Is it too difficult to accept that its absolutely fine if “women cannot have it all”? Every individual lives in a unique context within which they operate and make their decisions and choices. Individuals should be able to exercise their agency to choose with dignity and reasonable responsibility. Respecting and understanding their context is a basic sign of humaneness and humanity. When we talk about humans it includes every individual no matter what label or category one may be put in, be it women, men, LGBTQIA+, persons with disability, belonging to a particular ethnic or social background etc. We must not forget a person is a human first.
There is a need to relax, slow down and reflect on where have we reached with our utopian ideas of perfection, idealism and aggression – with the concept of “having it all”?
Is it for the progress of all or is it for the benefit of an agenda or is it just for the gain of a handful of people? Is our fight systemic and sustainable? When it comes to women we often question – How could anyone voluntarily leave the circles of power for the responsibilities of parenthood or elder care or self-care?
Our perception of creating an equal playing field for all is a dream that still needs a lot of on groundwork to be done. There are often major discussions on policies for period leaves and maternity and paternity leaves. The next area we are talking about now is menopause, but are we aware menopause happens for both men and women with varying degrees.
We talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion at workplaces. Protests for equal rights and equal wages for women were started long back and still going on. Men and women are not equal in terms of biological aspects. Women and men face biological challenges in different degrees and levels of their life stages.
Having said this, we often question – do organizations have policies to take care of their women employees? How far the organizations and workplaces are willing to take time to understand the life stages that can impact balancing professional and personal life for women? This is not a matter of generalization but requires a deep understanding when it comes to decision making on policies and career progression for employees, especially for women.
Keeping the above view in mind, there is also a question on whether policies are really accessible to every woman in a fair, just and equitable manner? Or do they have to work forcefully to protect their jobs during these challenging life stages? Every woman faces monthly menstruation cycles and at later stage menopause around the age of 40 to 50 years. During this life stage woman face a series of severe health complications at the physical, mental, emotional and social level, these changes impact self-esteem, energy levels, mental wellbeing for women which can interfere with their productive work. Can a woman take a leave or get some flexible working conditions to manage these situations?
Organisations in countries like the United Kingdom have started making menopause policy then why organisation in India are still skirting around such pertinent issues. For organizations that have not dedicated themselves to the benefit of women in these aspects of their lives such as menstruation, maternity, and menopause etc., then the inclusion of women employees in such organizations will continue to be a challenge. Such organisations will be dealing with the issue of the leaking bucket at a symptomatic level and not at the root level.
- As per research the age at which menopause naturally occurs may reflect nutritional and environmental circumstances as well as genetic factors.
- There is evidence that a proportion of women also experienced or are experiencing early menopause which may represent an overall indicator of women’s health.
- In general, natural menopause occurs between 45 and 55 years of age.
- Concerns have been expressed that rates of premature menopause (before age 40 yrs.) are high in India and maybe increasing in certain sections of the population. For example, the Indian National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2) showed that 3.1 per cent of women in the age group of 30-34 yrs. and 8.0 per cent among 35-39 yrs. age groups were hitting the menopausal stage. (Pallikadavath, 2016)
Every year we celebrate World Menopause Day on 18th October. Yet a number of us fail to understand the need for women to pay attention to their health at this stage of life. This is crucial as its impact is not only on their physical health but also their emotional and mental health.
It is at this age where women are often left with the dilemma to choose between their personal, family and professional responsibilities. At this stage, a number of women are also beginning or preparing themselves for the leadership journey. Such instances are indicators that the challenges for men and women are very different during their different life stages and this must be taken into consideration before judging an individual’s personal and professional choices.
Let’s choose to challenge our judgments when it comes to women taking a stand for their need to pay attention to their health or the need to choose their personal life over professional progress. If we look in deep, the reasons for these choices do not need to be questioned as the answers lie right in front of us.