Money Matters

Gender sensitivity

Money Matters
By Sirajuddin Aziz
Mon, 05, 20

At workplace, no man is from Mars, nor any woman is from Venus. Both came or more appropriately were expelled, from the Gardens of Eden, to the planet earth. They were complimentary to each other. Both have strengths and weaknesses. They are so because of Nature’s design. Adam was a gentleman. Eve was a gentlewoman. They supplemented each other’s existence, as equals; no more, no less. And in their progeny began the trouble of equality. While it is an accepted axiom of truth, that in life, equality is utopia and in real it is seen only in coffins. Having established what equality is, let me begin.

At workplace, no man is from Mars, nor any woman is from Venus. Both came or more appropriately were expelled, from the Gardens of Eden, to the planet earth. They were complimentary to each other. Both have strengths and weaknesses. They are so because of Nature’s design. Adam was a gentleman. Eve was a gentlewoman. They supplemented each other’s existence, as equals; no more, no less. And in their progeny began the trouble of equality. While it is an accepted axiom of truth, that in life, equality is utopia and in real it is seen only in coffins. Having established what equality is, let me begin.

Now, without sounding to be a supporter of feminist movement; as much correct or misunderstood it may be, there have to be equal rights for both genders. Inequality in any format must remain an unacceptable principle for adoption or practice. Inequality is injustice. Traditionally, men are expected to be bread earners: Hence very few men work for pleasure; they work to meet needs. Women, can do so, for both reasons, pleasure and economic need or for even mutually exclusive reasons.

Once at work, it, I believe, is the responsibility of the male gender workforce to make the working environment conducive and comfortable for the opposite gender, enabling their full participation and to make them active agents of productivity.

It is generally believed, women consider that to be at work gives them a separate identity - distinct and different, from either their families or their spouses. It creates a sense of power, arising out of not - mere economic emancipation, but also from the naturally blessed innate desire, to be recognised, with no fetters or crutches. And in view of this scribe, it is a worthwhile quest to use skills and talents, instead of the female workforce remaining as untapped resource. In a country, where there is fifty percent female population, it only makes sense, that they must be fully integrated into the economic fabric, both in cities and rural areas.

I disagree to the dictum that ”men will be men”; but since it is widely accepted to make men look lesser than a decent person; a lot of hiring of females is done under the premise, that their presence amongst the men folk, will bring grace and decency to the workplace environment. We now have measurements across various industries about gender diversity. The percentage of female workforce is growing. The pace is slow. The corporate regulations to have at least one female on the Board of Directors, will pave the way for women to have a say in formation of corporate policies. We can expect to see organisation’s adopting with renewed vigour, policies of flexible timings, daycare centers at workplace; paternity leave will be gaining momentum in our country as well. Good signs.

Just as many men fail to achieve business budgets, there are women leaders/managers, who fail too. As male supervisors, how do you treat them? With equality of response? I have seen managers lose their shirt on less than expected performance from male reports, so should the same treatment be meted out to female reports? I believe it would be unfair, indecent and non-chivalrous!

This is not to suggest that female colleagues shouldn’t be held accountable for performance. They must remain too, responsible for their lapses of judgment, decline in revenues, non-compliance to regulations, non-adherence to best management practices etc. The fine distinction lies in the how and the manner of communicating displeasure - here the slogan of “equality” must take backseat, and most often it does. Civility has no cost. Nobility of thought will ultimately induce great behavior of humility.

Wolves lose their teeth, never their nature. Nurture is above Nature. The implication here being that training and orientation are by far more important than natural instincts. A lot is dependent on the background of the “supervisor” regardless of the gender. The orientation of mind is developed by family upbringing, educational institutions attended, social integration, etc, play a pivotal role. Those colleagues, who are moderate in approach, coupled with having studied in co-education environment, find it easier to adjust to changing demographics of gender diversity.

Chivalry, can never be out of fashion. No women dislikes being given ’preference’. It is rare on the mass transits of the world, where in a compartment, humans are packed as sardines, and if you offer a seat to a female passenger, you may receive a sharp stare or an unpleasant retort. Largely, however in most cultures the grace act is accepted. An inseparable cousin of virtue is courtesy.

If you have a female supervisor, and as a male to report, the minimum expectation would be to get respect, even in these most distressful business accomplishments. Rarely in real life, you can you encounter a revengeful Demi Moore, as “manager” to a poor male report like Michael Douglas (in the 1984 thriller/drama movie “Disclosure”). Female supervisors are more firm towards the male report. Since naturally they are polite, exceptions are a rarity (nothing to recommend!); all dissent and non-performance is handled with grace and in a decent parliamentary language.

It goes without an effort of emphasis, that the communication has to remain with the ambit of acceptability and decent utility. The choice of one’s words must be done with great clarity and caution. Temper must remain in the freezing Arctic zone. The modulation of voice and the range of decibel levels must remain in full control. In honoring each other, there is no grief.

Anybody can be trained to be the president, chief executive officer, and managing director of an organisation, but not to be a gentleman or gentlewoman. Fig leaves do not ever cover bad character, behavior or thoughts. I find nothing wrong, if at workplace, an individual finds a life partner. The proviso here is that the workplace should not represent a hunting ground for the Romeos and Juliets. Corporate romance has all the potential to be injurious to both the organisation and the respective careers of the constituents. It is not a necessity but is best that post wedlock, the individuals, at least do not remain in the same office. In fact, an effort for one of them to move to another institution is a good practice for consideration.

Globally, women occupy less than 8 percent of leadership position. In the Eurozone, however, the number is about 15 percent. Women are resolute. They make good leaders of men and women. Elizabeth-I subdued all men. Joan of Arc, Rani of Jhansi, Razia Sultana, Chand Bibi, led many a battle and won. Indra Gandhi generally was ruthless with her male cabinet members. She was feared. Benazir Bhutto was a class, who dealt with grace and dignity, her cabinet members, most of whom where much older than her. She commanded respect.

While I liked the song and picturisation of “Why can’t a woman be like a man“ on Prof. Higgins (Rex Harrison), reacting to Audrey Hepburn’s antics in the movie “My Fair Lady”, a movie as a nine year old, I was made to watch twice by my father, who was an ardent fan of both GB Shaw and Ms Hepburn!; I did never subscribe to that thought. Women shouldn’t be like men! That would demean their stature. They should remain women.

The writer is a banker & freelance columnist