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Women @ Work

A letter to my soul sisters!

March, 2019

To,

All the lovely women in the world, 

How should the day in the life of a businesswoman look like, you ask? Should I have to worry about an untidy house? A broken jar and a non-functional mixer grinder? Should I ask for a meeting with a potential investor today or leave it for another day while I run around frantically packing lunch for my son, looking for homework and missing shoelaces?  All this while fretting over the resignation of a high performing sales head and a seemingly long day at work? 

Welcome to my world, I say! A day in the life of that beleaguered species, the working woman. While our tribe is getting stronger and surer by the day, I’ve often seen the unnecessary hoops that women make themselves jump through, in their bid to manage the pressures of both work and home. 

To help my soul sisters figure out how to make the madness work for them and channelize the chaos surrounding them, I wrote a book `Lady, You’re Not a Man` which was an amalgamation of experiences of my own journey and of those women who’d been a part of it.

Desperately hoping that I didn’t get stereotyped and slapped with a ‘bra burning feminist’ label, I released this labour of love out into the world. My ardent desire was that its message resonate with the audience for whom I’d done this, and help in whichever small way it could to make their lives easier.

I was not prepared for the burst of emails, phone calls, in person meetings and public feting that would result as a consequence of speaking my truth. The conversations this book has started are still ongoing. The community that has sprung up around the book warms my heart beyond reason. And while you, dear reader, may have learnt some things from me, it is nothing in comparison to the insights and sisterhood I have got from you. Your love has been overwhelming, and I thank each one of you, dearly. 

To celebrate the twentieth (!) edition of `Lady, You’re Not A Man`, I’d like to share with you twenty nuggets of our collective wisdom from the book. Whatever your age or marital status, whether you watch over a brood of your own or are childless by choice, whether you’re just starting out or are at the top of your game – there’s advice and learnings for every woman out there trying to conquer the world.

1. Let’s accept our reality before we can attempt to change it.

Life is more difficult when you’re a woman in the workplace, whether you’re a junior trainee or a boss. Accepting that reality is the first step in equipping yourself with tools to survive and thrive in that environment. Imitating men’s aggressiveness or weaponizing feminine wiles to get ahead will only create conflict internally and lead to harmful stereotyping externally.

2. Quitting work to focus on motherhood and wifely duties will not lessen your guilt.

You will then feel guilty about wasting your education and years of hard work on nappy duty and the kitchen life. Moreover, being the role model of a smart and independent working mother is the best gift you can give your child.

3. When life gets unfair for men, it’s up to women to stand up for them.

When a man decides to stay at home and look after the baby so his wife can go to work, society’s taunts can be cruel to endure. Support the feminist husband and father in your life.

4. There are women who’ve turned martyrdom into an art form. Don’t be tempted to imitate them.

For the women trained in the Nirupa Roy School of quaking bosoms and thunderstorm tears, complaining is an Olympic sport. Don’t be a Suffering Sita if you plan to get anywhere in life.

5. Don’t believe sexist anti-ageing creams and that pesky ‘aunty’ labelling. Women only improve with age.

Delightful things happen to us as we mature. More confidence, fatter bank balance and the best of friends. Don’t let the fear of being slotted into the ‘Aunty’ category keep you from living a full life.

6. Women are not women’s worst enemy. But we certainly can be our own.

If your boss, who happens to be a female, is tough on you, don’t resort to stereotypes to label her. Take responsibility for your own behaviour. 

7. The battles within our own minds have to be conquered before we start conquering the world.

When the going gets tough, the first battle to lose is the one in our minds. The desire to win is far more important that the actual victory. A positive attitude will see you through the most hopeless of times.

8. There is no substitute for hard work.

It’s said that women have to be work twice as hard to get half as much credit. Luckily for us then, we are multi-tasking goddesses. Working hard is non-negotiable if you want to succeed. It’s no coincidence that the harder you work, the luckier you get.

9. The more you need to control, the less you’ll be able to achieve. Delegate the unnecessary so you can focus on the truly important. 

Whatever you want to do – run a home, raise a child, scale an organization or all three – it takes a village. Micro-managing will keep you tethered to the ground. Focus on what only you can do and delegate the rest. To family, staff and employees. That’s how you soar.

10. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re human.

Create support systems – mother, neighbour, husband, household help, etc. – and use them extensively. The woman who has it all is not a myth. But the woman who does it all certainly is.

11. Build relationships beyond work and use the power of networking to climb the corporate ladder.

Old boys’ clubs, deals made over games of golf and late-night meetings at bars and pubs may seem exclusive to men. Especially for those of us rushing home to check homework and oversee dinner prep. But that is no reason not to network. Networking is the only way to build valuable industry connections. Make the effort to build a professional network and interact with more women in your domain. If nothing else, start your own version of a corporate kitty party. We’re not here to take over the boys’ club. We are here to create our own.

12. To become the heroine of your own story, you need to stop being its victim.

No one except you is responsible for the role you want to play in the drama of your own life. Successful women are not born with special genetic abilities. What makes them special is their ability to overcome adversities. When you’re busy mastering grit, there’s no room for victimhood.

13. Without being truly grateful for what you already have, you’ll not be able to get what you want.

The privileges you take for granted – an education, the freedom to go to work, to wear clothes of your choosing and even the decision to stay back at home if you want to prioritise homemaking – are denied to millions of our sisters around the country and the globe. Don’t take that choice lightly. Only when you’re out there can you contribute to building a world that’s more inclusive for women everywhere. 

14. You are not an appendage. Assert your individuality to those determined to club your identity with that of your husband’s.

For those well-meaning, but clueless, folks who see you just as a shopping and kitty party attending Mrs., emphasise repeatedly, forcefully and unendingly your work and identity. 

15. Don’t walk away from your professional life now for a someday event. 

One day you’ll get married. One day you’ll have children. That day is not today. Don’t stop taking on responsibilities and climbing the ladder in anticipation of your work taking a backseat to your personal life someday. The women, on whose shoulders you stand, fought and hoped better for you.

16. A good reputation is more important than building a good CV.

The impression you make on people and the work ethic you display is under far more scrutiny than you realise. It is these impressions that will make or break your career, not words printed on your resume.

17. Celebrate your success openly, proudly and unashamedly.

It is not uncouth. It is not unladylike. You are your own fairy godmother and your own PR manager. Unless you shout about your skills and achievements from the rooftops, no one else will. “ Yes - this book is a best seller and I WROTE IT!!!”

18. Don’t let the stone age Neanderthals and zealots affect you.

The more successful you get, the more people you’ll meet who think women who work are in office for light amusement while men are out there doing the important work. Don’t let these comments bother you. You’re too fabulous for that.

19. Smart, successful and single? 

You’re the ideal package. Thank you for smashing the status quo singlehandedly (pun intended). The world may harshly judge single women. But that’s only because they don’t know how to handle them. The sisterhood has your back.

20. Pay your dues to the next generation of men and women.

If you’re a woman achiever, it is your responsibility to mentor the next generation of men so that they can respect women and treat them as equals. It’s also your responsibility to be there for the junior women who look to you as a role model.

Every author feels that everyone in the world has read her book. The sad reality is that my neighbours just figured out that I have written a book as did my cousin from the US ! There are many women who have not read LYNAM so far . If you think any of your friends , cousins, nieces, colleagues will benefit from its lessons do share this blog and the link to buy the book is…..

With much love and gratitude for sharing the journey,

Apurva