Diaries Magazine

The Woman in the Room

Posted on the 18 August 2018 by Sani09 @sani09

It’s been more than a year now since I have joined my first organization after MBA. However, the days have gone by pretty swiftly especially during the second-half my year-long tenure in the organization.
Having previously worked in cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore I had never actually pondered about the meagre ratio of females in organizations. Having worked as the only female ASM, a ratio of 1:9, in the unit, in a Tier II city now, for a sales-driven organization, for more than 7 months, I do realize all the challenges and the changes involved. The Woman in the Room
For a change, no one has made fun of my accent yet- or at least not in front of me. I remember how in my previous organization or in college, my accent was pretty much imitated and laughed at; often, I would laugh along. When in Mumbai, the Assamese accent of mine was identified as “Fake British Accent”- something that often annoyed me when discussed in extent.
People working in Bhubaneswar cannot be fooled that easily- I have met a handful of people working for other companies who have acknowledged my accent to be “Bangladeshi” making me doubt the history I have been told of my ancestors; being called “Fake” seems to be more soothing now. :-P
An innocuous example to start with but the underlying reason behind the fact that colleagues in Orissa still haven’t come up to me with jokes about my accent might not only be due to their familiarity with Assamese people or Bangladeshis, but also because there are only four women working in the state amidst some 100 men, of the organization. Are the women going to take a joke? Do women take a joke? How thin is the line between discussing something and "bitching" about someone, just making a joke or making mockery of someone? The term “sexism” being quite misunderstood but more mishandled.
I do not see myself, if it has to happen, taking a joke here. Not because I don’t, but because the environment where sex-ratio is so skewed cannot be very comfortable for the minority. I remember working with a team in my previous organization where 80% were females. I do not reckon any males complaining apart from an occasional light-hearted comment from one who did not sit with the team on a daily basis.
With a ratio of about 1:40, in my current team I can now relate to celebrities who say- “I walk in to a room and make others uncomfortable”. :-P
There are business challenges and then there are gender challenges. We come under the “Diversity” section of the organization. I am not sure how open other organizations would be in offering women a sales role in General Trade rather than Key Accounts.
I remember my friend once advocating my work saying – “Sales isn’t difficult for women, it is just easier for men” - a statement that made me heave a sigh rather than worry what more I could do to fit in.
Maybe we don’t need to fit in. Maybe women like I have got such challenging roles only because we could handle it. Or maybe it is just a wake-up call for me about how few women are working in this country. Having grown up in Guwahati, and then living in metros, sex ratio at workplace was least of my worries. 
But the higher you climb the ladder of degrees or designations, the fewer women you will see around. And when there are so few women around, do they pull each other up rather than seeing each other as competition because some roles are reserved for men and some, specifically, for women? Because only one of them can succeed?
Now that I have traveled and worked in smaller cities of India, and now that I have educated myself further, it is one of the major concerns I can see forward, more than the rate of literacy in the country.
The Woman in the Room
How many times job applications are rejected, even without a call for interview, just because the person applying is a female? How many times people have simply added “you’re different” while generalizing all the other women in the world? 
How many times females have lost their jobs not due to their incompetency but because they have to deal with so many men who gel up with each other within seconds yet find it difficult to treat another woman as just another colleague? How many times women have themselves created a perceived sense of difference around them owing to an environment where they can only do a 9 to 5 job and not return home with friendships that can stay beyond work?
The Woman in the Room
And if the answers to the above questions are getting unnoticed, let’s just have a look at ourselves around – what is the sex ratio at our workplace?

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