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Words of Wisdom by Five True Leaders and Changemakers

Words of Wisdom by Five True Leaders and Changemakers

True leaders are people who believe that they are capable of bringing about change even in the face of adversities. But more than that, true leaders call out whatever they feel is unjust and are not afraid to have their voices heard over the injustice. Most muffled in all of history has been the voices of women who’ve done their duty as true leaders. However, some voices made it to the rest of us and there is merit in listening to and reading their words over and over again.

Gender equality and women’s rights are always on the top of our priorities at OBOlinx. Even though we are a small organisation, there are certain core principles we hold very close to our hearts. One such core principle is women’s empowerment, equality and rights. One small example of how we try to achieve the same is by maintaining an all women’s team. Not only that, we follow the work from home mode of work, because we believe that regardless of the social background, and personal limitations, women should have an equal chance at employment opportunities.

Men have always had unfair advantages over women for no real or rational reason. But history is witness to some phenomenally phenomenal women who have made the world a better place. Today we bring to you a selection of wise words which women in varied positions have spoken, and which will ring true for ages to come.

Happy reading!

From one of our favourite writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on gender equality –

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices, always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?

Words of wisdom by feminist and writer, Gloria Steinem. Yes, it is true that only when we unlearn everything that we have learnt over the years, without questioning their validity, that true change will come around.

The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.

And the diva couldn’t have said it better. True change begins only when we reshape our own perception of who we are. Words by Beyoncé.

Women have to work much harder to make it in this world. It really pisses me off that women don’t get the same opportunities as men do, or money for that matter. Because lets face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define our values and to define what’s sexy and what’s feminine and that’s bullshit. At the end of the day, it’s not about equal rights, it’s about how we think. We have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves.

Chanda Kochar, the CEO of ICICI bank – India’s largest private sector bank, tells us what the one most important principle at the world of work is.

We need to start work with the idea that we’re going to learn every day. I learn, even at my position, every single day.

A pioneer of the civil rights movement in the US, Rosa Parks is one of the most prominent and important leaders who fought against apartheid. When taken into custody and questioned about her act of transgression against the law (which was the fact that she did not give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus), she said, “all I was doing was trying to get home from work”. Her action of not giving in to the injustice at play led to a boycott of the city bus services by all the black people who actually formed the majority of the working classes using the transport services. The government was forced to ban racial segregation on buses, after which they called the boycott off. And right there, a piece of history was formed.

I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.

In our own ways, we all have the ability within us to be phenomenally phenomenal. How? Just by being best at who we are.

These are words that we read or heard that forever became some of our favorites, because of how we associate with and draw strength from them. What are some of your favourite words/ quotes / lines?

The Importance of Gender Diversity in the World of Work

The Importance of Gender Diversity in the World of Work

We write this post assuming that we have come past the phase where we even refuse to acknowledge that gender inequality at the workplace is a very real problem, which requires an immediate solution. Unfair recruitment, unequal pay, the phenomenon of glass ceiling [The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission describes the term ‘glass ceiling’ as “the unseen, yet unbreakable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.”], are all very pertinent issues which hinder gender diversity in the world of work.

Gender diversity at the workplace, is a crucial pre-requisite in the globalized world of work we all inhabit today. And here are only some of the reasons about why it is so important.

  1. Increased organizational performance

    Any organization’s performance is a reflection of the core values and principles of the organization. In other words, the performance of the team is directly related to the organization’s attitude and investments towards the team. One of the most important aspects which have a direct influence on organizational performance is equality and inclusivity. The employees, irrespective of their gender, need to feel like they are equals. It is only then that the motivation and interest to give back to the organization can be sustained within them.

  2. Ability to retain a diverse customer base

    In order to help your business grow, it is important for you to be able to attract and sustain a diverse customer base. It is difficult to be able to meet that requirement unless your employee base in itself reflects gender diversity. It is a fact that men and women perceive things differently, with relation to certain key issues. Diversity in thought at the end of the organization is directly related to how successfully the organization is able to retain a diverse customer / client base. A gender diverse work environment is by default a more engaging and supportive work environment.

