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Daycares Over Pool Tables: Offices Must be Designed For Women Too!

The conference, presented by Sheroes, focused on converging gender roles and equality in the workplace and life.

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Power couples at the conference discuss how striving for gender balance is an evolving process.

“Pool tables over daycares. Offsites over flexi timing. Gyms over breastfeeding rooms. Are offices made only for men?” Sairee Chahal, founder and CEO of Sheroes, a growth network for 10 million women, aptly summarised the fundamental problem with the “gender balance” debate. Workplaces was designed keeping in mind the needs and participation of men. High time we change that, don’t you think?

The second edition of Men’s Conference #TheShift was all about getting men into the conversation, and deliberating that gender roles are not absolute.

The evening was spread into two panel discussions centred around workplace, life and converging roles.

‘Diversity is Not Just About Gender’

Sairee’s fireside chat with Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari set the tone for the event. Anant opened the discussion by hitting the nail hard where it ought to be – “Diversity is not just about gender”. It encompasses age, ethnicity and disability and when you have a community this diverse it translates into great innovation.

In the truest sense of an innovator he said the agenda of diversity should be clear, and the approach should play a crucial part.

We can’t be having reservations, because then that would be the wrong way of doing it. Hiring on the basis of merit is the only way forward.
Anant Maheshwari
Sairee Chahal in conversation with Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari.
Sairee Chahal in conversation with Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari.

Power Couples Share the Load

Power couples know that the key to a successful marriage is not to overpower each other, but to share the load. The panel was moderated by former business-journalist-turned-entrepreneur, Mitali Mukherjee. The conversation steered from why to how they are #MakingItWork by taking small steps – beginning from their homes and offices.

The discussion touched upon parenting being a shared responsibility, and what it meant to be an involved parent. It had an interesting mix of “what should be” ideally in a given scenario and how these couples are #MakingItWork for themselves in real lives.

Aditya, founder of MarkSharks, and singer Sonam Kalra are proud pet parents who divide the chores on weekends equally. Sonam says,

Aditya bathes the dogs every Sunday, and I make sure they are vaccinated. We make sure the tasks are well distributed.
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Sonam added rhetorically, “When did marriage become about ownership and roles?”

Another power couple – Priya Krishnan, CEO of Founding Years Learning Solutions, and Sanjay Krishnan, Founder of Lithium Urban Technologies – described living off a lower salary during the early days of their marriage. Sanjay said it was because of his wife’s resolve to keep working that he was able to become an entrepreneur.

The whole room cracked up when he admitted that it is fun to cook and therapeutic to clean the dishes.

Akanksha Maheshwari, Director, Marketing and Communications, Marriott International, said they encourage men to not only take paternity leaves but also to get kids to work.
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All in all the both the discussions focused around the shared responsibilities and how change begins from home and within a family. It is not about one person’s domination over other, but collaborating in unison for desired results.

There’s no rulebook for your reference. We falter and we learn from our mistakes. The key is to keep going and never settle for the easier way out. Striving for gender balance is an evolving process – and these couples just made it pretty clear to us.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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