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

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Ambitious career woman

Image by Divine Harvester

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

Foreign Tourists For Linguistic Stays

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Spanish Language Schools in Barcelona ( Spain ) allow you to learn Spanish by sightseeing. A round choice if we take into account the enormous international projection of the Spanish language as well as the multiple advantages offered by language trips. We tell you all about this fun way to learn a new idiom while you enjoy tourism.

6 Reasons to Learn Spanish in Barcelona

  1. There are more than 580 million Spanish speakers worldwide, that is, 7.6% of the world’s population.
  2. It is the second most studied language in the world, with almost 22 million students in 107 countries (not counting private education).
  3. It is the third language that is most used on the Internet (8.1% of communications are in Spanish) and ranks second in Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter.
  4. It is the second language in the world by number of native inhabitants (483 million) and the second language of international communication.
  5. In the US (where the Spanish is the most widely studied foreign language), more than 40 million people speak it (and it is expected that by 2050 their number will exceed even English).
  6. 50% of people who practice linguistic tourism do so to learn Spanish (around 238,000 students a year). A large part of these Spanish Courses are in Barcelona.

Linguistic tourism: the best way to learn Spanish

5 Advantages of Taking a Language Trip in a Spanish Language School in Barcelona

  1. Fun: not everyone enjoys studying languages, but everyone loves to travel.
  2. Effectiveness: it is demonstrated that linguistic immersion is the best way to enhance the learning of a new language. Even less gifted people will be able to master it in record time.
  3. Depth: not only do you learn pronunciation and grammar rules, it also allows you to get in touch with the Spanish culture, people and customs.
  4. Innovation: linguistic tourism makes you leave your comfort zone, thus facilitating greater personal growth (improve extroversion and self-esteem, increase tolerance and self-knowledge, etc).
  5. Employability: learning a language in the country where it is spoken has more value than presenting a simple academic degree.

How and Where To Do Tourism To Learn Spanish?

To ensure that linguistic tourism squeeze all its benefits, it is necessary to put ourselves in the hands of a quality institution. Only an accredited center, that has a highly qualified team, can provide us with the premium education we need.

Barcelona is revealed as one of the best destinations in Spain to learn Spanish. This large capital has the most advanced educational centers and a large number of tourist attractions, which seduce more than 10 million international visitors a year.

Spanish Courses in Barcelona ( Spain ) stand out for taking full advantage of language teaching and tourism. This vibrant capital has the best centers specialized in language trips.A good Spanish school in Barcelona is one that adapts to our needs, we offer several learning plans and the most advanced facilities. This is how we will be able to enjoy all the advantages of combining tourism and learning

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Unlock Your Potential with a Career in Risk Management

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If you’re no stranger to business, you’ve probably heard the term “risk management”. It is a lucrative field to be in these days; those in the risk management sector are highly sought after and well respected members of the business community. More and more young, business-minded people are seeking their masters in the field of finance with a focus on risk management. A quick scroll through recent job listings will show you that this is a highly sought after career with vacancies opening up daily. Now is the time to explore this career!

But what is risk management, exactly? Well, a risk manager is someone who works independently or as part of a risk management firm, providing advice and guidance to businesspeople in various areas, often finance. They advise on the risks involved with certain ventures, including business relationships, investments, activities within the company, management, large purchases, and more. Put simply, a risk manager will calculate the risks involved with a certain activity or decision, and tell the person in question whether or not it’s worth that risk. A risk management team is the voice of reason. Every good business person or company, especially those with high margins, should employ a risk management person or team to guide them in their decision making. 

Risk managers do more than just tell a company to say “yes” or “no”, however. They analyze market trends, develop strategies and plans for their clients, and make suggestions based on their intel. A risk manager is very hands-on without making the actual decisions, which gives you a special kind of credibility. This field requires a degree of trust and respect that you’ll work hard to cultivate. You might be literally up to your eyeballs in facts and figures, but fear not: this is hardly a boring job. Risk management is a very rewarding, and yes, exciting, career that is every bit as interesting as it is necessary. After all, you’re predicting the future of a business! Using your expert guidance to help business owners make important decisions! 

There are multiple roles one can play within the risk management team, so there’s something for every personality. Whether you’re an auditor or a business head, you’ll be an important and valued asset for the businesses you work with.

Working in risk management is very rewarding, and not just because it’s a well-paying career. Risk management teams are able to work closely with the upper echelon of a business – the big bosses. They keep their finger on current market trends, and are able to calculate and sometimes even predict major events. They’re the go-to person for every successful business! Sound exciting? It definitely is. 

A career in risk management does require a degree, usually a Master of Science in Finance, or something similar, with a key focus on risk management. Many universities offer these degrees, including Suffolk University, who offers a risk management masters online. Study for a career in risk management and finance from the comfort of your own home, and join this rapidly growing, rewarding and exciting career field. 

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All you need to know if you want to study architecture

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become an architect

If you are thinking about studying architecture, it is important that you take into account the sacrifice and the difficulty it entails, but at the same time the versatility it offers. It is a hard career, but the effort has its reward.

Multitude of options

Architecture is a multidisciplinary career, with very varied subjects, from artistic drawing to the most technical calculation of structures, through the classes of “projects” in which you learn to design buildings and spaces from scratch.

The good thing is that after that you have very diverse career opportunities; you can try your luck in a large international studio, you can focus on specific topics specialising with masters such as the MCH Master, or you can even work in construction on site, to give a few examples. The different subjects, which seemed to be unrelated to each other, are then connected, depending on the path you decide to choose.

Sailing nights

Choosing architecture means getting into one of the toughest careers, which will take a lot of effort to get through. No matter how difficult it may be, it’s hard to get used to the pressure. Even if you’ve organized yourself in advance, and you want to take everything to the day, in the end there are always times when you have to work all night to be able to get to the deliveries on time. Do not be discouraged by sleepless nights, you have to be mentalized from the beginning of the sacrifice to be made, but, if you share those moments with your peers, who will be in a similar situation, it becomes much more bearable, and even fun.

Learning to search for life

All the effort and dedication invested during the years of your career will not only help you obtain your degree, but you will also acquire work habits that will last a lifetime. There will be many occasions when you will have to manage to get what the teachers demand of you, but it is important to get used from the beginning to not always getting things done, and to be able to find solutions by yourself. Keep in mind that all these tools that you develop now you are going to be able to apply them later in many fields, not only professionals.

Another way of seeing the world

A very important part of the career takes place outside the university, and even outside the city where you study. It’s about travelling, because to be an architect it’s essential to visit other cities, other countries and see different things that make you think. It is necessary to see a lot, but also to analyze and ask questions, to realize when something is working and when it is not. You can only experience all this if you live it for yourself.

As you have been able to realize, architecture is a career of permanent learning; you will leave knowing a little of everything, but a lot of nothing. Whether you decide to specialize in a particular field studying a master, or if you choose another of the many options, the important thing is to always keep an awake mind, not lose the curiosity and desire to learn, and, above all, enjoy along the way.

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