  3. Decrease in attrition rates

    One of the most important causes leading to high attrition rates for any organization is inequality, or just the overall work environment which may not be very inclusive. Lack of equality or unfairness breeds dissatisfaction within the workplace, thus contributing to reasons for higher employee turnover or attrition rates. This not only reflects badly on the goodwill of the organization, but is also a rather expensive error to rectify. Workspaces which are more inclusive and fair tend to have lower attrition rates.

  4. A better talent pool

    A more inclusive and diverse work space by default guarantees a richer talent pool. By being gender biased as an organization, you automatically forego a huge chunk of talent. You never know what attributes, and skills you’re missing out on by eliminating or limiting female representation or engagement at various levels in your organization.

  5. Reflection of the organizational culture and values

    As we move towards a more globalized world of work, the values and the principles that organizations play by have started gaining more and more importance. It is exactly these values and principles that set an organization apart from others. It is the culture and the values harbored by an organization which lend to it, its reputation. One of the primary reflections of the same is the factor of gender diversity within an organization. The values of fairness, inclusivity and equality while being the most basic expectations, also paradoxically end up being very rare to find. And surely enough, any organization which boasts of these values, is one worth aspiring to be a part of!


It is an understated fact that we need more women at work, in the world of work. We at OBOlinx are an all women’s team, and have a ton of inspiring ‘women at work’ stories which we would love to share with you. But before that, we would love to bring your stories to the world. Tell us what has worked for you, and what hasn’t worked for you, as a woman at work. You never know who you might end up inspiring and providing hope to, out there!

5 Unconventional Career Tracks Women are Making it Big In

5 Unconventional Career Tracks Women are Making it Big In

Professional spaces today continue to be defined along gendered lines. This means that there are some employment sectors that continue to be dominated by persons of specific genders. For example, the gender balance in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields has traditionally favoured men. On the other hand, jobs such as those in Healthcare and Early Education seem to be dominated worldwide by women. These are sometimes patronisingly referred to as ‘pink-collar’ jobs.

Women over the last few decades have done a lot to overcome these barriers, and the struggle continues. Women making it big in men dominated fields also at times face varied degrees of sexism and this fact is well recorded. If it is not this, then it is the societal pressure on working women to get married, become mothers and shoulder much of the domestic burden, while at the same time taking care of their professional responsibilities. Despite resistance they have had to face, women are increasingly breaking gender stereotypes and making it big in these sectors. Our list of unconventional career tracks women have chosen and have succeeded in, covers a few of these.

Documentary Filmmaking

Male film directors define the norm in our film industry, just as it is in the film industries of any other country.  No doubt, women filmmakers have left a mark on audience’s preferences, but there are too few of them. Of those who have entered the profession, not many of them go on to make a lot of movies.

Gladly, the scenario is much better in the Indian documentary filmmaking space. The commercial documentary filmmaking scene is itself nascent in India and women documentary makers have captured an equal share of the distribution pie. Some of the movies that got theatrical distribution over the last few years have been helmed by women filmmakers. To name few, Supermen of Malegaon, The Rat Race, Gulabi Gang, The World Before Her, When Hari Got Married, Katiyabaaz. It is perhaps something about the independence documentary filmmaking afford women, that they find themselves on the cutting edge. If commercial fiction film industry were to dismantle its oppressive glass ceilings, women filmmakers will enrich it, just as they have done for the documentary industry.

Public Transport

This year, the Indian Air Force inducted its first female fighter pilots. A proud moment as it was, countless women on the ground have been making equally remarkable headway into driving transport vehicles. Defeating that stereotype of women being poor drivers, thousands of women are taking up driving and owning their own taxis. Women-only taxi services (of which both the drivers and the customers are women) run in most of India’s major towns. These include Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and also the State of Goa.

