Why I Find March 8 Annoying!

Written By

Anita Belani

Why i find march 8th annoying-02 Loading

Editor’s Note: On the eve of yet another ‘Day’ for women, the author tells us why she doesn’t have much patience for March 8th, viz. International Women’s Day.

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While traveling to work this morning I was sifting through my usual early dose of news and came across perhaps the millionth article on gender equality in the workplace. Talk about another patronizing piece on how women are breaking the glass ceiling or what they / the organization should do to make women more suitable for leadership roles. Really? It’s the same old drivel and we are rehashing the issues without any solutions. Have you noticed how all this sermonizing gets compounded around March 8 when the world creates a big hype and hoopla around women and the various issues surrounding us? But clearly the hottest topic that’s debated to death is about gender equality in the workplace!

In my almost 29 year career I have often wondered about this subject – I have been asked several times about my experience — how I survived the testosterone filled corporate world and how I made it to the ‘top’. The short answer is, I don’t know. In fact I don’t even know if I have truly ‘survived’ or am I still trying to float at the brim of the pool and come up for air once in a while. I am super proud of my life and accomplishments, don’t get me wrong, but in my reflective moments I do feel like I could have done so much more or maybe had been more effective or prepared as I progressed in my career. Without the benefit of any role models or any mentoring whatsoever I think I learnt on the fly myself — there isn’t much choice when you are thrown in the deep end and you have to figure out how to swim the tide. In my day we didn’t have (m)any women in leadership positions and we have to rely on our own judgement and ability to navigate through situations. Will I trade this experience for anything else? Definitely not! The journey has been interesting, exhilarating, rewarding and challenges along the way have just added to the feeling of achievement. Not having role models or mentors made me chart my own path and take some bold decisions which were my own – this is a learning experience that is truly amazing. I am not diminishing the value that role models and mentors provide (I’m an executive coach myself) but the point I’m trying to make is that women often underplay their capabilities and sell themselves short when it comes to their careers.

Organizations across the world have a myopic view of how they should tackle the issue of gender balance and progression of women into leadership ranks. Why do I say that? Very often the world view just centers around benefits i.e. flexible work arrangements and schedules, maternity leave, etc. that are considered the cure all for the gender diversity question. While these are all great trends and highly beneficial for women (and men as well, if you ask me), these benefits will not get the desired outcome alone. The huge problem coming in the way of the advancement of women, one that is always hanging like a huge matzo ball, are the cultural factors. The real thorny issues are the attitude of organizations towards women and their acceptance in senior leadership roles. We have made strides (some remarkable) in this area, I know, but why is it so much more difficult and cumbersome for women to prove themselves and make it to the top? If it were simpler we would see many more women in leadership roles and frankly this topic would not be debated repeatedly decade after decade.

Organization cultures are like icebergs. What you see at the top is only very little but the huge area under water is where the culture is rooted. The biggest cultural conundrum to women’s progression is the acceptance that they receive from the organization and most notably from the male colleagues and leaders. Most women in mid-level roles aspire to move up the ladder but find it extremely hard to climb it and women that have reached the C suite have a similar problem in becoming a CEO. It’s not because they are not smart or don’t work hard, it’s because the culture of organizations prevents them from taking that leap of faith. In some cases that leap of faith is taken by an enlightened few but once a woman is ‘up’ there, there are several factors and perceptions that keep pulling her down.

So what should we do? Do we give up? Change our styles? I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer to these questions. We are in a fast paced evolutionary digital world where paradigms keep shifting and organizations are dealing with demanding millennial employees who don’t care for their jobs, demanding customers always looking for the next best thing at lightning speed, the VUCA world of craziness that cannot be predicted. What I’m trying to say is that for organizations to survive all this they cannot ignore 50% of the workforce and will have to change culturally to bring in better acceptance of women leadership in positions of power & in board rooms. The recent directive under Companies Act of at least one woman independent director on the board has opened up great opportunities for deserving women. While there are some negative views about such forced requirements I personally think that if we can get a boost from artificial methods then what’s the harm? In the ultimate analysis we are talking about acceptance of not just the gender but also the diversity of thought, behavior and attitudes.

Cultural change is the only way forward and this evolution process has to be driven from the top. Organizations are waking up to this fact. On our part, it’s up to us women to build our confidence, stay the course, keep building our capabilities and become indispensable in the equation.

Welcome to our world!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anita Belani is a seasoned professional with 29 years of rich post MBA experience as a business leader and a senior human capital professional. She is currently with BMR Advisors as a Partner. Anita is also an independent director on the board of Eternis Fine Chemicals, Wanbury Limited & Laxmi Organic Industries Ltd. Anita takes keen interest in mentoring startups and is a key member of the Lead Angels network which focuses on investing in early stage companies. She is also the Advisory Board member for Unitus Seed Fund and has been invited to be the jury member for the IIT Bombay Entrepreneurship Summit for the past 3 years. Anita received her M.B.A. from XLRI, Jamshedpur and B.A. in economics from Miranda House, University of Delhi and is a Certified Executive Coach.

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