Kathy Sierra’s post today, an empathetic and emphatic rant on overtime, reminded me of the days I worked, as an avowed workaholic who rarely got home before 8pm at Result:McCann back in the mid nineties. [Yes, I’m old :)]
While the company van and driver [Mohar Singh?] were available to all for event promotions and collateral delivery, priority was always given to those of us account executives and managers who were women. New Delhi is one of the most unsafe cities in the world for women after dark, and a car and driver were musts for most companies that required working late or over weekends. Of course, when we had "tough" projects like judging dance competitions in five star night clubs across Delhi for the launch of Levi’s, we needed a car to get home at 2am 🙂 or driving around distribution points in the middle of night ensuring that Coca Cola posters got inserted into the morning Hindustan Times for the launch/return of Coke in India.
However Kathy’s words, echoed by Neelankantan in his comment, spoke to me.
"Still, the difference between being expected to put in the long hours and being worshipped for doing it cannot be overstated"
This is how the best companies in India treat their women employees if they wish to retain and nurture them. Call centers in the outer suburbs usually provide shuttles to and fro from home or pickup points in the city, with priority for women employees. Buses have "ladies only" seats, as do trains, which even have "ladies only" compartments, for those women travelling unaccompanied by a male family member. Buses in Chennai are even more particular and usually space was left in the front of the bus for women to stand. Cinema Halls have "Ladies Only" lines, so that you didn’t have to stand in line with the riff raff 🙂 or the lumpen masses as they are affectionately referred to in India.
Does this "segregation" imply a disrespect for women or devalue our "liberation"? I don’t think so. When you consider that there parts of India that have the worst reputation for the treatment of women, being protected, as a corporate perk was a luxury. Or to quote Ms. Sierra, "being worshipped". This protection of women is so prevalent that an unaccompanied woman after dark was considered "fair game". Personally, this is so culturally embedded, that it took me a long time after I arrived in the United States to work up the courage to travel alone after dark. Of course, within a year I was taking the "L" in Chicago back from parties at 1am 🙂
*sigh* I miss those days…[some times]