Women grow up internalising many biases against our gender. This can have an extremely negative impact on our self-esteem and confidence and even how we perform in society.
Our society has ingrained in us several gender stereotypes for centuries. From ‘men shouldn’t participate in childcare’ to ‘women don’t make good scientists’, there are so many notions that society teaches us to believe. It’s about time we started to rethink them.
We asked women in the Kool Kanya Community about the gender biases that they faced and how they dealt with them. These women hope to shatter these nasty beliefs about women, with a handful of them successfully shattering many of these preconceived notions within their homes and immediate circles.
Which gender bias did you tear down?
Priyanka Kumari – I grew up not wanting to be like girls because I saw that society looked down upon them. I avoided everything girls do. I also saw how the world was proud of boys even though they often weren’t worthy of being idolised. So I tried to be different from boys; I never wanted to be like them. Growing up, I could not figure out who I truly was outside my gender identity. Now, I try to stay true to who I am without worrying too much about what others think.**
Aditi* – We talk a lot about empowerment and equality without dealing with the underlying symptoms and causes. Biases are among the most hurtful and insidious beliefs in this context. I have managed to tackle the notion that only men are allowed to have fun and enjoy themselves. This was a task because challenging these preconceived ideas within my family was tough. A prejudice that I would love to overcome is about how leadership is supposedly exclusive to men.
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Pooja Joshi – I haven’t faced gender bias so far in my organisation. But, the thing which bothers me a lot is reliability. Whenever any task is supposed to be performed under the deadliest deadline, the favourite and often the only preference is men.
Shilpa Sri Karra – I grew up in an favourable environment where we did not have to deal with gender biases. It was only after I graduated that I was hit by the harsh reality. Starting from girls should not focus on their future as someone else is going to decide for them to women should not consider career options if they have a family to look after. I held no such biases myself but I now realise that the people around us should feel the same for the world to be better.**
Kavya* – The stereotype that women ought not to be assertive grates on my nerves. This isn’t necessarily because I’ve been reprimanded for being too assertive but because other women have been indirectly reprimanded for carrying themselves with confidence. I greatly admire women who can opine assertively — I‘ve always been on the quieter end of the spectrum. Somewhat paradoxically, the loudest I tend to be is when I protest against other women being called arrogant for carrying themselves with confidence.
Aparna Majumdar – The word settle is one of the biggest gender biases I have faced. The word settle to women means to get married, have kids, and start a family. I had made it very clear that I would get married or have kids if I wanted to and only on my terms. Not having kids doesn’t make me any less of a woman. What I do with my life is my choice alone and nobody gets to dictate that.
Samyukta* – The biggest bias I have had to fight is that women are always financially dependent. The man in the house should take care of her financial needs. At the moment, I earn more than my husband. I follow my dreams and live life on my terms. My husband has always supported me through this journey. While I am at my desk, creating a good pitch for my next client, he serves me lunch (often, it’s cooked by him). I feel proud to have influenced such a difference in my house.**
Whether it’s multitasking because we are made to believe that we need to focus on multiple things at once or that we should not ask for our worth, we discover how unfair society — and that includes ourselves — treats us. Acknowledging this and trying to break free from these biases is the first step to empowerment. So, how will you raise your power?
*Disclaimer: Names have been changed to maintain anonymity.
**Disclaimer: Some of these responses have been modified for brevity and grammatical purposes. You can find the detailed responses here.
You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.