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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

Experiencing Success After You Graduate

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The university and college experience can be so long and complex that you get completely caught up in it. It’s fully immersive. So, when you graduate, you can easily feel completely disoriented and lost. Very few people walk straight out of their graduation and immediately into their first job. Instead, you’re going to have to find your feet and put a whole lot of effort into your own success. The steps you’ll need to take will vary depending on where you want to go and what you want to do. But the following pieces of advice can help you to get started out on the right track, regardless of what you want to do. Hopefully, they’ll come in useful for you!

Student graduation

Research Success Stories in Your Chosen Field

Whatever field you’re interested in entering, chances are, there are some pretty big success stories. Take a look at people who inspire you within your area of specialism. Who are they? How did they get to where they are now? What did they do after they graduated? This can help to inspire you and to give you some key tips that could really help you to follow in their footsteps. Remember that you are standing on the shoulders of giants. You can learn from the greats that came before you to further excel in the role or industry you’re determined to experience success in. If you’re interested in starting a business, take a look at Phillip Kingstons journey at phillipkingston.com. If you’re interested in politics, read the biographies of great political leaders. If you’re interested in art, read the life stories and approaches of some of the greats. There’s all sorts of guidance and inspiration out there.

Use Your College’s Resources

Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you’re immediately cut off from all of the resources that have been available to you at your college or university. Make sure to use the resources available to you for as long as they’re available to you. Many colleges offer training and classes on job hunting. This can include finding positions that suit your skills and experience, CV writing skills, interview skills and much more. These resources may seem basic and common sense, but you can actually learn a whole lot more than you’d imagine from them. You never know what tiny piece of advice could make all the difference to your entire career path.

Be Persistent

When you start applying for jobs, you need to develop a tough skin. Few people land the first job they apply for. Even fewer will be offered every position they apply for. You need to be prepared for some level of rejection and you need to make sure that you are persistent when faced with disappointment. Keep going and you’ll eventually land the kind of position you have your sights set on.

Of course, different areas of specialism will require different steps in the process. But the above advice should help regardless of what you plan to do. Keep it in mind and you should do well!

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Students' Column

Careers An MBA Can Open Up For Engineers

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If you are an engineer wondering what your next career step should be, it can seem as though the opportunities are almost endless!

On the one hand, you could continue to improve on your technical abilities and become a specialist in one particular area. This can be a highly lucrative strategy, and one that appeals to people who know which work they love to do and just want to learn more about it.

On the other hand, you could broaden your skill base and give yourself a wider range of career opportunities by undertaking an MBA. This is a great option for people who are looking to diversify their skills and introduce some new kinds of work into their day, and give themselves a great career outlook into the bargain.

Transferable skills

MBAs can provide you with a huge number of skills that are applicable in multiple industries.

An MBA will teach you about things like budgeting, strategising, accounting, financial management, system models, people management, marketing and business structures. These are all skills which can be highly beneficial in a number of industries or even for starting a business of your own!

Another great benefit of an MBA is that you will get to study alongside people who are also looking to accelerate their own careers. This means that you will make contacts who will not only become useful friends and a useful support network as you embark on the next stage of your career, but you will meet a huge array of people who you can learn from in unexpected ways.

The exact modules that you study will of course be dependent on which MBA course you choose to take up. If you are considering taking up an MBA in order to further your engineering career, then it’s worth researching MBA courses that are designed with engineers in mind. You can find out more here if this is something that appeals to you.

Read on to find out what careers an MBA could open up for you.

Engineering operations director

The three main skills that you’ll need to work as an engineering operations director are:

  • Analytical skills. The ability to gather and interpret data.
  • Math skills. The ability to perform addition and subtraction but also to visualise data.
  • Communication skills. The ability to clearly communicate your thoughts, opinions and ideas to those around you using a variety of methods, including presentations, via email and in person.

The average salary for an engineering operations director is $129,001 so it’s definitely a well paid position!

