WORK LIFE BALANCE FOR WOMEN OF THE 21ST CENTURY
To celebrate International Women’s Day, in line with the theme of this year “Each for Equal” we caught up with Ajanya Consulting, an Education Consultancy firm that is run by two women; Dr. Abha Chaturvedi who has a background in medicine and Archana Sanger who is a trained chemical engineer. The two entrepreneurs left their respective fields to start Ajanya Consultancy after they both faced difficulty while selecting and applying for the universities for higher education for their respective children.
Nomad Lounges: What does the International Women’s Day theme for 2020 #Each for equal mean to you and to Ajanya Consulting?
Ajanya Consulting: Each for equal means empowering women to a level where they do not feel left out in selecting careers. For instance, in the field of education, you find there is a gender bias while selecting courses to study and a career to pursue. Some parents would like their daughters to go the traditional way, probably towards liberal arts and psychology because maths and engineering are considered more of a male domain and a field that their daughters may not be able to do well in. Ajanya consulting is trying to break such gender bias, and promote equal opportunities for girls by counseling the parents that if a child has achieved good scores in math and physics, and engineering is her passion, let her explore it. Through this, we are trying to break the stereotypes around women, what areas they should study, and so far we have got a lot of success with that.
NL: Our theme of the month is wellness, and how difficult it is for women to achieve a work-life balance. Which are some of the challenges that you have faced while trying to balance work and your personal life?
A: Women generally have so many things running, you have to maintain a clean and proper home, you have children, a husband and it’s obviously harder because women are the primary caregivers, a balance is quite hard to establish. (It is always a learning experience)
NL: Which strategies can women put in place to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
A: Women need to set their priorities depending on what is more important at a particular time in your life. So, for both of us, when our children were growing up most of our attention was on them. Now that they are grown up and gone abroad for their higher education, we have more time on our hands, thus we can focus more time on our careers.
For women, putting their career as a first priority can be difficult so you just need to set some kind of limits to your aspirations while balancing your responsibilities.
NL: From a medical perspective Dr. Abha, what are some of the effects of stress that affect women physically and mentally?
A: The psychological aspects are there for men as well, but women being estrogen-driven, these affect us more, we tend to over-analyze situations.
When we take up something, we tend to give it 100% and suffer from guilt when we are not able to deliver it fully, be it our children, maintenance of our homes, our work or our own upkeep.
We’ve got so many things running in parallel and something going wrong can have a very negative or detrimental effect on our own well being even touching on the self-esteem. So instead of feeling empowered, as a working woman, you end up feeling very low and feel a sense of failure creeping in.
They end up feeling that a mother was not able to do her best for her child or not being able to be a good wife, or cook well or look good. So those things can have a long term negative effect on a woman with a feeling that in the journey of empowerment and building her career, she actually failed at being perfect at her other responsibilities.
NL: Which strategies should women put in place to ensure that we don’t end up depressed and overworked?
A: It’s very important for women to know that it’s okay to get help and it’s okay not to live up to everybody’s expectations. We are not superhuman. We cannot do everything to the best possible expectation set by others. Yes, you have to let go. It is fine if your house is not spik and span all the time. It’s just okay. You need to preserve your mental balance.
NL: How do you think that society is changing to empower women?
A: Interestingly today parents are not as strict with their children; they allow them to pursue whatever they want education-wise. I’m an engineer by training and I was in a class of 75 pupils with only two girls. But these days girls can pursue what they want.
In the workplace too, systems have been put where in some big organizations, they have daycare facilities where mothers can come with their children, so yes the society is changing for the better.
NL: So to summarise, women are not superhuman. They need to respect themselves. They should not aspire to always be perfect at meeting all their responsibilities as work-life balance is one tricky affair……