16 August 2009

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus

Recently I attended an interesting meeting at my organization. The focus was on empowering women in the organization. The participants were all female. Perhaps thats why we had an extremely uninhibited discussion. As with all meetings, I had gone with the perception that this might be a male-bashing session wherein all women rant about how they suffered in the workplace due to the insensitivity of their male counterparts. Surprisingly enough, I was proved wrong!

We ended up discussing how men and women both have certain preconceived notions about gender stereotypes. And how this hinders their understanding of each other as colleagues. Also, due to social psyche, women are sometimes ill-equipped to deal with workplace requirements. I know the feminists among you may already have raised their eyebrows hence some examples follow :)

  • Women do not have informal forums such as men when they go on smoke or tea breaks. There was a debate whether a woman should shed her femininity and follow her male colleagues on these jaunts or preserve her womanly grace and stick with other (much fewer) women colleagues only.
  • Women are more qualitative rather than quantitative. While appreciating someone, they will only say "Nice!", "Very good". There is no additional data such as "I appreciate that you did xxx particularly well". Also, they will approach their manager saying they just got married and have to move to another city. Hence can he do the needful for their transfer to the office in that city? The organizational expectation here is that the manager is only there to facilitate the transfer; the onus of making it happen is really in her hands by building a good enough business case for her transfer!
  • Women are used to being appreciated for efforts rather than results. At home, when they sweat it out in the kitchen trying out a new recipe and even if it doesn't turn out that well, their efforts are well applauded. They expect the same at office, but manager is more interested in whether a task was taken to completion rather than how much effort was spent on it.
  • Women are shy about taking credit or marketing themselves. They think that tom-toming about their achievements - whether at workplace or even in school/college is bad etiquette. However, men are used to this and rather expect this from their colleagues.
  • Men think that women are good organizers hence the task of arranging for a party or an outing usually falls into the plate of the woman in any team. Some women are actually really bad at this or even hate this and some men actually love doing this. Women should learn to be firm with a gentle touch and turn down such assignments with panache.
  • Women are not aggressive or assertive in workplace communications. The other end of the spectrum here is that a woman who has been aggressive in a meeting is never forgiven for that outburst by the men. She is labeled as "difficult" and it pretty much follows her everywhere. A man in her place is immediately given the benefit of doubt, however. Again, here the onus is on women here to lead with a gentle hand or wield the whip where required.

There were many such topics discussed but these were the ones worth mentioning most. They certainly opened my eyes. Even with many women stepping into the corporate world today, there are very few on the top. The differences between men and women start getting exposed most as they rise up the corporate ladder. There are no courses to teach some of these things to women and most learn through tough or bitter experiences only. By giving a platform to discuss such things, my organization really helped us learn from each others' experiences!

Get in touch with your Crayon Box

Note : The title and the concept of this post was inspired by "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch.

As children, we used to have so much fun with colors. We used to color anything and everything into a color scheme of our own. The sun need not be yellow or orange, the trees need not be green, and the mountains need not be brown. We were not restrained by any rules and had fun rendering the black and white lines in our coloring books to any colors that took our fancy. The only objective was that the page should have more colors than black and white.

Somewhere along the line though, we develop a penchant for the black and white colors. Everything is either black or white. If someone does this, he is bad. If someone does that, she is good. As adults, we become more judgmental and conventional. There is no room for more colors, they are suddenly regarded as gaudy, superfluous and distracting. Especially people like me, who are in computer science field, tend to see everything in binary - true or false! But over the years, I've learned to appreciate that a good crayon box might have more than two colors.

I still take a lot of pleasure in filling colors with crayons in coloring books. You may find this childish, child-like, quaint etc. but believe me filling colors in a black-n-white picture is very therapeutic. Besides, this activity requires so much focus that there is no room for any disturbing or stressful thoughts in your brain while you are coloring. The pleasure that one gets on seeing the finished picture full of various colors, is unparalleled. Those of you who have had their homes painted can identify with this. God created so many colors and gave us the ability to discern between them. We are partial to some colors, but we must remember that there are so many others to enjoy too.

14 August 2009

Flu, Fly, Flo, Flum...

