When Anand Mahindra, the chairman of the Mahindra Group recently tweeted a powerful Spanish illustration, acknowledging how far behind our society is in terms of gender equality, the tweet went viral.
The illustration shows men and women ready for a corporate race — but the path in front of women has a number of obstacles, like an oven, a clothes line and a washing machine whereas the path in front of the men is clear. This signifies the countless domestic chores women have to perform irrespective of what their professional career may be.
Mr Mahindra tweeted, saying, 'I've been helping to baby-sit my year-old grandson this past week and it's brought home to me the stark reality of this image’.
I’ve been helping to baby-sit my year old grandson this past week & it’s brought home to me the stark reality of this image. I salute every working woman & acknowledge that their successes have required a much greater amount of effort than their male counterparts pic.twitter.com/2EJjDcK1BR— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) February 5, 2019
I believe this tweet went viral for two reasons — firstly, because it was a tweet by a man and secondly, it was from a man in a position of great power. This is rare in our part of the world.
The concept of gender equality is not new but it still remains a distant dream. Though it has been talked over, discussed and acknowledged many times, it generally gets brushed aside in the belief that women have a 'natural' ability to multitask. Multitasking is the ability to perform disparate multiple tasks over a short period of time. We take calls while we are reading a book, type emails or text messages while in a meeting or do the laundry while cooking.
The ability to juggle between multiple tasks helps us meet the demands of the day without dropping the ball. After all, we don’t have the luxury to concentrate on one task, be it at work or at home. Therefore, we women all multitask; the degree and the tasks may vary — but we all do it.
But, surprisingly, most of us also believe that multitasking is the woman’s 'forte'. Juggling between tasks is almost like an inborn trait that woman demonstrate and this belief is passed on in society, from generation to generation, mother to daughter, teacher to student, friend to friend.
When one sees women balancing work and home, it gets ingrained on our subconscious that multitasking is God's gift to women — and, by extension, to mankind. It is no wonder then that women across the board want to take care of everything at home because they feel it is primarily their responsibility to do so.
The irony of it all: It took a powerful man to draw our attention to the challenges women face. (Photo: Reuters)
The longstanding gender stereotype maintains that women are multitasking goddesses. But they multitask not because they want to but because they seldom have a choice. So, when Anand Mahindra tweets about it, we are reminded of that successful advertisement of 2015, the detergent ad which not only had a short and crisp social message but also portrayed the gender inequality present in our homes with the slogan ‘Share the load’.
The advertisement showed a woman reaching home from office and trying to supervise her child’s homework, prepare dinner and take a work call — while the husband is watching television and asking her for his evening tea. All this is being watched by her father who feels in a way responsible for what his daughter is going through. He acknowledges his failure in not setting the right example during her childhood wherein she never saw her dad helping with the housework.
That image was so internalised within her that now, when she has to juggle numerous tasks, she does it as though she was born to multitask.
The next scene has her father trying to help his wife with the laundry and the viewer is left with the parting slogan ‘Share the load’. Unfortunately, the ad and its message are forgotten and the ‘load’ is still not being shared.
It's called a Double Shift. All women do it. (Photo: Screengrab/ Youtube)
Most women do not fight back because most women do not know any different. From being a girl into womanhood, as the female passes through various stages of life, she is conditioned to believe that bearing children and looking after the family is not just her lot but her responsibility as well. The perfect daughter, the perfect wife and the perfect mother all rely on the certification of those who she has to care for — the man of the house is judged by society in terms of his earning capacity.
So, when a man, one who stands at the pinnacle of success in this male-dominated world, tweets his acknowledgment of the skewed status of women, it possibly means that now perhaps corporate India might have a few meaningful discussions on gender equality.
I also feel that if Anand Mahindra could also tweet a picture of himself at home, taking part in a chore traditionally performed by women, it would also greatly help the cause of gender equality. The irony is that to even acknowledge gender inequality, the world needs a powerful man to tweet about the problem.