A seat at the table

A seat at the table

A seat at the boardroom table for a woman is invariably based on sheer capability but what about one at our dining tables?

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Representation of women in corporate boardrooms has increased in the past five years, but still low; cried a headline in a leading newspaper. Yes, the headline was tucked away somewhere in the bottom left corner of Page 5, or was it Page 7? Two things in the article struck me. One, this increase may be due to specific measures taken to improve “gender diversity”. Two, they were talking about the scenario across the world. The representation in India is likely to be much lower. This despite including “reservation for women” and inheritance. A seat at the boardroom table for a woman based on sheer capability is a possibility, albeit being an exception. All of us would no doubt agree this should change.

Why the table at the boardroom alone? Let us come to our own dining rooms. If you go by what you see in movies, commercials on TV and the ads in social media, there is no seat for the woman at the dining table either. The grandmom has a seat, of course, maybe that is because she has reached the gender-neutral senior citizen category. But the woman of the house is busy serving food for everyone else seated at the table. And then there are those ads where the loving husband gently pulls the wife to also sit next to him. Or surprise, surprise, he makes some fantastic looking dish and serves her as a special treat. Isn’t this a treat to the eyes? Of course, yes, we are tuned to these being exceptions. Did I hear you say the above are pictures of today’s middle-aged women (a.k.a previous generation)? Of course, the young men and women of today are different. They represent all equality and freedom. Then, why is it that the Zoom meetings we all are attending in these Covid times are telling us a different story? I would presume the people who attend these virtual meetings are from the most educated and privileged sections of our society. Then how come we hear the noise of children or general noises in and around the house only when the ladies in these meetings unmute and start speaking? The male counterparts are also working from similar environments — but mostly devoid of these noises. Unusual times call for unusual adjustments indeed. Who gets the study table or the least noisy part of the house and can close the door and not bother about the children? Who is likely to sit and work from the living room tea table or kids room or kitchen or the dining table? When will we start having “a working table” for the women in our own homes before we work towards a seat at the boardroom?

(The author is the host of a podcast that examines challenges faced by today’s Indian woman & proposes actionable strategies in the Indian context.)