This article was first published on Women’s Web.
I was having this conversation with a dear friend who had to attend a full day training. She left her 10 month son alone at home with the nanny but requested me to babysit just in case of an emergency. She was nervous as she was still working from home and had never left her son alone for the whole day.
I gladly agreed, I was relatively free and I could do it. When she came back, she told me that in a classroom where she was the only woman, she felt that nobody was listening to what she was saying. And this triggered all the books that I had read, articles I had shared earlier on how women have to fight doubly hard. Especially after motherhood.
This piece is for the women I know and I don’t – hope it changes them in some ways as it has changed me over the years. Some facts, conditioning and history that we need to consciously change.
Fact: A study published in the journal NeuroImage has found that there are major differences in the way male and female brains process voice sounds. Apparently, the vibration and number of sound waves in our voice makes it harder for people to decipher what we’re saying, even not like what they hear. Where as it is easier to understand men’s voices and not as complex as women’s.
What we should do: Every time somebody asks us women to shut up, don’t. Speak in a lower baritone and speak slower. In offices, men and women should sharpen their listening skills and not cut each other out till the time the speaker has completed his/her point.
Fact: More of codes written by women are approved on GitHub, provided the gender is not disclosed. And this is from a minuscule 12% of women coders on the platform.
What we should do: Remove this reverse bias consciously. It is deeply rooted in all our minds, and unless we remind ourselves every time not to consider gender as a parameter to judge work, this issue will not go away. It has been already proven that a more diverse workforce is more productive and efficient. When we know this, why do we have gender as a filter in our minds?
Fact: A Harvard study shows women participate lesser in a class room setting and they do not ask as many questions as men.
What we should do: Encourage women to ask questions and answer when asked something. Its amazing how a little coaxing goes a long way in making women feel more confident about themselves and speak up. You would be amazed at some of the points that come up. And women, ask that question, however dumb you think it is.
Fact: Many studies show that women are under confident when it comes to investing or managing finances. German Comdirect Bank and the DAB reveal that, women have less confidence in their financial knowledge than men and that 58% of men rated their financial understanding as good or very good, but only 47% of women.
What we should do: Let women manage their own finances, from the time they start working. I know many young girls who have started working but under immense pressure to hand over their finances to their parents or spouses under the pre-text that they wouldn’t know how to manage it. After all, there are other studies which show that women and their investment strategies are more stable. Centre for Financial Research at the University of Cologne found that female fund managers switch around their portfolios less than their male colleagues. Furthermore, women’s strategies and the subsequent performance tend to be more stable.
Statement: Women are bad drivers
What we should do: This statement really bugs me and I have told many people who say this, including my husband, to take a hike every once in a while. I even have a theory for facts showing that maybe women do fail more driving tests than men. Its to do with EVOLUTION. Men have been the hunters and have always dealt with more tools and machines. Obviously their comfort levels are much higher when they deal even with cars but that doesn’t mean women are shitty. Did you know men cause more accidents that women? What does that show?
Anyways, the point is that when someone says this, explain to them that driving is a life skill. Discouraging statements like these are not going to help anyone, especially your own mothers, sisters, daughters and wives who really do need to learn this life skill today. So think before you speak or laugh at women who might be having some trouble and encourage them to not panic when they do. Trust me, it goes a long way in helping them take charge.
What we all should do in general: Men, please be more encouraging. There are centuries of pain, shackles and rules that women cannot get out of easily. Women, do not consider other women your competition, the worst we can do is to stop another woman from climbing higher.
A lot of the things I have mentioned if you see are in our minds and we can come out of it. So do not let yourselves stop what you can achieve. Aim higher, speak up, take charge, and keep driving ahead.