Corporate musings

Women Empowerment is Appeasement


On Saturday, Nov 24th, I was at the ISB campus attending the 5th reunion of my Pgpmax batch. The school had organised a short panel discussion on women empowerment that I was a part of. During lunch the same day, Rajini and I were discussing this word empowerment and she said its irritating to hear this word because its not working. And I agreed…. but the reason why it isn’t working didn’t become clear to me till I sat on the 31st row on the flight back to Delhi. (I don’t like sitting in the rear of the plane – its a quirk).

Here’s why empowerment doesn’t work – its a dole and doles seldom work. Organizations “empower” women colleagues rather than kicking their butt (pardon the choice of words). No one achieves success without a kick to the rear. Often times it assumes there is lesser ability, and compromises have to be made to help women succeed. Just level the playing field and may the best player win. Don’t empower, be exacting. 

Mary Kom, who recently became the first woman to win the World amateur boxing championship a record six times didn’t get there with empowerment – standards were raised, the bar was set high and no one gave her a free ticket. Her training was exacting, near brutal. The same is the case with any achiever – Martina Navratilova, Indira Gandhi, Rani Jhansi, Madame Curie, Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi or (late) Kalpana Chawla weren’t empowered, they took charge of their lives and went through the gruelling grind to reach the top of their chosen field. Replace the names with achievers who are men and the statement is still true – they took charge of their lives and went through the gruelling grind to reach the top of their chosen field. A Kapil Dev wasn’t empowered, he had to bowl his way to glory. A Ratan Tata wasn’t empowered, he powered his own way to the top of the table…

Now, look at the appeasement story. Minorities, Dalits and other backward communities are given all sorts of support – but the ones amongst them who shine do it on their own power. An Abdul Kalam didn’t become the missile man and later the most beloved President of India because he got sops for being a Muslim, he got there on his own steam. An Ambedkar was an intellectual colossus before “reservation” in the education system … no one made it easy for him nor did anyone empower him. He did it on his own.

Now read about the 15 women who helped draft the constitution of India. There are women from the minority communities and other “privileged” communities. Not one of them was empowered or enjoyed “reservation”, they powered themselves and overcame all sorts of social challenges 70 years back to succeed. Remember we are talking of 1947 when women in the US of A couldn’t vote !!! and large corporate houses and management gurus hadn’t discovered “women empowerment”. Here’s a screenshot from the same article –

The 15 women who helped draft the Indian Constitution. Pic taken from the website – http://www.feminisminindia.com

Am all for a level playing field, but lets not waste time “empowering” women. It ain’t working. Bring in genuine equality in all spheres of life for everyone. Thats the name of the game.

Enough of appeasement !

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