Of Pants and Petticoats….

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I’ve always been an advocate for women’s rights – perhaps I feel strongly about rights that women have not had on par with our male counterparts or perhaps it is just because I am a woman and I feel passionate about all things woman! If I was born a son to The-Source-of All-Wisdom (my mother), perhaps I would be an advocate of men’s rights! I’ve always worked towards creating products or places for women to call their own; tried to find ways for women to express themselves but its always been in niche areas.

Today things have changed for me and I work in a large corporate and head the smallest division of it which caters to women. The organization and its management have committed to building a brand especially for women, which is wonderful and timely; especially for the services we provide. All these years, my division had been the smallest tadpole in a large pond but today with this infusion of intent and focus, it stands to grow into a brand and business of its own right. In the last 8 odd months in this role, as I’ve come head to head with my male counterparts, their responses to me and what I’m trying to build has been somewhat fascinating 🙂

Its funny how men in corporates don’t quite know what to make of women with decision making power. Add to the fact that I’m a woman on the table (and might I add here that while I have no desire to be on this table, my work excites and motivates me enough to participate in corporate protocols!), I am also a single mother and with that come the host of questions as to how I GOT on that table. Did I sleep with anyone? Am I related to anyone? Is it because I happen to be young or ok looking? Very rarely have I come across someone putting it down to my capabilities or fitment to the job.

As a woman I have to work double time to perform, to prove myself and all this comes with the constant juggling act of balancing my personal life along with my professional one. And yet, nobody wonders how the man in the office next to me got the job. Nobody is watching him, waiting for him to slip up and fail.

As I move ahead with this sculpting this new business model trying to give it shape and a new reality; working alongside men who have been in this business for centuries, I realize that our success can only go as far as what has been accepted and known so far. While our top management are huge advocates to what we are creating; I’ve also found many naysayers who’s reactions to our progress are not in line with what they would be to their counterparts from other divisions; who are men.

I realize we must be doing a bloody good job if when I find my voice to speak up, I’m shot down with reminders on how small a fish my space is as compared to the others (we are only ‘put in our place’ when we are noticed!). When I get amused looks to my growing revenues because there is contentment that they are miniscule in comparison to other divisions. As I stand tall and speak just what any other business head would say to defend his zone and I get push back against the possibility of a women’s brand reaching a certain point; breaking certain boundaries. Why not flip it and look at this brand as one which will break bounds, bring a positive brand run to the organisation as a whole; why not nurture us and be a part of our first flight and then celebrate with us as we soar through all the unique and wonderful things we may achieve? We are ‘allowed’ to exist – but only so much, only so far.

Is it that social and corporate systems in our country will enable the progress of women just upto a point and then resort to gender bashing tactics to ensure we stay in ‘our place’ (this being that of the inferior gender of course)? So I wonder, are today’s men THIS threatened by women gaining visibility, because they fear they will be relegated to wearing ‘petticoats’ while we wear the pants?! Luckily for my organization, I’m equally comfortable in both Petticoats AND Pants 😉