3/6/2012 3:26 PM | Sunrita Dhar-Bhattacharjee

Whose career leads - men or women’s?

To familiarise me with the Swedish culture and their ways of thinking, Minna posted a few Swedish books for me to read. I took an immediate interest in reading ‘Bitter Bitch’ by Maria Sveland after I read the blurb at the back cover, 'how can we live in an equal society when we can't live in equality with those we love?'  I did wonder – would this be relevant elsewhere?

Not that long after, we attended the GHC in Bangalore last December, and I was intrigued to find so many interesting sessions at the mid- level/ senior management track. Of the many sessions, an interesting one related to issues like whose career leads – men or women’s and real obstacles for women in IT. As practitioner themselves, it wasn’t too hard for the panel members to identify the different obstacles facing women in the industry and various issues from mindsets in organisations, 24/7 availability and working in global time, mystery of pregnancy, dynamics in gender unequal workplaces, gender role expectations, lack of mentoring and role models, networking opportunities, travel, inadequate training for re-training women after breaks, competencies for leadership, personal effort of the individual and support networks were discussed. Interestingly one of the speakers pointed out attrition amongst women minus domestic work was actually lower for women than men and the percentages given for women were 5-7% in top, and 30% overall. Attrition for women in the ITES sector ranges between 40-45% and between 25-30% in IT. Some of the obvious reasons identified for women’s attrition were marriage and relocation or partner’s relocation. This lead to the question so whose career leads men or women’s?  

Human capitalist theorists would have certainly advised to follow the simple equation of finding which partner is more qualified and educated and if their human capital scores more, that would probably make sense for that partner to lead.  The panellists came up with some suggestions for young women entering the industry and indeed there were some interesting insights for women entering the industry, and taking up new challenges. ‘Marry well’ was one of the secrets openly advised by the panel which did set the audience giggling for a minute. Although the initial reaction was amusing, the panellists helped to raise the awareness of the consequences of signing up to an unequal partnership in marriage. Looking at some the nods amongst the audience and also after having a quick chat with the girl sitting next to me, I realised many had partners working in the same organisation. ‘So did you marry well?’ I smiled and asked the girl next to me.  ‘Oh I don’t know!’ was the immediate answer.

It did strike me then that not while ago, I read Sveland’s work and here we are discussing unequal partnership in marriage. I was quite pleased this was discussed and that things are beginning to stir.