give it an ear.

memyhubbynbaby said...

What your colleague said was spot on. And its not only in India, its almost universal. Women do have separate issues, its harder for women to keep up on the job front especially after having kids.
The men can have their own 'Men's Day', who's stopping them ;)

Divs said...

LOL Priyanka - men can have their men day too...who's stopping them ;)

But on a serious note, I overheard two men talking the other day in an elevator where I work. One of them was telling the other how he cannot travel to a certain place (not sure where) due to family problems. And I thought we women are so full of ourselves at times na? Men make sacrifices for the sake of their families too. I know my hubby did not agree to travel for the longest time for me and our baby's sake. Its not just us alone who take a back seat all the time. So they do deserve to have a men's day too!

Choxbox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Divs said...

Oh really Choxbox? Does she? When? What part? I will have to go hear the video again. You may have hit on to something that you could bring to her attention!

Choxbox said...

(Eeks deleted my previous comment by mistake - can you restore it?)

It is all over and not just with Sandberg. The basic premise is that working outside home is equal to success. Is that not so?!

Divs said...

Absolutely not Choxbox!!! I would be the first to scream and take offense if that was the case. Coz we all have gone through different phases at different points in life and would chew off someone if they said success only meant working outside the home!

Even Sandberg's talk does not say that. Almost 4 mins into the video when she is talking about her 3 year old daughter hugging her and crying asking her not to leave, she says (and I quote): "This is hard...I feel guilty sometimes...I know no women whether they are at home or whether they are in the workforce that don't feel that sometimes. So I am not saying that staying in the workforce is the right thing for everyone. My talk today is about what the messages are if you do want to stay at the workforce."

So she is also being clear - her talk is not about how to succeed when you are at home. But it is about how to succeed when you are working in the corporate world. Nothing wrong with clarifying that in my opinion. She has never once said that if you are at home, it is easier or it does not mean success.

Little Dragon said...

Great video, Divs - thank you so much for sharing it. Norway is perhaps one of the better places in the world for women and men to achieve their potential both at work and at home; for instance, if the parents choose, the mother and father can split the maternal leave (which is 12 months paid leave). But still we have heated discussions about these issues as women tend to work more part-time than men, get less pay, stay at home when the kids are sick and to more of the housework. I will see if I can make a blog post about Norway and gender issues and I will send a link to you. Keep up the good work!

Divs said...

@Little Dragon: Glad you liked the video. And good to hear a perspective from a different country as well. I like your the maternity leave policy for sure but the rest sounds pretty familiar. Guess that aspect does not change much huh? :-)

Choxbox said...

Okay maybe I am coloured by the imbalance in the power equation I see all the time (volunteer with an NGO that works for girls and women). Apologise for all the non-stop arguing!

Divs said...

Please do not apologize Choxbox. It was not an argument at all...I always love hearing different perspectives and I thought we had a healthy discussion :-) So I am interested in your NGO...what is it called?

Choxbox said...

Where can I send you a mail?

Divs said...

Choxbox - I just sent you a mail...pls check your inbox :-)