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  • Author:

  • March 7, 2020

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Our dear friend Dhruv was test-driving a BMW car, on the verge of realizing his long-cherished dream of owning one. My husband – Raghav and I were happy for him. So when Dhruv asked us to join him on a drive to give him feedback on the leg-room space and passenger experience, we were thrilled to help.

Motivated by Dhruv’s excitement at the wheel, Raghav wanted a turn and Dhruv readily obliged. As Raghav took over driving, I enthusiastically said ‘I’ll take the next turn’. Dhruv’s instant reply was ‘But it’s not mine yet. Once I buy it, I’ll give you a turn.’ 

I stared at Dhruv in disbelief! I had been driving for over 15 years now and Dhruv knew that I was a great driver. Undeniably, this was his unconscious bias at play. Not willing to let this slide by, I said ‘You gave Raghav a chance, didn’t you? But only when it was my turn you realized that it wasn’t yet your car, is it?’ 

Realizing his faux-pas, Dhruv covered-up saying ‘Oh, I didn’t mean it like that. If we don’t need to rush home, please go ahead and drive the car’. 

Research has proved that unconscious bias runs so deep that most of us do not realize when we fall prey to it. Even my good friend Dhruv displayed a rare moment of gender-bias in not wanting to give me a turn. Transpose this to the corporate environment and we find a plethora of reasons in addition to unconscious bias, due to which women are still trying to catch-up with their male colleagues for promotions, pay, mentorships, etc. 

Unconscious bias runs deep

Gender bias is an unconscious bias that results in women and girls facing the brunt of injustice, purely because of their gender. Stoked by lesser social, economic and political heft, women’s rights are trampled upon with impunity. 

Since it is incredibly difficult to acknowledge and eradicate deep-seated biases, it is essential to keep the spotlight on women’s rights and equality in the workplace. Celebrating 8th March as International Women’s Day offers an opportunity to do so. 

The argument against celebrating Women’s Day 

Questions have been growing around the celebration of Women’s Day in the corporate world for its tokenism. Challengers state that gifting roses to female employees, providing workshops on pottery or financial independence, and having them attend speeches by female leaders who have broken the glass ceiling, barely makes a difference to their lives. 

While there is a modicum of truth to it, considering the larger picture of women’s equality and rights, the argument is mostly misguided.

Yet, here’s why we must continue to celebrate Women’s Day

  1. However banal International Women’s Day celebrations ‘may’ or ‘may not’ prove to be, it provides a precious opportunity to bring to the front-burner, issues that weigh women down. 
  2. If we were to dial down celebrations to International Women’s Day, we miss leveraging the power of social media that has helped women gain massive strides across fields.
  3. Celebrating Women’s Day forces companies to think beyond cosmetic initiatives and offer what matters to women – genuine flexibility, syncing school and work calendars, mentoring, sponsorship, etc.
  4. International Women’s Day provides an avenue for senior female leaders to interact and impact a larger number of female employees. Research by the famous social psychologist, Nilanjana Dasgupta (University of Massachusetts) shows that women are more successful when they see female peers in the workplace, and especially when senior female leaders connect with them and inspire them to aim higher.
  5. Celebrating International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the significant contribution of women both at the workplace and at the home

Women have for too long been told that they don’t matter. Yet, across generations, they have fought hard to have their voice heard and to make a difference. 
By celebrating International Women’s Day, we not only appreciate women for their untold sacrifices and significant contributions but also carry on the conversations around topics that matter to women, giving it the attention and traction that it truly deserves. 

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