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Anjali Jhangiani | Wednesday, 19 April 2017 AT 09:39 PM IST
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A panel discussion of women at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts tried to find out why very few women make it to top position in various industries.

Imagine trapped in a room with ‘sticky floor, glass ceiling and stone walls’. Aptly titled, the panel discussion featuring Vidya Yeravdekar, Principal Director of the Symbiosis Society, Sonal Minocha, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement at Bournemouth University UK, and Gayatri Nair, faculty member of Gender Studies, moderated by Anita Patankar, was hosted at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts on Tuesday as a part of the Global Festival of Learning.

The panel gathered together to discuss why there are very few women who make it to top positions in higher education, but as the conversation continued, their focus shifted from the education industry and branched out to include all industries. Yeravdekar claimed that she disliked being a part of such discussions because she believes that men and women are equal and for whatever reasons, historically or culturally, that women have been left behind, they are working hard to get back in the lead.

Talking about her practice as a gynecologist, which gave her a wider perspective to gender discrimination faced by women, she said, “Patients from poor families came to me with a certain set of problems, patients from affluent homes had different problems, and when I went to Muscat and treated patients there, I found that those women had completely different problems that we, living here in India, cannot even relate to,” said Yeravdekar, adding, “My parents had two daughters — my sister and I.

We were never made to feel like there was a need for a son to complete the family or to carry on the legacy. So we never experienced an environment where we were subjected to gender inequality. But when I interacted with women from different strata of society in different parts of the world, I understood that gender inequality is real and needs to be addressed.”

She went on to talk about how women are constantly trying to prove themselves. She said, “I always have male employees come and ask for leave to go and collect their children’s report card or to do this or that for their family. But never has a woman come and asked me for leave for these issues. There are many festivals celebrated in India in which women play an important role, but still they tend to manage and balance work and personal life. Women don’t want to show any sign of weakness. They have watched their mothers get backstaged for long enough, and now these girls want to be in the front line of things.”

Though Minocha agreed with Yeravdekar about taking up the onus of women empowerment on themselves, she pointed out that there needs to be a shift in the mindset of men and boys towards women and girls. She presented statistics and figures on how though many women take up higher education, very very few make it to top positions. She also talked about how the term ‘leader’ is stereotyped and even though it is one of the most researched term, it continues to be one of the least understood ones.

“Society’s obsession with the term leader has resulted in a lot of stereotyping. A leader is supposed to dress this way, or think this way or talk this way. What helps you get by this problem is a clear sense of your own identity. If all women are made to be confident of their own identity, they will no longer be insecure and try to become the stereotype that they are not,” said Minocha.

“If individuals do not have a clear idea of who they are, their identity, no amount of intervention will bring about the change that is required. Very early in my career,  I was told that my hair is too long and heels are too high. I used to think whether I have to be a man to fit in, wear grey and navy, but I never did that, never will. Through our schools, through our curriculum, we need to start a conversation to discuss that sense of identity in individuals and specially in young girls to build them up with confidence so that they can be comfortable in every context,” she quipped confidently.

The author can be followed on Twitter @purplesaga

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