Swine flu has taken my city - Pune, by storm lately. It had been in the news since May this year, and started making waves in the last month. Pune especially came into the limelight due to the high number of cases detected and highest mortality so far in the nation.

Every passing day the newspaper gives the score of how many more succumbed to the disease. The outlook is dismal to put it mildly. This is THE most frequently talked about topic everywhere, be it media, lunch tables, family conversations etc. A panic has gripped the citizens of Pune - anyone who sneezes or coughs even mildly becomes the victim of suspicious glares and nasty looks. Any rise in body temperature sends people scurrying to the nearest screening centre. There is a sudden and unprecedented demand for hand sanitizers, masks, preventive medicines and over-the-counter remedies such as eucalyptus oil, basil, vitamin c tablets, etc. Black marketing of flu medicine is rampant. Denigration of government's lack of responsibility in checking the spread of the virus is common. Life has come to a stand-still as schools are shut down and children are not allowed to play. Malls and cinema-halls are deserted. People huddle in separate corners of their homes trying not to worry about the fact that someone sneezed in their face during the day.

One good thing that has come about from this is that people have become more particular about hygiene and health. Its true that only when life is at stake do people bother to change their habits. Now everyone washes hands as frequently as possible. Spitting in public places has decreased. Smoking and in-take of alcohol has reduced; so has eating out as it plays havoc with the immune system. Sleeping and eating in a timely manner has taken precedence over work-a-holism and materialism. I wonder how long this will last?

The media has had a field day with daily news due to H1N1 but they've pretty much exhausted all the juice out of this story. People cannot live in fear indefinitely. Besides, fear is the greatest immunity downer. Soon, H1N1 will become another statistic and there will be other more interesting news hogging the limelight. Life has to go on. Ho-hum.

Thought of sharing a very cute pic that I received over email :)

02 August 2009

Papa kehte hain!

Like most girls, I've been a daddy's girl throughout my childhood. I wouldn't say that he and I share the closest father-daughter bond, but I certainly had more of an understanding with him than my mother during my growing years. The reason being that I resemble him more in looks and temperament than I do my mom.

Dad has always been single-mindedly ambitious for me and my brother to get the best marks at school. Everything else took lower priority as compared to studies - be it sports, extra-curricular activities, reading etc. He was the one who supervised my homework and progress at school. He used to be deeply disappointed if I missed the first rank at school. He even wanted me to top the university and wanted to see my photo published in the newspaper when I was in SSC! To be fair, his own photo had been published when he had topped in school in his native town and he had similar aspirations for us. For this, he discouraged us to be distracted by TV, friends etc. He told my mom not to expect me to help out in household chores as it would distract me from studies. He even insisted that I should not grow my hair as tending to it (washing, drying, braiding etc.) took away precious time! He frowned upon our participation is college functions and parties etc. were a strict no-no.

When I got my first job, he was always keen that I should do well in my career. He is most emphatic that he never wants me to quit work or give up on my career, no matter how much stress and juggling I have had to do especially after marriage. He even scolds my mom when she sometimes advises me to cut down on my job hours or quit it altogether since the hectic schedule sometimes takes a toll on my health.

By now, you must've got the gist that looking good, grooming etc. never really featured in my relationship with my dad. Imagine my surprise then, nay shock, when he commented on such a thing when I recently visited them. I had had a busy week at office and had dropped in to visit my parents in the evening. My mom commented on the dark circles under my eyes concernedly. And my dad quipped "Why don't you try the Garnier eye roll on?" My mom and I were both speechless! Then my dad explained that there was this ad they showed on TV where they show that applying this product got rid of dark circles. I was not even aware that my dad watched such ads and what's more they registered with him! He then said that its good that I don't yet have any grey hairs and that I should take care that I don't get them for another 10 years! I thought I would never live to see the day when my boringly ambitious dad would ever advise me on beauty products. It brought home the fact that my dad too is changing with age and experience (He is now retired and watches more TV). This has probably brought out the lighter and softer side in him. It is perhaps the beginning of an era where our relationship has taken a turn for a more comfortable and conventional equation where we can discuss anything under the sun with each other without inhibitions :)

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