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Women and Career: Barriers, Work-Life Balance, and Betterment of Society

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Ambitious career woman

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Of the Fortune 500 CEO’s, a meagre 21 of them are women. This basically translates to 4.2 %. Out of 195 independent countries worldwide, only 17 are led by women. Only 20% of the seats in parliaments globally are occupied by women. This means that when major decisions influencing a large number of people are made in the boardrooms and parliaments of the world, men are making these decisions.

2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee was at a book party celebrating the launch of her autobiography “Mighty Be Our Powers” hosted by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. She is also celebrated for leading women’s protests against Liberia’s dictator. During the party, someone asked her how American women could help the women who were victims of incidents like mass rapes in places like Liberia. Many thought she would reply with the name of an organization to donate money, but instead she replied with four words that forms one of the main points of this article. She said, “More women in power”. Now I had never even heard of Ms Gbowee till I read about her in an excellent book called Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg- which you should read by the way- but I applaud and admire her for her message because it is so, so true.

When more women work to the top of their careers they will be able to take the decisions that will help other women. When we read horrific incidents in papers about girls getting raped and ill-treated, we can grab our signs and march around and we can social network about I furiously, or we the women, can do our best to work it to the top of our respective career tables and we can ensure that we make the laws to protect women. A small example- In 2004 when Sheryl Sandberg was running online sales and operations groups at Google, she also happened to be pregnant with her son. Sandberg women face a full 9 months of morning sickness, so one morning, she rushed to office for an important client meeting, feeling heavily nauseated. Google was at the time a very fast growing company and Sandberg writes that parking was an ongoing issue. She parked rather far away and slowly waddled to the office for the meeting. This of course made her nausea worse and she prayed dearly that sales pitch would be the only thing that came out of her mouth at the meeting. That night she spoke to her husband Dave Goldberg about her troubles when he told her that at his then company Yahoo, they had pregnancy parking. The next day Sandberg march-waddled into Google founders’ Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s office and demanded pregnancy parking. They agreed immediately. Having one woman at the top made all the difference to many pregnant women to work at Google thereafter. Sandberg proudly notes that the pregnancy parking remains even to this day.

Barriers preventing women from reaching the top

There is no doubt that at the school and university level, girls are as good-if not better- than the boys. Girls are increasingly outperforming the boys in the famous ICSE and ISC board exams with 98.78% of the girls passing the ICSE board exams compared to the 97.73% of the boys; while in ISC it is 96.66% for the girls and 93.91% for the boys. The pass percentage in CBSE 10th exams was more or less the same with 98.94% of the girls passing and 98.64% of the boys passing. In the 12th exams also 87.98% of the girls passed with 77.78% of the boys passing. I think these numbers prove that the girls are very much capable of excelling and reaching the top of their careers. So this isn’t the problem. Then what is? Well the thing is, there are internal and external barriers preventing women from reaching the top.

Let’s start with external. Let’s take a word that is carelessly thrown around these days- “bossy”. You go to a school or an office and you hear this adjective being used to describe girls and women. But men? No. Rarely, or never. The reason is mainly because women are expected to be underplayed and soft- so when women speak up and stand up for themselves, they are deemed bossy. Men on the other hand are expected to be Outspoken and well- loud. Men are expected to be ambitious and chase after their dreams in career- women are expected to stay at home and keep house. A woman chasing her career dreams and being ambitious breaks unwritten rules of social conduct and is insulted and often shut out by society. In fact in my old school, we had a woman coming in for a Home Science demo class- the first thing she came in and said- You’re girls; you need to learn how to keep house. Home Science is a very important subject for you. This sends the wrong message to girls who want to work it to the top of their careers.

Another very important barrier- Success is positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. In 2003, Columbia Business School professor Frank Flynn and NYU professor Cameron Anderson ran an experiment to see how women and men are perceived in the workplace. They picked a real life Harvard Business School case study of a woman named Heidi Roizen. Half of the students were assigned to read Heidi’s story and the other half the same story- except the name Heidi was changed to Howard. The students were then polled about their impressions of Heidi/Howard. The students rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent, but Howard came across to them as a more appealing colleague. Heidi was called selfish and not the type of person one would want to work for.

Women who do well are not liked- by men AND women. As if this isn’t bad enough- studies show that in a picking of a police chief, if women possess certain qualities, those qualities are deemed more important and if she doesn’t they become very important. It is the exact opposite for men. Once again- this gender blindness is by both men and women.

