Why the corporate-style “Women’s Day Celebrations”​ gives me the creeps

Tarot Card reading.

Huh?!! Why tarot card reading? I wondered….

And there are many more on the list of corporate services for Women’s Day celebrations offered in the market, come March. There is candle-making, foot reflexology, etiquette, makeup and the whole jing-bang.

What do any of these have anything to do remotely with Women’s Day? Yet year after year, a whole bunch of corporates seek these services to celebrate Women’s Day.

I wonder if it is pure lack of imagination to find a way to commemorate this day, or complete lack of perspective on what this ‘Women’s Day’ should stand for.
Worse, I am not sure if we realise how much this frivolousness could be hurting the very cause of women’s day.

Women’s Day originally was not on 8th of March; it came to be so in due course of time, after different dates marked the protests of women for “equal wages” and “conditions of work” back in the 1900s.

Unfortunately, most of us are barely aware of the very history of Women’s Day.

With the pink balloon decorations and flowers and chocolates handed out to women on the day as celebration, and not to forget foot reflexology…

I don’t know if we are even confusing it with some sort of womany Valentine’s Day.. like a love-thy-women day

So where are we on the struggle that began one full century ago?

  • How close are women to getting equal salary as men for the same work? There are enough statistics out there to prove the converse.
  • Have we done away with the glass ceiling a 100 years later? How many women executives do you see — barring the “Head of HR” or “Head of Corporate Communications”?
  • How many women CEOs do we have? If we did then why do the one odd Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Cheryl Sandberg stand out so much — as if they were rare exceptions?
  • Why can a man in his 30s become a Director crunching numbers on excel sheets, but a woman, despite taking several times more career risks, needs to “wait her turn” before she has “age and experience” on her side?
  • Why do we still live with disgusting stereotypes? That if man made it to the top he has strong capability, but if a woman did so, she has weak character?

I was conversing with a woman HR professional, and I cannot forget what she said…

There are only “assertive men” and “aggressive women”.
We have made a mockery out of gender diversity.
Gender diversity is NOT ONLY about maternity policies allowing women to give birth to and raise babies. That is only 10% of the whole deal
Gender diversity is about every career stage of every woman. When she is in her 20s starting her career, in her 30s, 40s and 50s — the married woman, the single woman, the divorced woman, the mother-of-kids women, and the D-I-N-K woman.

I think there is one good way of celebrating women’s day.

And that is by letting 8th March be the day when we stop bull-shitting ourselves about gender diversity

If an organization is really serious about Women’s Day, here are two things they will do:

  1. The CEO will be accountable: That in his X years of his tenure, how many women executives have made it to the boardroom and to the top 2 levels in the organization ((and not in those stereotypical functions) — even more interesting — does his set of identified successors include a woman (!!)
  2. There will be difficult conversations, including men and managers: You cannot run a gender diversity agenda without getting the real feelings out on the table, and especially that of the other gender.
But I doubt how many brave leaders are out there, who will acknowledge their failure to look at the real issue. That honest acknowledgement will be a good place to start with.

But until that happens, there will be the song and dance, poetry on women-who-made-a-difference-to-my-life, or the more intellectual type once-a-year solemn panel discussion on women’s issues, mostly around maternity leave policy and flexi working.

And ofcourse you have the women-only grooming and etiquette classes — because mind you men have no need to be courteous, or well-dressed. Only the women folk must be taught to “behave themselves” while at work.

I don’t know about you, but if I find myself in the vicinity of some pink balloon decorations, I am going find a sofa and hide under it.

Lest someone should hand me a pink rose and say “Happy Women’s Day”!


Other articles from Swati include:

  1. The Uber Case: VP-HR or CEO? Who is accountable for culture? Where the buck stops
  2. LOL … driverless cars for India??: When AI meets Cows, Rajinikanth and Ganpati
  3. “If Robots will do everything, what will humans do”: Why AI Rhetoric deeply worries me
  4. The Monkey Catcher’s Lesson: Why we get stuck in our jobs, situations, emotions..
  5. Flirt with your product ideas, don’t fall in love
  6. Love in the time of Artificial Intelligence: Valentine’s Day 2030
  7. 3 unforgettable lessons I learnt from an Indian Ed Tech Leader
  8. 3 taboo questions Millennials are asking, leaving hiring managers shocked