Dubai Diaries: Why does talking money give women jitters?
"I am worth it" should be the mantra for women at work.
“We live in a pond,” remarked a friend recently. “Once you step out of it, you realise your place in the world.” She is a bright, hard-working woman who set out to adopt a child in India. An uneven financial track record alarmed the authorities who denied the adoption stating that financial stability of both the partners in a marriage was important in case they ever separate and demand custody of the child. There were many learnings for her in this episode, but the one that hit hard was how the excruciatingly long working hours were yielding so little in the world. “Can’t you ask for a raise?” I asked her. She told me she cannot talk money. Foolish, I thought, but she is not the first woman I have met who has inhibitions about talking money at workplace.
Women have been late entrants in the traditional workplace. As they fight the odds to climb the ladder, many often tend to be content with what they have, even when they are expected to match the standards set by men. What we often tend to PhotoShop from our thoughts is that equality is not just about input, it is also about output. The traditional workplace — which we are often made to believe is evolving — also puts women through scrutiny. A few years ago, in a job interview, I was asked point blank if I was planning to have children. “No,” I answered, thinking that the prospective employer was actually concerned how the long hours would impact my domestic life. “Frankly, it’s none of their business,” said my spouse, while telling me that he never got asked this question. A friend who recently got a job in a publishing house was slightly upset when the HR officer asked her what her husband did for a living. I tried to rationalise the query thinking that the officials were simply inquiring about her background, but couldn’t. The problem is in this rationalisation we inflict on ourselves. The problem is in being comfortable not to ask for more because one has been a late entrant to a male-dominated workforce. The problem is in accepting the status quo. It does not help when you don’t champion yourself, because when the need is not expressed, the wish is not granted.
Much brouhaha is made about millennials being ‘high-strung’ and demanding. If I am fascinated by this generation, it’s because they seem to have a much better understanding of self-worth. The years of recession, followed by the pandemic’s onslaught on our ambition, followed by the economic havoc it is likely to wreak in the years to come already mean that the future will test this sense of self-worth. Till then, however, we can afford to choose our battles wisely. Think beyond what we get, and focus on what we deserve. “I am worth it” should be the mantra for women at work.