My visit to the U.S. as an IVLP participant has been memorable on many counts, but perhaps the most notable aspect of our 3-week program was the extent to which women were actively involved in all levels of our professional tour.
As a society, India still struggles to ensure 33% representation for women in public positions. There is no doubt about the continuing need to level the playing field for women in India.
Traditionally, Indian society and culture confined women largely to family obligations, with a few exceptions like The Queen of Jhansi Lakshmibai, who courageously led her army from the front to take on the British. A number of other examples of female leaders can be found in our history. Today, there are numerous examples of female leaders in politics, businesses, art and media. But, even these examples aren’t enough to counter the argument in favor of gender quotas.
I personally do not favor differential treatment based on sex, religion, caste, color or any other demarcation. Quotas should only be used to stimulate greater female participation but ultimately it is a more conducive work environment that helps their participation to grow. I believe, mere acts or legislation on quotas aren’t enough; it is the society as a whole that needs to accept women in the workplace.
My U.S. experience showed me that women are an organic part of the entire U.S. system. Most striking to me was the equal opportunity given to women of different backgrounds. For instance, at a conference table in Washington, D.C., we met with professional women whose origins were from countries like Germany, Ireland and Russia yet all represent the U.S. and American organizations.
In the U.S., women take responsibility, make decisions, direct, communicate, discuss and they even listen. There is no weakness. They are strong, determined and content. It should be noted that these characteristics aren’t limited to women of any particular origin. It is true of American women as a whole.
When I speak about equal opportunity for women in the US, however, I must also acknowledge the darker side too. For on the very same soil, despite all the progress and participation, atrocities are still committed against women. Even so, I believe the extent of this problem is much less than many other countries in the world, including India.
Women, as it is rightly said, are the foundation of any civilization. But a fair and equal opportunity for all women will determine the progress of that civilization.
Hence, it is the social fabric and freedom throughout American society that ultimately gives women the wings to fly!
The author Mr. Rutam Vora, Principal Correspondent for The Hindu Business Line, was invited to participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program for India, “Economic Business Reporting Skills for Journalists” in January 2016.