Break The Bias with Hemlata Karooa
Catégorie : Articles
We are celebrating International Women’s Day on 08th March 2022 and this year’s theme is ‘Break the Bias’. I would like to take a moment to celebrate Women around the world and share my journey to #BreakingTheBias.
Gender stereotypes and biases start from the early stages of our lives since we tend to buy dolls for girls and construction toys/cars for boys. In the later years, women are expected to find a career and settle down at a certain age and start a family. Women are raised to believe that female bodies are time bombs, and they feel the pressure to bear children, which prevents them from pursuing certain things as they think it’s ‘too late’.
I only wanted to be a housewife when I was growing up and eventually got married at a very early age to have my firstborn when I was 22 years old. I come from a middle-class family and my parents always shared the parenting responsibilities and house chores since they had to work endlessly to make both ends meet. Luckily, my dad raised me to believe that it was ok to do anything I wanted irrespective of my gender, for example performing his last funeral rites, which was reserved solely for sons during those days. Growing up, I always enjoyed challenging societal stereotypes that limited women in any sort. When my daughter was 3 years old, I went into depression after a tragic incident, and after I came out of it, I decided to give some meaning to my life to give a better future to my daughter. I wanted to be a role model to her and as actions speak louder than words, I was called to action. This is how I decided to pursue my further studies at the age of 28 and it is the best decision I have ever made.
I realised that no matter how courageous and willing I was to take on this challenge, I still had unconscious bias as to whether it would be a good decision at this age and how it will affect my family life as I needed to make some sacrifices. Despite the world becoming a more accommodating one towards resolving gender inequality issues, I still find that women are not willing to take their career further due to self-unconscious biases. Furthermore, they are always the ones who need to stay late every night to do the house chores so that they can go to work the next day, whereas some husbands may have the privilege to attend clubs and social events. This is also why men do not always give a push to women around them since they will also need to make sacrifices in their day-to-day lives.
The Ambition Gap
There was a collaborative initiative between LeanIn.Org and McKinsey for research to examine the gender-parity gap in financial services. It was found that there was an ambition gap between men and women, in particular many women do not aspire to top positions in their early career, and yet when they do, they often lack the support needed to rise to the top. The reason why entry-level women lack interest in such roles are mainly due to concerns about balancing family and work commitments, the perceived pressure associated with the top jobs, and too much politics being the primary reasons which make the leadership career path less appealing. While entry-level men share some of these concerns, they are significantly less likely to express concern over the pressure of the job.
The lack of women in C-suite positions is a continuing cycle. Because we do not have many females in the C-suite, young women do not see role models or potential paths towards executive-level leadership and are more likely to opt-out of higher-level leadership roles. Finally, there are also some companies offering board membership to females just to tick in the box without valuing their opinions. The Board of Good has partnered with The Mauritius Institute of Directors via the Women Directors Forum, with the aim of creating synergy in their actions and having greater representation of Women in the C-Suite and Directorship positions. Their objective is to increase women’s participation to 500 Mauritian Women Leaders in game-changing positions by 2030 on boards and leadership teams to make mindful and sustainable decisions for a better tomorrow.
How can men contribute more to women’s empowerment?
This can be done at home, in society as well as in the workplace.
We need more women assisting the other gender in leadership roles. Therefore, men should come forward to sponsor women so that we can address the parity in gender inequality. I was lucky to have met two bosses who impacted my career positively – one encouraged me to do my further studies in insurance when I was in my late twenties and the second believed that I was competent enough to be promoted to a managerial position. I would not have been able to achieve what I have today without my husband’s help, who was willing to share my responsibilities so that I could invest myself in my career, despite the patriarchal norms. Men have encouraged me to dream and think outside the box so as to have other options in my career and personal life. I believe that all genders should be equal and we can all complement each other in our daily lives. Each, as strong as the other, even in vulnerability and weakness. Each, with their part to play in our society, and bigger world.
As we set out every day, we all have a desire to have a meaningful life, want to be respected, valued, loved and seen, be it Women or Men…
My Message to Women
Women should dare to dream and need to connect with their passion. Women are highly intuitive beings, and it is important for them to respect and follow their instincts. We should stop criticising what we cannot do and rather lead with what we can do. The first step is to believe that we can make a difference and get started, others will follow gradually.
A quote that resonates with how I perceive Gender Equality:
“I was raised to be an independent woman, not the victim of anything…” by Kamala Harris
Hemlata Karooa,Head of Broking at EllGeo Re