Indian Married Working Women: Are they really independent?
A conversation between a newlywed couple: Wife: I was thinking if I could join back my office from next week, now that we are done with all the formalities of marriage. Husband: But why do you want to work? You know my income is more than sufficient for taking care of our expenses. Plus I think mom would like you to help her with housework rather than going out and wasting your time in office. Family comes first. Such conversations are quite a common phenomenon in India among the newly married couples. While we take it granted for the husband to resume his work post marriage, a girl has to go through the process of seeking permission and APPROVAL first from the husband and then the in-laws. The career and the subsequent lifestyle of a girl depends on whether her marital family considers a woman stepping out of the home to earn her livelihood ‘sanskari’ enough for the family reputation or not. Once a lady clears the first milestone of getting approval to work, the second main question that arises is the ‘type of work’ that would be ideal for the “bahu” of the household. She may or may not be allowed to continue her previous job based on the following criteria:
- The profession should be a respectable one as per the standards of the society.
- The job shouldn’t be a demanding one as her first and foremost priority will always be the family.
- The amount in her paycheck should not exceed that of her husband’s.
- The job shouldn’t require her to work long hours or till late in the night.
The wife is under constant pressure to not give her career the required priority and time as her work is considered purely as a means of either generating extra income for the family or just a means of passing the time for the woman. It is very unlikely that the career of a woman in Indian society is seen through the same lens as that of her husband. The terms breadwinner, provider, income generator, etc. are all associated with the male members of the family, completely sidelining the efforts and energy that a woman puts in to make her career successful. After clearing the first two steps, when the woman starts working, one of the major dilemmas that she faces throughout her life is managing the work-life balance. According to a one-time Nielsen India study on Indian households carried out in 5 major cities in India in November 2014, it was found that over two-thirds of Indian women felt there exists inequality at home and 85% of working Indian women felt they have two jobs, one at work and another at home. These statistics clearly indicate the issues that a working woman has to face in home. She gets very little or no support from her family and is expected to do all the household work even if both the couple puts in same number of hours for their job. Looking at the above facts, can we really state that a married Indian woman, who is pursuing her career, is an independent lady? In spite of all the developments in the country, is she really free to take her decisions on her own, based on her likes and interests? ————– About the Author: This article is contributed by Sweta Singh, our intern.