Don’t Quit … Hang in There!
Young working women often look at their seniors at the workplace, and wonder if they will last that long. Companies are also asking this questions all the time – how do we retain women at work? They are constantly trying to make changes, and address women’s needs. Yet, almost 50% of women drop out of their careers over their working years. Why does that happen? There are many things still wrong with our work places. But it’s important to also look within yourself, to answer that question.
Firstly, I’ve said it many times, the most important decision for a working woman is to find a good life partner (should you choose to have one that is). If you have a life partner who really values you, who sees you as an individual, as a person, he will step up to share the responsibilities that a couple has in raising a family. And with this support & co-operation, a woman is likely to keep applying her talent at work, and being socially productive. Else, she usually drops out.
Having said that, sometimes women give up their careers just because they had a bad year, a bad boss, or a bad appraisal. It’s not a well-thought-out-difficult decision. It’s just an impulsive-easy-way-out decision. When things are not working out at office, we throw in the towel and justify it by saying we have children and a home to look after. It’s convenient, and our family & society would support this decision overwhelmingly.
When I returned to work 4 months after my second child was born, there was no job for me. I was put on to a project (which was a way to sideline someone) and asked to interview in the Open Job Postings to find myself a role. Now, I never believed I was the most talented person in the company, but I did find it unfair and depressing that a lot of average men could hold onto their jobs, just because they didn’t take a maternity break! I felt dejected and demotivated. I lost self-esteem. I felt everyone at work was probably discussing me & my plight. I found no recourse within the organisation. I would return home every evening and complain about my situation to my husband. But, instead of disengaging with work, I worked hard on the project I was given. I used that experience to my advantage, and found a good role outside the organisation.
If I had left my job and career at that stage in life, my decision would have got tremendous approval from my extended family. My husband was doing well in his career, so financially it may not have made a big difference. Socially, I would have been considered very compliant, and my neighbours and the other mothers, would have been hugely approving. It would have been a very-easy-face-saving decision for me. But, I may never have been able to find a job after that break, and build an exciting & enriching career for myself.
It’s not easy for women (or anyone for that matter) to hang in at the work place and build a successful career. It takes hard work to wake up every morning, attend to the chores at home, commute to your work place, attend back to back meetings, lead teams, solve problems, make presentations and deliver on deadlines. More than that, it takes will power to deal with set-backs & discrimination, nurse an injured self-esteem back to health, realise that you are dispensable, that you may not be the best performing member of the team. It takes self-belief and hard work, to keep at improving your performance as a professional, to constantly learn & grow, to confront your weaknesses and fortify your strengths. It is not easy to hang in at the work place and build a successful career.
Ladies, when things look bad at work, and you feel like giving it all up, always think of the men. Think of your husband or your father. Would the men have had the same choice? Imagine if he came back and told you things were not working at out for him at work, that he did not have a good role, and that he felt stressed, demotivated and insecure at his job. You would probably tell him to hang in there till he finds another job. You would never suggest that he should leave his job and give up his career!
In today’s world, where we are seeking equal rights with men, we should re-evaluate the roles we play in our marriage and family. If we expect the men to do work at home, we should play our role in putting the bread on the table, as well. In this economy, where jobs are becoming less secure, and things are becoming more expensive, there are several benefits of being a working couple. In the event that one partner needs to take a break to recharge his/her batteries, or explore an entrepreneurial venture, or God forbid has a health crisis, the other can step in to provide the necessary financial stability. In our fast-paced lives and stressed work environments, it’s hard to work till the age of 60. We may neither have a job in our 50s, nor have the inclination/ energy/ health to pursue one. Shorter careers mean fewer years to build up that retirement kitty. With both partners working, one can save faster, and prepare for a longer, more secure and a happier retirement.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that being a homemaker or looking after the children is not work. But if you do choose to leave your job to pursue that, let it be a conscious well-thought-out decision. Let it be something you actively choose to pursue. Just because you had a bad year, or a bad quarter, or got sidelined, or you got fired, or did not have a good role when you returned from maternity leave, should not be the reason for you to drop out of the career path. Look within yourself, and find the strength to bounce back instead.
*This blog was first published in LinkedIn.
Manisha Lath Gupta
Manisha Lath Gupta is a Marketeer, Banker, Entrepreneur and Permaculture Farmer. She is often invited to speak to young managers about marketing, how to succeed at the workplace, and about life in general!