We Don’t Need Women Empowerment. We Need Family Empowerment.

We DON’T NEED women empowerment. We need FAMILY EMPOWERMENT. Being a woman, here’s why I think so. It’s the 21st century. The digital age. Academics and careers now favour women. Meticulousness, memory power, mental stamina, self-sustainability – these are a woman’s forte. Women remember everything. We reason everything. We analyse everything. We are emotional, but that makes us more intelligent and sensitive in dealing with people. We can’t deliver that killer punch but that makes us more perceptive of threats and we guard our things better. We worry more, but that makes us build more resilient environments and economies. So it’s not a surprise that we have women leading in so many places – schools, universities, tech companies, politics, even space missions. University chancellors, heads of state, director of mission-critical initiatives, billionaire entrepreneurs – we all know hundreds of women in these positions. So if there’s one thing that is still holding us back, that sees too few of us in certain careers, social hierarchies and key positions, it is not the lack of empowerment. It is FAMILY RESPONSIBILITIES. Staying back at work everyday until 8 or 10 pm at night is a non-issue, until you have a 2-year old waiting at the door for you to come back. Chairing a task-force meeting for 12 hours non-stop is not an issue, until you have a 10-year old who needs someone to guide him on his homework. Being out-stationed frequently is a non-issue until your mother has to drive to the market alone at 78 years of age. Being the best working employee is not an issue until you have a special needs child who needs YOU, and only YOU. Or as the case sometimes is, taking up that higher education opportunity is a non-issue until your family needs you to take on a low wage job to help finance your brother through his medical degree. In other words, send all the girls to study maths and science, and make them the best engineers, best mathematicians and the best astronauts. Empower them to become captains of the sports teams. Empower them to head thousands of employees. Empower them as much as we can, but without empowering their families, there is a high chance that when they clock out one day, they may never return to work, again. The truth that we often don’t realise is that the same mix of emotional intelligence and mental stamina that propel women to do so well will actually send some of the brightest minds back home because these women know that the most important thing at the end of the day is definitely not that grand cubicle with a window view or that hillside bungalow with a free golf membership. We are never sold of that idea of success anyway, because sooner or later, the success and failure of people around us, especially our children, speaks volumes about what we have really achieved. And all women are very aware of that. So true empowerment of women is not about having more hands to clap when we cross the finishing line. Instead we need workplaces to be redefined. We need social rules to be rewritten. We want economic policies to provide women the flexibility to run our families and our careers together, collaboratively. We want our families not just to exist, we want them to thrive. We want our careers not just be work that pays, we want to build something significant. And it is not impossible. For example, in the last few weeks, the Coronavirus pandemic saw a surge in work-from-home implementations. It didn’t happen for the best of reasons but it did liberate us from pointless meetings and endless traffic jams and put us where we can deliver the best results – for our families and for employers. We were virtual at work, physical at home and we got work done all the same. For jobs that require physical presence, we need to incorporate child crèches and staff quarters in the design of the workplace. For corporations, we need to explore micro-business ecosystems leveraging millions of small businesses that deliver products and services from anywhere, flexibly instead of using scores of desk-bound, cubicle-strapped workers locked away in a building for the whole day. At the end of the day, the trick to empowering women is not giving us more degrees, more titles and more positions. And it is also not about convincing the boys to have us in their teams. We are way past that point. Today, menfolk are more than happy to have us on the frontlines, probably taking advantage of the fact that we don’t really take defeat. What we now need are ways to revolutionize the way supply chains are organized, the way digital and communication technologies are used to create productive environments and a massive change in the mind sets of organizations and the society. We women of the 21st century are totally empowered to take on what is in front, but we need a system that can take care of what we leave behind. Are we up for it?

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