Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Boss lady: Female with a moustache

I have to make a disclaimer before I go on: I am super fortunate to know some ‘strong independent’ males and have a few such friends too. Feels weird when used with males, huh? And I share views on gender dynamics and my own experiences with them as I share them with my female friends and they listen, they empathise and they don’t prescribe. And that’s all you expect – no one is blaming anyone, it is no ONE person’s fault; patriarchy is a product of centuries of social training of males and females. That doesn’t mean that I should stay quiet and not say a word against the unfairness I have to face because of my gender (which I am very proud of).

So what’s troubling me is whether you play down being a female because it helps with career progression or be yourself to the fullest (i.e. female) and be content with mediocre growth (read: less lifetime wealth accumulation). Money isn’t everything but it is oh-so-important to pay the rent! 

But how dare a privileged* woman like myself even have the audacity to enlighten the group with her perspective because... for well I should just be thankful for being where I am. Because my privilege exempts me from comments at work place such as “You are the HR diversity token”, “Bibi, apku kia pata duniya kysay chalti hai?”, “You are being emotional, we need to look at this issue more rationally”, “You need to dress a certain way”…. to the general harassment and ogling one is subject to? And before one gathers the courage to tell anyone of any of these, be prepared to:
  • Debate on whether your story is rationally and contextually correct or not
  • Justify 
  • Be okay with the laughter; because catcalling is funny. 
  • Story dismissal; [just because someone else hasn’t experienced it, does not mean it's not true] 
  • Stigma; harassment victims are at fault hence better to stay away from them
  • You sharing your experience might trigger conscious and subconscious misogyny or fears; and you are on verge of the diversity removal from the homogeneity. So it stays a ‘safe space’.     
But how does playing down a female work? You have to make it easy for the males to accept your presence; the easier it is, the better for you. In 5 steps?

Step 1: Don’t mention you are different or talk about experiences you face because of those differences i.e. no to pregnancy talk, Big NO to any mention of harassment. 
Step 2: Do voice your opinion but not too much; know when to stop.
Step 3: Be okay with foul language; which you might be anyway, but in case you are not.  
Step 4: Smile on sexist jokes. If that sounds a bit extreme, just pretend like you didn’t hear it.     
Step 5: Pick on social activities popular at your work place and casually mention it. Let’s say its snooker; learn to play snooker 
Bonus: Identify and crack allies – use the strong independent males (it’s a rare breed albeit growing) here – they can be magic. 

Follow the above steps and you are closer to being more likeable and promotion [studies have proven a strong correlation between the two]. Your pre-dominantly male colleagues and bosses will soon accept you as one of their own and that is important for growth. Remember: women are expected to have a communal-orientation so don’t exhibit too much leadership traits and maintain good relations with most, if not all. 

So the question really is whether I be myself and keep at raising awareness about women in workplaces which will hopefully result in better progression at workplace(s) for other women and not necessarily me. Or do I build an even thicker skin and power through as far as I can and give talks on my success story one day?

With this piece I hope to spark some thought in minds of men and women and what they can do to make workplaces more inclusive, even if that’s a conversation, and also to pen-down some frustration :p. 

Inclusivity helps us all; its not for any one gender’s benefit. 

Disclaimer 2: I have work experience from over 5 work places in 3 different industries and the above are just excerpts of ‘women in workplaces’ from my view point; no workplace is exempted. It would be very ironic if I have to mention many good things they do to table this topic which is neither a priority nor seen as a challenge. [see how I subtly did that]

* economic independence 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

COVID-19: Buying books like never before

A few days ago, my sister tasked me to buy school books for her kids, grade third and sixth. Easy? No! Its harder to buy books than it is to buy sanitizer these days. Since no book shops are open and its mandated by the government, hence visiting them is not an option.

After a few hours of calling and reaching out to my friends, I was able to get a number of a book salesperson, let’s call them Sherry. I called her and as per the protocol she verified my source and ensured I was the same person. Post which she asked for my order- simple: grade third and sixth books. After which she said she will call me back. She called back shortly, confirmed that some items of my list were short in market but rest would be available, bringing a total to PKR 10,000/-. She knew the supply-demand situation and the amount was not up for bargain. After agreeing on the amount, she said she will message me the details after completing whatever is available of my demand.