Now: the internal barriers faced by women. The Imposter Syndrome: the name really says it all doesn’t it? When women do well or succeed at something, they feel fraudulent, as if “someone will catch them”. I have experienced this first hand. My old school had till the tenth grade and after, I applied to an elite school ranked number 1. I was shocked when they took me in without so much as an entrance test and checked my mail every day for them to send me a mail saying that my admission was a mistake and that they take it back. I was sure they would “catch me red handed.” I was sure I had gotten lucky and my friends and teachers voiced that opinion even though my parents protested against it. My SAT prep book advised me to pick hard courses in high school. Following its’ advice in the 9th grade I picked a subject about java which I was sure I would flunk in the 10th finals. When I finally got an 83, I was shocked and sure that there was some mistake. Then I thought- “Mom helped me on my project and it was pretty good. The viva questions were pretty easy so I did do pretty okay on that. Mom helped me a lot to study. I got quite lucky.” Ask a woman why she thinks she did well, she will attribute it to help from others and getting lucky. Ask a man and he would say- what? I’m awesome! What kind of a question is that? Women are naturally not so confident and not likely to raise their hands and voice their opinions. When applying for a job, men apply if they meet some of the qualifications and women only if they meet all of them. This makes women turn down a lot of great opportunities. Every time I think about signing myself up for a competition- I’m doubtful of whether I should, sure I’ll lose horribly and sure I’m not good enough. A boy would jump and kick people out of his way to take the opportunities I’ve turned down deeming incompetence.

Work and life balance

Now, one of the main reasons holding women back- the reason this is neither under internal or external barriers is because this is a little bit of both situation- household chores and childcare. Women decide that they must pick between a career and having a happy married life with children. Now if men can have both, why can’t women? When it comes to just married life it is definitely not true that a working woman with a successful job and career can’t have a good marriage and can’t be married. For example, in the 21 women of the Fortune 500 CEO’s, 19 are married, 1 is divorced and only 1 is single. Now when it comes to children, women believe that they cannot raise a child and work. Also, women leave work and decide that they can have just one of the two way too early.

Peggy Orenstein- the author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”- tells the story of a 5 year old girl who comes home from school looking disturbed. When her mother asks her what was wrong, she says that both she and the boy she likes want to become astronauts. Her mother asks her what’s wrong with that and she says, “Well, when the both of us have to go to space who will stay back to look after our kids? I think it will have to be me.” That is one very smart little girl because sadly, that is true. Women start thinking about balancing work and home far too early. The funny thing is- even when they get pregnant, they have nine months to prepare.

I saw a special on TV about a small restaurant in Kerala run by women completely. The restaurant is crazy popular and busy, and most days they work up till 9 pm. They then have to go home and do all the housework as well. So ineffectually, they end up with 2 full time jobs. There are many women all around the world with ungrateful partners who refuse to help with 50% of household chores and childcare. It is important that partners’ are sensitive to women’s careers and help with half off the work at home. That way, the household gets more economic support to raise the children; something very important what with the rising prices of groceries, fuel and other necessities. My aunt and uncle are great examples of leaning in at work and at home. They both have full time jobs, and not one child, but twin boys. They have neatly split up the chores and childcare hence working extra hard at work and raising two awesome little men.

When fathers are great examples- and believe me there are men out there like that and they are the most attractive kind- sons are inspired to be like that when they grow up and we have more women able to work it all the way to the top.

Bringing the change and making the society used to

Another problem is the way people perceive this equal splitting. In society, the men are supposed to be the breadwinners and the women are supposed to take care of the children and homes. So when they see a woman in the office and a man in the playground, they get put off. This has to change. When I was in the 4th grade, my classmate asked me what my mother did. I told her that she worked in an office. She did a double take and announced proudly- My mother doesn’t do that, she stays at home to cook me my favourite things, take care of me and take me out. My father works in an office.

One of my favourite stories on the Lean In Org online page –www.leanin.org- is about a young woman who was raised in the US but comes to a village in India for college. Her parents bring her; get her a car and a driver. She protests furiously saying that she wants to get her own license and not depend on any driver. The cab driver answers quickly saying that it is not safe for a girl to drive on her own and that none of the women in the village drive. Her parents go back to the US and as college progresses she secretly learns driving from her driver and starts driving herself to college. People start staring and whispering at first, but as time goes on they not only get used to it, but all the girls and women start learning driving. They are more independent and don’t have to depend on any men to go anywhere.

My reason for relating this story is to say that as more women become working it to the top and more men start taking care of the house and the children, society will not only get used to it, but also start practicing the same themselves. Once people at top positions understand the gender blindness they will be able to make wiser choices while picking people for promotions keeping in mind that women are disliked for being successful. Women can understand their feelings of being “unworthy” and “frauds” are not true and start grabbing more opportunities.

I love how Nora Ephron put it in her 1996 Wellesley commencement speech while talking about women having families and careers, “It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands.”

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Students' Column

The Benefits of Online Education

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So many universities are offering to teach online and long distance, and there are many benefits to taking these kind of courses. Where you can learn depends on how much you have to spend, where you live, if you have transport, and can stop many people from getting onto the the course they want to, or even getting educated at all.

There are so many benefits to getting qualifications. You can get into sectors that need to to have specialized experience like working in a hospital, or getting into law. Learning is a great to get into a different line of work, or challenge yourself intellectually. Whatever your reasons, long distance learning can benefit a lot of people.

