Perspectives from ISB

As children, regardless of gender, we learn to balance the demands on our time– homework, extracurricular activities, playtime, hobbies. Other responsibilities slowly get added to the mix: chores, errands, earning opportunities. Adulting thus becomes synonymous to striking a balance. Unfortunately, adulting also means coming to terms with the fact that gender can matter when talking about work-life balance, especially when you are a woman.

Working women are likely to consider extraneous factors and not just the job role while taking professional decisions. Does the work require travel, shift times, or conference calls at non-typical work hours? What is my commute time and the transportation mode? What about safety? Will I have enough time for household responsibilities, and perhaps also for socialization, hobbies, fitness, and other personal pursuits? The crucial question becomes the cost-benefit balance: does the income or job satisfaction offer enough incentives for me to consider what I might have to endure or sacrifice?

When women choose to work, they might still be signing up for confronting traditional gender roles and stereotyping. For example, research finds that men and women prepare for and conduct their international business travel differently. No prizes for guessing which gender spends as much time as possible in preparation and as little time as possible in travel. Indra Nooyi has immortalized the working woman’s dilemma with her anecdote of needing to go get milk for the family after announcing at home that she had been named Pepsico CEO.

The 2019 International Women’s Day theme is #Balance for Better. It might mean standing up to your family and taking that international assignment. It might mean Skyping in for your child’s stage performance. And it could also mean being comfortable with imbalance once in a while. It could mean losing the burden of guilt and the pressure you face in your “Wonder Woman” balancing act. It could mean asking the family to eat yoghurt for one day instead of going out to get that milk.

Yogini Joglekar