Nurturing the Dharma of Working Women

Nurturing the Dharma of Working Women

The evolving role of working women in contemporary society brings forth complex challenges that demand thoughtful consideration. A recent snapshot from a corporate event, where a young woman executive in modern attire lit a traditional oil lamp, triggered a dialogue on the shifting cultural values in the professional sphere. This moment serves as a microcosm of the changing attitudes and lifestyles of working women in our time.

In the not-too-distant past, the concept of men and women working on an equal footing in offices was foreign to our cultural landscape. Today, propelled by the principles of equality, women are provided with opportunities to work and earn, altering the dynamics of the workplace. However, this shift has also ushered in influences that challenge established family values, with instances of women managers displaying aggression and ego stemming from newfound financial independence.

A recent legal case highlighted the clash between modern lifestyles and cultural ethos when a female HR head faced accusations of improper conduct involving a live-in relationship with a younger male staffer. The court's reflections on the incompatibility of such lifestyles with our cultural foundations raise pertinent questions about the evolving norms.

Head and Heart in Harmony: Businesses, aiming for diversity, often find that women leaders contribute a more cooperative and participatory style of leadership compared to their male counterparts. While men may adopt a directive and task-oriented approach, women are often viewed as democratic leaders who encourage individuals to find their own path. Men may overtly showcase their successes, while women tend to be modest about their accomplishments. This dichotomy has given rise to the saying that men change the world, while women improve it.

However, women, characterized as emotional and soft-hearted, can find themselves in conflicts in roles demanding toughness. Their inclination towards calculated risks may clash with the need for firms to embrace potentially risky decisions. Emotional tendencies also make them susceptible to mental health issues, adding another layer of complexity to their professional journey.

Research consistently highlights the challenges faced by female managers, including systemic biases and cultural expectations. In response, many women often find themselves working harder to prove their capabilities, attempting to match their male counterparts. Drawing from the wisdom of the Valmiki Ramayana, the narrative of Sita and Anasuya emphasizes a woman's transformative power through righteous living.

Balancing Roles: One of the critical dilemmas faced by working women is the perpetual choice between advancing their career and embracing motherhood. Swami Vivekananda's words echo the sentiment that the ideal womanhood in our country is synonymous with motherhood. The Manava Dharma-Sutra underlines the unparalleled significance of motherhood, positioning it above roles like that of a teacher or a preceptor.

The fundamental dharma of working women, therefore, is to prioritize their role as mothers, considering all other aspects of their professional life as secondary. The woman, as per the Manava Dharma-Sutra, is the guardian of discipline within the family, significantly influencing a child's behavior during their formative years. Recognizing the pivotal role of women in sustaining societies, it becomes imperative to support them through family-related career interruptions.

Corporate Responsibility and Government Support: Business firms play a vital role in supporting working women. Offering measures such as flexible working hours, generous maternity benefits, and accommodating workloads based on family demands can significantly contribute to the well-being of women in the workforce. Moreover, facilitating the re-entry of women who took a break due to motherhood into the workforce is crucial, necessitating a supportive culture at all organizational levels.

Governments, in turn, should incentivize businesses that prioritize the welfare of working women. Fiscal benefits, such as additional tax deductions for expenditures related to supporting women's motherhood responsibilities, can encourage firms to adopt family-friendly policies.

On a societal level, there is a need to appreciate educated women who consciously choose to focus on their family's needs. Ultimately, working women earn respect and attention when they embody fundamental traits of modesty and 'ideal femininity.'

By R. Krishnamurthy

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