The main purpose of the role is to lead a cross-functional team to achieve the objectives that your department has been set. To succeed in this role it’s important that you have a good knowledge of engineering processes and engineering equipment, as you will be the one providing the overall strategy to your team on what needs to be done.

You will be responsible for the budget of your department and you will need to report regularly to your management on expenditure and progress. You will also devise and implement strategy for improving the performance of your department, as well as having an overall understanding of all the projects that are happening within it and ensuring that they are completed on time.

Vice president of engineering

A VP of engineering is part of the management team. As such you won’t get too involved with engineering, but you will get involved with solving logistical problems, dealing with personnel and working out budgets.

It’s an incredibly well paid job. The average salary is $170,000 per year, and at the higher end of the spectrum some VP’s of engineering are paid $270,000.

Your actual duties will vary significantly depending on the company you are working for. Engineering is a field that is hugely diverse, so the nature of the projects that you are overseeing will differ between companies. Whatever the company you are working for, you will be working in upper management. You will work alongside the president, product managers and other management staff in order to plan and oversee all aspects of engineering goals and operations within your company. You will ensure that the appropriate planning and testing procedures are in place to ensure that you deliver quality projects on time.

Generally you will spend a lot of your time in meetings, liaising with staff and ensuring that deliverables are met. You’ll also use your engineering knowledge to carry out site inspections, to ensure that everything is working as it should be and that everyone is working safely.

Engineering project manager

If you’ve worked in engineering you’ve no doubt come across your share of project managers! A project manager is used every time an engineering project is embarked on, it will be up to them to gather the requirements, see what is feasible and then plan out the project. They will then keep a continuous eye on the project to ensure that it is being delivered on time and within budget.

Having an engineering background is helpful if you want to work in engineering project management, because it means you will have a good instinct for what is possible within certain timeframes and budgets. However, collaboration with others will be a key part of your job. It’s essential that you have excellent communication and organization skills, so that you can keep the project team working together effectively.

The average salary for an engineering project manager is $140,760, although this varies hugely depending on the company you are working for.

Project managers have a varied and fulfilling career because they will spend their time working on a lot of different projects, meaning that they are always solving new problems and learning new things! In addition to this, project management is a field that can work really well as a freelance career. Many businesses prefer to bring in highly experienced contract project managers if they have a requirement for a fixed amount of time, as it means that they can more easily budget for the project in question. If you choose to work in this way the rewards can be even greater than the already generous salaries available to salaried engineering project managers.

The budgeting, forecasting, analytical and communications skills that are a key part of an MBA will give you the skills you need to complement your engineering background and create a fulfilling career as an engineering project manager.

CEO of your own company

As well as allowing you to work in a high level management or project position, obtaining your MBA could be your next step in becoming CEO of your own company!

Engineers are naturally analytical and great at making predictions and solving complex problems. These are all qualities that are highly valuable in a CEO. Combine the advanced business and strategic knowledge that can be gained from an MBA and you’ve got a pretty unstoppable combination.

A great example of an engineer who studied for his MBA and used this advanced knowledge to allow him to chase his dreams of being an entrepreneur is Rob Deering, founder of Australia’s Meet Billy.

Meet Billy is an app that allows older people to continue to live in their homes for longer. The basic idea is that the users daily activities are logged into an app. If they miss an expected activity then their family or carer can see this and be notified more quickly if something has happened.

The app works by using a series of internet of things (IoT) sensors to find patterns of behaviors. Smart analytics can then read the expected versus the actual behaviors and identify any changes before they become serious or result in a medical emergency. The app is already proving to be highly popular amongst users.

Rob started his career with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then worked as a consultant for five years, before embarking on his MBA. He credits his MBA for opening his eyes to new pathways, especially those that combined his skills in engineering and in business.

