• Under the Raintree Festival

'Women in Corporate' by Anila George

Having spent two decades in a multinational corporate, I have had the privilege to experience first-hand the value that minds bring to this industry. From the moment one enters the portals of the Information Technology (IT) corporate, opportunities are aplenty for those who choose to prove their mettle. The environs of the IT industry are highly competitive where (in majority of the cases) capability and attitude of the individual rule above all. Each gender brings different skills to the workplace and a healthy blend of these deliver exceptional results in any endeavour. Diverse ideas complement each other and lead to the most promising outcomes.

Timely opportunities go a long way to prove one’s worth. It is indeed a liberating experience when peers and seniors place total trust in one’s abilities without any special privileges or discrimination meted out based on gender. I would like to re-iterate the significance of not being afforded preferences based on gender. Facing hurdles shoulder to shoulder with one’s peers is truly a defining moment. It is at times like this when one can believe without doubt that one is valued for the skill that one brings to the table. When the environment is conducive to enable one to work to the best of one’s ability, it provides impetus to face challenges and spurs one to further apply one’s prowess. In the long term, such a stimulating environment where both the genders work side by side proves instrumental in the advancement of the organization as well.

There are however occasional cases of “exceptional treatment” meted out at the workplace where one sees the influence of the “body” clouding judgement. One example is withholding challenging assignments from colleagues returning from maternity leave under the guise of enabling a slow place to give them an opportunity to adapt to their new circumstance. In my view, these are choices not for the manager or mentor to make but rather the call of the individual. The proverbial glass ceiling is another hurdle at the workspace that is perceived to limit opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. But if you look deep, it is perhaps the innate boundaries unconsciously set in the mind of the person which is the constraint. When fear and lack of confidence are replaced with drive, conviction and resolve, there can be no obstacle too challenging to stand in the way to progress in one’s career. Harassment at workplace is yet another body over mind situation has been raising its ugly head off late. It is encouraging to see that there are stringent measures at the workplace to deal with such atrocities and it is indeed a consolation that such derogatory behaviour is met with a zero-tolerance policy. It also reinforces faith in the fact that the contribution of the person is valued above all and any other means to reach an end is strongly derided.

The term “gender balance” is a buzz word in the modern workplace. In all honesty I must admit that the term makes me uncomfortable. Ever since this concept has found its way to the workplace, one has been painfully made aware of differences in gender. There is a sudden interest to adopt measures to maintain the recommended gender ratio. One can only hope that things will not reach the point where, in order to maintain gender balance, the only qualification required to land up a job in a certain team is one’s gender! In such a scenario, the focus on competence and suitability for the role would take a back seat. It would be disappointing to see such an attitude enveloping the workplace.

There is a lot one can do to encourage valuing of minds in the workplace. Key is to discern situations where intervention is needed. Due to cultural and societal influence there is often hesitation to come forward and grab opportunities. Being a buddy of those wishing to advance their careers goes a long way in instilling confidence and motivating people to take the leap of faith to scale peaks that they have always been hesitant to attempt. Quite often one can influence peers and turn the course of a discussion or crucial decisions in favour of merit and worth rather than gender. One can also draw stimulus from the many role models in the corporate world whose charisma is awe inspiring.

When all is said and done the defining characteristic to make a mark in the workplace is self-esteem - believing in one’s own worth. Armed with this one can overcome any trial at the workplace even if faced with situations where it appears that the body is being valued over the mind. I leave you with a thought-provoking quote from Leon Brown - “It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to, has power over you, if you allow it.”

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