When Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo, remarked at the Aspen Ideas Festival, that women can’t have it all, it turned heads, and minds. For a person of her position to actually quote those words, it set many thinking.
It is a matter of international and psychological debate whether anyone can actually ‘have it all.’ But we are not talking about that. What we are more interested in is the fact that she believes that women can’t.
We have been trained through centuries of conditioning to believe that each person is set in certain roles in society. When the suffragettes started their movement to be able to vote and participate in legislature- a milestone in modern society, the popular roles were shifting, evolving.
Everything evolves with time they say. But before the suffragettes came along, the oracles at Delphi (most certainly women) were revered as priestesses. The Ancient Egyptians followed famous Queens like Nefertiti who were pivotal in changing the course of history. Indian history is riddled with stories of famous women who lead and bled for land and love.
Most notably, on the other end of the spectrum, in the popular TV series Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen is to have famously quoted, “Valar Morghulis- All Men Must Die; but we are not men.” It seems men, too are not free from this condemnation.
In spite of all these interesting facts, somewhere along the line, misogyny did kick in. This brings us to one of the most popular debates of our time- gender bias.
Gender bias is a preference or prejudice toward one gender over the other. Bias can be conscious or unconscious, and may manifest in many ways, both subtle and obvious. In many countries, eliminating such preferences is the basis of many laws, including those that govern workplaces, family courts, and even the voting booth. Despite these efforts, many legal and political scholars argue that total gender parity remains a far off goal, one which many regions are not remotely close to reaching.
In most cultures, gender bias is a conditioned mindset. It is possible for gender bias to be subtle or overt, and it can have a range of consequences. For instance, the biased assumption that girl’s school sports are less important than boy’s school sports lead to an inequality in funding and access to facilities.
There is a predisposition towards thinking that men are delegated certain tasks and women are delegated certain tasks. In spite of the fact that today there is an ambiguousness in the tasks performed by both genders, we still see certain tasks as the responsibility of certain genders.
For example, men are supposed to earn for the family, women are supposed to cook for the family, etc. These predispositions are so strong that changing them is like changing the law, or the norm as a sociologist would say. Historically, in many countries, men have made more money over a career than women, even if they hold the same position.
Women’s rights activists often cite this argument as part of the overall gender bias of modern society, suggesting that women are financially punished for choosing to rear children, despite the fact that this action is vital to the continuance of the state.
In spite of centuries of conditioning though, now this gender bias seems to be subtly changing and evolving. Roles designated earlier are being morphed. In fact, traditionally, it was the women who shopped fanatically. But now a days, men too, go shopping for toiletries and clothing, equally fanatically.
We are in the process of re-imagining our laws and lifestyles, and sometimes even changing them, to accommodate the reality of the changing times. The fact that this is an international discussion means it is more important than ever we objectively learn to weigh the pros and cons of each decision we make and realize that they will have far reaching consequences.
Intelligence Node believes that it is time to temper our thoughts with the fire of wisdom and become stronger than we ever were before, by shedding untoward biases- be they towards men or women.