If you are thinking of using an MBA to open up opportunities of starting your own business, it’s a good idea to have in mind the type of business that you would like to start before you begin researching MBA programs.

By doing this you can approach your chosen institutions with your idea and they can let you know how best they can serve you. It’s a good idea to find a programme where the modules on offer will directly benefit your future plans, so that you can apply them to your business idea as you learn.

If possible it’s also a good idea to find an MBA course where there are links to the industry in which you would like to work. This will mean that you can meet people who will be helpful to you, either as business contacts or as people who you can learn from.

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Government Changing Syllabus to Include Sikh History in India

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The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the President of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Moon Jae-in jointly inaugurating the Samsung manufacturing plant, World’s Largest Mobile Factory, in Noida, Uttar Pradesh on July 09, 2018. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath (in saffron), the Minister of State for Culture (I/C) and Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Dr. Mahesh Sharma and other dignitaries are also seen.

Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, most populous state in India, has announced inclusion of Sikh history in the state syllabus. Students of all schools under UP State Board will see the new chapters. The announcement came when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (BJP) was observing Sahibzada Diwas.

Why do we Observe Sahibzada Diwas?

Sahibzada Diwas marks the martyrdom of four ‘sahibzada’ (or sons) of Guru Gobind Singh (10th Sikh Guru) and his mother Mata Gujri. In the year 1705, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had ordered torturing of youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh aged 5 and 8. He later executed the little sons by burying them alive into a wall. The reason for this act was that they refused to convert to Islam. Soon after this event Guru Gobind Singh’s mother, Mata Gujri also martyred her life under Aurangzeb’s captivity. The cause of her death is still unclear. Guru Gobind Singh’s other two sons martyred their life in the Battle of Chamkaur Sahib. Thus the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh had lost his whole family by 27th December. This is an important event in the Sikh history in India and UP Government is finally keen on observing Sahibzada Diwas every year.

Why UP Government is Changing the Syllabus?

Soon after the independence of India in 1947, the school education came under tight grip of far left and communists. Most of the Indian history in the recent past has been written by Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib. They have close ties with left wing ideology and Irfan Habib has delcared himself as Marxist. They wrote history text books by either phasing out sections of Indian history or diluting certain events. The motivation to soft alter the history has been to propagate left-wing/communist ideology. Historian Koenraad Elst once highlighted that Romila Thapar is comfortable neither in Sanskrit nor in Farsi language. The knowledge of these two languages is a must to understand India’s history.

In the recent years, various public opinions have gained momentum to rewrite Indian text books to include more content on Indian rulers and native ideas. Currently, Indian text books mainly teaches about foreign rulers of India such as Mughals and British.

With this announcement of inclusion of Sikh history in history text books, the government is bringing historical facts in mainstream.

27th December as Real Children’s Day

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also reached out to the Education Minister to declare Sahibzada Diwas as Children’s day. He further added that “The history of Sikh gurus will be a part of the syllabus. Apart from this, we should observe December 27 every year as Sahibzada Diwas in all schools. Today is the day to pay gratitude to the sons of the Guru and mother who martyred their lives for the motherland, country and religion.” Yogi Adityanath also said that “No society can move ahead if it forgets history. The Sikh society is known for its hard work. The Sikh gurus sacrificed their lives to defend the Hindu religion. The country will always remember this.”

Yogi Adityanath added that learning about the sacrifices by Sikh Gurus would inspire future generations to dedicate themselves into nation-building. He emphasized that we should make future generations realize that India and Indian culture was safe because of sacrifices of Sikhs.

What Should We Do On Sahibzada Diwas?

Sahibzada Diwas should be an important day for every Indian regardless of their region, culture or religion. On this day, we are in the Holiday mood as it falls right between Christmas and New Year’s eve. However, we should remember that a Guru and his entire family sacrificed their life for the well being of India and the idea of India.

On this day we can fast, do sewa (service), visit a nearby Gurudwara and sleep on the floor at night.

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