Men Women … debate shall go on …


A couple of days back I had the opportunity to attend a book reading event held in my office. The author is a management graduate, who has worked with an FMCG major for a few years. Then took up journalism and is now a full-time writer. According to her, her book, which is a work of fiction is not her autobiography but has drawn on her experiences of being the only woman in a space dominated by men. Incidentally, the event was organized by a women’s body in my office, and the audience was comprised only of women. It was after ages that I was in an all-women forum and I think in itself was an experience. It veered to be Men, Women kind of debate.

Men Women
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Men, Women

The author read a few excerpts from her book. Which were probably the highlights of the defining moments of the protagonist’s journey. After which, as expected, the discussion shifted to women’s role in the organization. How they are required to put in more effort for the same results, and the way they get treated by their male colleagues. What I found in that room was that most of the women were trying to prove themselves. Why what and to whom is something probably did not even think about.

They wanted to prove that I am as good as a man. I can also do whatever a man can do. My question to them was why are you trying to prove? The differentiation at the workplace happens first of all in our own minds.

First Time

Another important aspect that women usually forget is that just like we are trying to do a lot of things for the first time, men are also seeing women in certain spaces for the first time. I have an interesting incident to share. When I wanted to buy a car, I went to the car dealer and asked for details about a few models, and expressed my desire to test-drive them. A couple of salespersons actually asked me if I have come alone. When I replied ‘yes, they almost rejected me as a customer and shifted their focus to prospects with better potential.

On my insistence, he did take me for a test drive. But with no hope of me converting into a customer. After all this, I chose the car and negotiated the payment terms. The salesperson was supposed to come the next day to collect the required papers and check for the initial amount. The person lands up and demands the full amount. When I showed him the document stating the agreed terms and conditions, he said ‘Are you serious about it, I never thought a lady would negotiate so much’.


Now, this is her perception of women being bad negotiators (or she can negotiate with the kinds of sabziwla, dhoodhwaala only). I had to go to another dealer and buy the car. The issue in many such situations is that men in certain strata of society and certain men in all strata of society are still learning to deal with women. At times it is because they are also dealing with women in a certain capacity for the first time. They do not know how to react. At times their conditioning puts them on the defensive.

At times they see the sudden presence of a woman as intrusive. As they have to be careful of what they talk. Probably do not use the same language as they would use in an ‘all boys’ environment. As they get used to the presence of women, a gradual change happens in the environment. At times if you are the only woman, you have to enable this change and resist the temptation to react to the initial rejection. What I think is most important is not to let these reactions affect you. As they are the biggest hindrance to creating a harmonious atmosphere.

Learn to Deal with it

If both men and women look at these situations as the change that both parties have to deal with or learn to live with, we would not have half the debates around men, women, and the differences thereof. I would invite the women who find themselves in an awkward situation to sometimes step back and try to see the situation from the other angle. And you may not find the situation as annoying.

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