Partnering With Women
I refuse to allow any man-made differences to separate me from any other human beings.- Maya Angelou
The Pin Prick
Yesterday night, I delighted one of the most important women in my life. While she was away, I secretly crept into the kitchen and started doing the dishes. I cleaned the dishes, my lunch box and the dinner table. Then, I placed everything in the right place. As I was washing my hands, I visualized how she would have lived through today. Waking up in the morning, cooking for the family, preparing my lunch box, maintaining the house, the budget and putting up with my eccentricity. For someone like me who has always taken these things for granted, I felt proud of having her in my life. She truly is a great PARTNER.
Framing the Debate Right
While I have mostly concentrated my writing on Finance and Technology, I never lose sight of my third focus which is humanity. However, to be honest, I have never written about women. Today, I have two motivations behind writing this article:
1.Understandably, a lot of focus and discussion today has been around politics, terrorism, finance and technology. There is a running joke that the two major debates today are on block sizes of Blockchain and somebody’s Twitter account. However, some very old issues such as poverty, hunger, illiteracy and no access to basic human necessities require equal and often greater focus. Consider this: As per the United Nations, approximately 46% of the worlds population still lives in villages. In 2020, that population will be roughly 44%. In Africa and Asia, the percentage of population living in rural areas is approximately 58% and 49% respectively. There are places on this planet without basic amenities let alone the internet. In other words, there are other major issues besides artificial intelligence.
2. I am no expert in Women’s issues. However, when I hear the words women’s emancipation, welfare etc, I cringe. Personally, I feel nobody prefers handouts. Rather, women, in many respects (including the hardest of them all — giving birth) are far stronger than men. Therefore, the word I would use is to PARTNER with women and not consider it charitable.
In my opinion, therefore, there is a need to share their burden equally without distinguishing between the kind of work. Driving her to work, to school, cooking and doing the household work are all examples of a mindset working towards partnership and equality.
After all, some of the best chefs are men. Therefore, my next step is to learn cooking. At present, my expertise lies in making Indian Tea and Noodles. As you can imagine, if left to my own devices, I will start starving in exactly 24 hours.
The root cause, to my mind, is lack of partnership in education. Not education of women but rather educating males in urban and rural areas that their first priority should be to educate their better halves. Even if it means, riding a bicycle to the nearest school in the adjoining village. You must be thinking — what a Utopian thought? Well, I think its time to stop debating and start acting.
As per UNICEF, “Literacy among youth is rising, but young women lag behind”
On a regional basis, this is how the picture looks like:
A much more graphical representation reveals that the gender gap in youth literacy is widest in West and Central Africa and in South Asia
In Niger, the gender parity index (GPI) is 0.44, meaning that there are 44 literate women for every 100 literate men
These are not random statistics but a painting that speaks a thousand words. Considering the times we live in, these numbers are staggering. Imagine a world advancing in Technology but retrograde in mindset. While we teach computers to be smart, there is a need to educate our brethren to be smart.
Being cognizant of career disruptions and creating backup options such as remote / part time work for women can be immensely helpful. Similarly, employing women in villages by creating startups that promote traditional materials for export can be a good start.
As Robert Hohman, the CEO of Glassdoor, wrote a few months ago in Fortune:
Factoring differences in education, experience, age, location, job title, industry and even company, our latest research reveals that the “adjusted” gender pay gap in the U.S. amounts to women earning about 94.6 cents per dollar compared to men. It is remarkable that a significant gap persists even after comparing male-female worker pay at the job title and company level.
To name a few of my idols, I admire Indra Nooyi (CEO, Pepsi), Jane Fraser (CEO, LATAM, Citi), Chanda Kochhar (CEO, ICICI) etc. The list is quite frankly too large to enumerate.
However, as per The Independent, UK:
The number of women running the 500 most powerful companies in the US fell by more than 12 per cent last year, despite global efforts to promote gender parity in the work place and fresh evidence that companies with high proportions of senior female leaders tend to deliver stronger financial results.
One reaction is this:
“I think society has, for centuries, trained us to think in certain ways about women and girls,“ Anne Richards, CEO of asset-management company M&G Investments, is quoted as saying in the report. ”It will take a long time, and it will take a persistent effort, to overcome those innate biases,” she adds. (source: The Independent, UK)
Consider the fact that smaller companies are less diverse and it alludes to another issue worth considering : women entrepreneurs.
As per Dell, the global cities that scored highest on the various indicators measured that are best for women entrepreneurs are:
#1 New York #2 Bay Area #3 London #4 Stockholm #5 Singapore
#6 Toronto #7 Washington D.C. #8 Sydney #9 Paris #10 Seattle
#11 Munich #12 Austin #13 Beijing #14 Hong Kong #15 Taipei
#16 Shanghai #17 Tokyo #18 Mexico City #19 Sao Paulo #20 Seoul
#21 Milan #22 Delhi #23 Johannesburg #24 Jakarta #25 Istanbul
All of the cities are major urban centers which indicate a large scope for the development of second tier cities and villages to start building startup ecosystems for women entrepreneurs.
Women in Politics
As per UNWomen:
“Women’s representation in local governments can make a difference. Research on panchayats (local councils) in India discovered that the number of drinking water projects in areas with women-led councils was 62 per cent higher than in those with men-led councils. In Norway, a direct causal relationship between the presence of women in municipal councils and childcare coverage was found”
However, UNWomen also notes:
1.Only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995 .
2.Wide variations remain in the average percentages of women parliamentarians in each region. As of June 2016, these were (single, lower and upper houses): Nordic countries, 41.1 per cent; Americas, 27.7 per cent; Europe excluding Nordic countries, 24.3 per cent; sub-Saharan Africa, 23.1 per cent; Asia, 19.2 per cent; Arab States, 18.4 per cent; and the Pacific, 13.5 per cent.
All these indicators point towards a great scope for partnership. Encouraging leadership in all walks of life is the first step towards a brighter future.
We certainly have a long way to go to be ideal partners to women but lets not forget we have come very far from the days of suffrage. There are still dark places in this world that desperately need light.
Again, I am not a crusader for women’s rights. I am just a common man inspired to do more for the women in my life. I also believe actions speak louder than words.
Also, I understand that I may be late to the party. Millions before me have written quite eloquently on women’s issues. Women have a much nuanced and detailed view of these issues than I do. I acknowledge all the criticisms to my writing as valid. I could be guilty of all of them.
But, I am also unreasonable and believe in the power of one individual to change the world or at least, in the words of Steve Jobs — put a dent in the universe.
I possess an active conscience and the ability to write to a great audience on Medium. In other words, it would be a grave mistake to not use the small gifts endowed to me in the service of my fellow humans.
After reading my article, even if one man changes his mind to do right by the women in his life, I will consider my article a success.