On the recklessness of rationalizing conservatism

I get it why Pepsi’s newly appointed CEO Indra Nooyi said what she said; commenting on women striving to achieve work-life balance and can’t having it all. I was,...

00c6642I get it why Pepsi’s newly appointed CEO Indra Nooyi said what she said; commenting on women striving to achieve work-life balance and can’t having it all. I was, however, fairly amazed to read Kim Kardashian (of all people) challenge a titan in the world of business – one who made her way up the corporate ladder by sheer intelligence, working hard and ‘sacrificing her family life’! Merely famous for being famous, it was ironic that the latter found such comments a discouraging act.

Ms. Nooyi’s recent remarks set the blogsphere aflame! Many a friends abashedly acknowledged and contritely confessed their ‘wrongdoings’. After all what could mere mortal women do but acquiesce; if one of the world’s most powerful females made a blameworthy admission herself – not being there for her kids?

The CEO’s remarks stem from deep-rooted ideals and set rules of a patriarchal society; a notion even upheld by family matriarchs that a woman’s place in a community is at home, bringing up generations of the future. Let’s get one thing straight, there is nothing wrong with that (provided women take this decision without any influence). That said; I have seen a number of women forsake their calling under compunction to fulfil their ‘real’ responsibilities.

Times have changed and don’t we know it! It is a fast-paced world where information is disseminated at the speed of light and new media, social platforms have all but broken (if not broken; then most certainly are on the verge of revolutionizing) traditional views: women empowerment (recognizing the imperative role of the female gender in any economy for that matter) thereby seeing the light of day!

In an article, Managing Director International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde had earlier written: “The potential gains from a larger female workforce are striking. In Egypt, for example, if the number of female workers were raised to the same level as that of men, the country’s GDP could grow by 34%. In the United Arab Emirates, GDP would expand by 12%, in Japan by 9%, and in the United States by 5%. According to a recent study based on data from the International Labor Organization, of the 865 million women worldwide who could contribute more fully to their economies, 812 million live in emerging and developing countries.” Asia in particular?


 

The CEO’s remarks stem from deep-rooted ideals and set rules of a patriarchal society; a notion even upheld by family matriarchs that a woman’s place in a community is at home, bringing up generations of the future.


 

Women have always worked side by side with men, not only in offices but out in the fields, mills and factories, but their significance is being felt (and realized) now more than ever. Nonetheless, having a vocation and being successful at work is still seen as a stigma in traditional and even in many modern societies. Sad to say sections of communities especially in the subcontinent not only downplay the role and efforts of working women – many of whom are quite successfully juggling careers with meaningful lives at home (albeit hectic ones), they also look down upon the ‘weaker sex’ for having the strength to overcome all odds thrown their way.

A friend, a Hubert Humphrey Fellow 2014 and senior broadcast professional, Noreen Zehra opined: “For me, this opens debates into the role of individuals (not women) in various aspects of the fabric of society in the contemporary world. Women such as Indra Nooyi are there to set an example and act as role models. I’d like to stress the point that these women are bending norms and approaching life, in modern times, with a fresh perspective; paving way for future generation of strong and yes empowered women. They will have it hard but will result in easing it out for everyone in whatever choices they want to make for their lives WITHOUT guilt that is conditioned onto them. The problem actually lies with our conservatively compulsive act to cling onto the orthodox; rationalizing it with below the belt shaming acts always.”

Throughout history, women have faced the wrath of time and society only because they were proponents of change. Hypatia – the first (empowered) female martyr of philosophical thought, Mary Burnett Talbert, Aung San Suu Kyi are stellar examples of women who have changed the course of history. Indra Nooyi’s observations in the ‘very frank’ interview can be deemed highly subjective. But there is a bigger issue at hand here. It is not only sending a very negative message to the already condescendingly supercilious, hypercritical world, it shoves back women who are striving to achieve self-actualization.

By Sabin Muzaffar – The article was previously published on LinkedIn

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