I, anxiously, waited to hear back from her. Online classes start soon, kids need to be prepared, time is crucial. My sister wasn’t happy with my progress already, given I am more social than she is. Finally, I got a message ‘Mar 31, 4:00 PM, outside baba jee kulfi’. I knew which ‘baba jee kulfi’ to be at. I was there at the given time, date and place. And I dropped Sherry a message, ‘here’. I saw from my peripheral vision a man walking towards a bookshop door, next to baba jee kulfi. The door was locked from outside and after a funky knock from inside, the door was opened. And I saw a woman walking out that door. That must be Sherry. I have never bought books (like this) before and I didn’t quite know what to expect and didn’t want to give the impression that I am an amateur book buyer.

It might as well could have been someone other than Sherry; she was wearing a mask that covered half her face, dark glasses that hid most of the other half, and had gloves meeting ends with the shirt, not showing an inch of skin. The rest of the body was covered in black loose clothing, only visible were short hair, it might even have been a guy.

Sherry, or whoever that was, proceeded towards my car. I had my cash ready. After reaching my front-door window, she said ‘yes?’. I remembered the code, I said ‘Mrs. Abc’. I remember, this was the name under which I had placed the order. After nodding, she placed the bags of books in the leg-space of the back seats. I handed her the cash, she looked around to check for officials governing lockdown, after ensuring they are not there, she collected the cash and went back inside.

This whole experience was so surreal. I drove fast to get away from the interaction, wore my mask to keep myself from corona/recognition and used sanitizer in attempt to kill any germs that might have been transferred. I was glad, I had the books and had a sense of pride for pulling this off during such restrictions.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Social distancing: 5 things I am grateful for & 3 things I discovered (today)

As the world we live in would have it, I am also practicing social distancing and it’s not coming easy. To top it up, my social circle is super moral on containing COVID-19 by religiously self-quarantining; I am partly proud of them and partly jealous of their high self-discipline. So, these circumstances resulted in finding innovative ways of making use of all the time I have. Just to remember, ‘Work from Home (WFH)’ is live in this scenario, where you end up working more than usual days; just like women at workplaces work harder to ‘fit in’, everyone works more to prove that they are ‘actually’ taking WFH seriously.

Still so much time!! So, among different productive ways to utilize my time one was reading. I have always liked reading and here I had the time to do some. I started reading a book my friend lend me called, “What I am sure of” by Oprah Winfery. It’s an easy read; compilation of short stories and learnings from her life. Half way through she writes that she has maintained a journal where she writes down five things, she is grateful for each day and that seemed like an interesting idea to pick on. And just to spice things up (another way of saying make more use of time), I will also write three things I discovered by staying home today.

Mar 23
Things I am grateful for

  1. I am grateful that I got to have lunch with my family members, who live in the same house, on the dining table at the same time on a weekday. We have a small dining table in the kitchen which has designed capacity to seat four individuals but seven of us found our place in the kitchen (albeit some on the kitchen cabinet) but it was a good evening.
  2. I am grateful that I could sleep in today as it was a public holiday and sleep some more in the afternoon.
  3. And I am grateful that my mom did not wake me and let me be grateful of preceding point.
  4. I am grateful there is lemon in fridge and chocolate on the side table.
  5. I am grateful that I enjoyed the cloudy patch in the sunny day by playing some badminton with my niece and nephew.

Things I discovered today

  1. Apparently, some guest had gifted us lemon in huge quantity and since it was winters back then and lemonade is a more popular summer drink. My elder sister had them squeezed and filled ice trays with them and froze them. And now just takes out one ice cube from the bag they are stored in and makes herself a lemonade to fight COVID-19. Since there are fresh lemon in house too, so no one has yet discovered her smartness.
  2. I discovered that the foundation brush eats up as much foundation as your face does, if not more. Greedy little expensive brush!
  3. I have discovered that my niece and nephew DO NOT sleep in the afternoon and are energy balls who don’t get tired. Maybe they do on school days?!