marriage signifies a key turning point in the lives of the majority of women. The wedding period is also the inevitable time when each and every experienced (read married) woman prides herself in giving out to the bride her (un)fair share of advice. amongst the many dilemmas plaguing a woman’s mind is definitely that of making a career once she gets married. i was confronted by these very questions when getting married a year ago. from friends who advised me to sit at home to chill and pamper myself (being female and working hard on a career is a concept still very alien to many) to women who told me to opt for a “service road career”, i had my share of it all. however, the problem seemed to me very minuscule, one limited to my own microcosm of a universe.

little did i know, that these questions had but touched only the tip of the ice berg. the conversations echoed once again in my mind as i was reading the interview of indra nooyi, pepsi co. india ceo ranked number 14th on forbes list of most powerful women (2014) who recently claimed that women “can’t have it all”; all that they can do is “cope”. needless to say, her blatant outburst has provoked a debate and an outcry on whether it is possible for women to achieve it all.

so why is it that so many women have a hard time balancing it all? why do they need to forfeit one to achieve the other? why do we have to care about titles, labels and stereotypes when opting in or out of a career?

as a working woman and daughter of another; i have been up close and personal with many struggles that women face. the problems for working women stem from two dimensions; internal and external.

the internal dimension is certainly the bigger part of the problem. while as women, multi-tasking might be our forte; it certainly doesn’t translate into an easy life for us. in our quest to be the perfect home makers, over-achieving working professionals as well as doting mothers; we tend to lose sight of our own selves and the rightful attention we deserve. a woman would be thinking on what would be on her dinner table as she manages her way through an important work meeting. as if the burden wasn’t enough, women are also expected to do it “all” flawlessly, without effort and without making a show of their multi-tasking abilities. unlike men, we women are judged much more often against accepted definitions of womanhood, motherhood and so on.

the external end can’t be ignored either. however, we can only tackle this end once we are self-assured and self-aware of our worth which will empower us to deal with external stakeholders confidently. women need supportive structures in the workplace to balance it all well. anything from flexible timings to on-premise day care facilities can go a long way in helping working women. unfortunately, only a few employers in pakistan offer this kind of facilities for their female working corps. moreover, the attitude towards women being given such facilities (both from men and women) is condescending to say the least. men think women have the easy “way” out and do not deserve these facilities and should “leave” their issues at home if they wish to come out and make a career.

how to break this cycle?

1. seek help: don’t feel guilty about seeking help. enlist support, wherever it may come from.

2. me time: give yourself some me time every day; even if it is 10 minutes. read a book, catch up on some serial or treat yourself to a cup of coffee.

3. give credit: praise yourself and feel happy over your achievements! raise that toast to yourself.

4. make some noise: too often, we women fail to raise an issue in the hopes that someone would notice. it is our right to raise our voice and so we should.

5. network and connect: talk to women in your workplace. it always makes a difference if more than one person raises an issue or proposes a solution.

we all look to break that proverbial glass ceiling that inhibits us from reaching the very top of the career ladder. look within yourself and you will find many a glass barriers holding yourself back. it is time to break the ceiling within.

written by: samreen naqvi

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