You Can Learn Anywhere

If you live in the middle of nowhere and physically can’t access a university campus then you have difficulty finding the course you want to study near you, or somewhere you can easily access. Unlike traditional education, there doesn’t need to be a number of students for a class to run, because students are all over the country. Therefore, you have a better chance of studying exactly what you want, and getting exactly the classes you want to study.

You can study from home, or anywhere else you want. Many people work best from, or don’t want all the distractions and inconveniences that come from attending classes, so get a better learning experience by working from home. You never know, an online msn degree could be for you. Sometimes a bit of comfort and relaxation in your own home can help to you to learn better, and retain that information.

Make Your Classes Work Round You

Attending classes on campus means you have to make time for travel and time for the actual classes too, which can take up a lot of your time. If you have families, jobs, or other commitments this can be very difficult. With online classes, however, they are much more flexible. This means you don’t have to sacrifice your other commitments, or use your time unnecessarily, because you can make your classes work round you. Are you a night owl? Then you can learn all you want when you work best.

Save Money

Online classes are notoriously cheaper than traditional ones. This is because you don’t have to be constantly present on campus, and you won’t be using as many resources either. Having cheaper tuition is a bonus, and make these courses accessible to many more people than traditional ones.

You also be saving on travel too. Travel is a huge expense for many people who take courses, and can really add up when you are already paying tuition. Save time and money by learning online.

There are so many great benefits to learning online, rather than in person on campus. These courses are becoming increasingly popular, because they are in demand. More people can study exactly the course they want, and can do so even if they live on remote parts of the country. There are so many benefits to taking online courses, so find about ones available to you today.

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Students' Column

How Online Education Could Change the World

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Online education, whether it be via Massive Open Online Courses from the likes of FutureLearn, edX and Coursera or via top colleges and universities around the globe, are not only very convenient for those students who want save money and learn in their own time – they might just change the world.

Sound like a big claim to make? Consider the following:

You Can Learn Anything for Free

This might not seem like a big deal to you if you were lucky enough to have a full college fund or obtain a scholarship when you turned 18, nor might it matter much to you if you were able to take out a reasonable loan for your degree, but there are lots of people all over the world who simply cannot afford to get an education. Because they cannot earn enough money to pay for an education, they, their families and their communities are stuck in poverty. If they could learn the skills they need to move up the ladder and make more of their lives, then all of us will benefit as a result.

All it would take would be for poor towns and villages to be set up with internet access and a handful of devices to access them, and the uneducated could become educated.

Access

Of course, a lot of people living in a lot of places, particularly in the third world, don’t have access to a decent education simply because there is no infrastructure to support them – there are no schools and colleges nearby, and online courses could change this too.

We Can All Learn Anything We Want

When learning is as simply as logging on to a computer at your convenience, you no longer have to worry about moving half-way across the country to do the only ba policing degree that’s suitable for you or the only writing course that’s worth a dime, which means fewer of us will have to settle in the future and consequently more of the right people will enter the right occupations. That is something that will benefit us all.

Lifelong Learning Will Become the Norm

Being able to learn anything online, and often for free or a very small fee is sure to convince more of us to go on learning long past when we would usually have settled into a routine. This means we will have more people in the workforce who have a wide range of knowledge and ideas, and of course, the more educated we all are, the better our prospects for the future are as a collective.

It’s Better for the Environment

Think about it – when we have fewer people commuting to school, using physical textbooks and making regular trips to the library, instead choosing to learn from the comfort of their own home, it is going to have a positive effect on the environment and that is exactly the kind of thing that we need right now.

If online learning continues to get better and be more widely available, it is surely going to change the world, sometimes in a big way, sometimes small, but for sure, it will shake things up!

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Students' Column

Which Countries Rank For The Best Quality Of Education?

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People who want to study abroad should take the time to research their country of choice. Some nations offer a much higher quality of education than others. With that in mind, this article should serve to point you in the right direction. Just ensure you continue your research after clicking away from this page.

Belgium

Belgium is a quiet country with a vibrant population. It’s a peaceful place where the government invests heavily in education for its citizens. Foreigners can apply for university with ease, and some of the best minds in Europe lecture at the top colleges.

Finland

Most people overlook Finland because they know little about the country and its people. However, in recent rankings, Finland achieved second place when it came to determining the best quality of education in the world. So, maybe you should take a look at some of the universities?

Switzerland

Switzerland is considered the best place in the world to go for a first-class education according to most experts. Only 5% of children attend private schools in that nation because the public education system is fantastic.

If you’d like to know more about the potential costs involved when going to Europe for an education; just take a moment to check out the infographic published below. It offers some excellent information that should help to ensure you leave no stone unturned. Studying abroad isn’t for everyone, but it’s guaranteed to become a life-changing experience you will never forget. So, what’s holding you back? Now is the best time to set the wheels in motion.


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