The services offer not just a chance to be self-reliant to the women drivers, they also provide a secure ferrying service to its women customers who have found themselves not infrequently at the ends of harassment by male drivers. Many of these services are supported by NGOs that help train women, most in need of work. These women taxi services have struggled to scale up largely owing to the lack of investors’ interest, but for the good that they do both in terms of economy and security, it is important to give this sector some push. Apart from women-only taxi services, women have also occupied the driving seats of auto rickshaws and city transport buses.

Space/Defence Research and Development

Like mentioned earlier, STEM fields see women under-represented. However, it is interesting to note that women in India may be doing better than those in the US and the UK. As the Guardian piece notes, 30% of the programmers in India are women compared to around 21% in the US.

Amongst those in STEM fields, India’s women space scientists have recently been in news. One photo taken right after ISRO’s Mars Orbiter successfully entered Mars’ orbit became the defining moment of both the mission and women scientists in India and was published and republished several times.

While women make up only 21% the workforce at ISRO, the number is growing. Just like NASA is the largest employer of women STEM professionals in USA, ISRO will do well to perform this role here in India. Government sector has in fact made some strides in making space for women scientists.  Department of Science and Technology of the Central Government rolled out the Knowledge Involvement Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN) Programme to induct more women scientist in research and development areas designed specifically to improve the gender balance (http://dst.gov.in/pressrelease/women-scientists). Another welcome news came in the form of the appointment of J. Manjula as the first women Director General at Defence Research and Development Organisation, leading one of its clusters.

Private Detective Work

This has to sound like one of the more unconventional job choices for women, largely because how pervasive the portrayal of a male sleuth is in popular culture. However, unconventional sounding doesn’t mean that women haven’t done well in the business.

A large proportion of the detective work in India involves investigating into marital problems. Women run a large number of the 3,500 private agencies in Delhi alone that carry out this work. While the exact number is not available, many female detectives have seen their share of spotlight. Bhavna Palival, Malathy B.E. (who is said to run the first women’s detective agency in South India) and Rajni Pandit are superstars of the detective scene in their own right and have been written about extensively by host of national and international newspapers, perhaps more than any male counterpart. Rajni Pandit also has some of her more dangerous cases including those of murders written about. Many of the women detectives claim they score better on men in investigating particularly matters related to love! This growing force has also come to be represented in our cinema recently such as in the Vidya Balan starrer ‘Bobby Jasoos’.

Mining Operations

Women-run cooperative societies have had a big impact in financially equipping rural women. A large amount of dairy production takes place through these cooperatives. Similarly, cooperatives like these are present in the garment, handicrafts and other sectors which have historically involved women in production. Today, important banking services to women are also carried out through a similar set up.

Still, women’s cooperatives’ managing mining operations is a feat in itself. While women do work in the production of minerals, commonly in the surface stone and sand mines, taking the management of the mines in their hands involved overcoming the strong and often violent quarry owners’ lobby.

We came across two such examples of this. Around 4000 women came to control various stone quarries in the Pudakottai district of Tamil Nadu. These were the same quarries in which they had worked as bonded labourers. The result – the standard of living for the families improved in both dignity and income, and the State saw an increase in the revenues, which had been bleeding due to the misappropriation committed by former quarry owners. The more recent example is that of the sand mining operations carried out by the all women cooperatives in Andhra Pradesh at more than 300 locations. The women are responsible for dredging, mining and selling the produce and giving its share of the revenue to the State. Just like in the previous example, the women miners of AP are up against the strong sand mafia.

What is an excellent way of increasing the incomes (which went up from around Rs. 60 a day to over Rs. 360 a day) is also a strategy for dealing with illegal mining. The cooperatives are not just accountable in the ways individual male sand mine owners were not previously, but the mining operations are now equally conscious about sustainability and environmental concerns. What a remarkable change right at the ground-level where it matters the most!

We hope this post proves to be as enlightening for you as it was for us while we were working on it! We were just blown away by all the small, yet really significant examples of unconventional career tracks, women – amazingly strong and resilient – are making their way through, slowly, yet steadily! Shattering the glass ceilings one sector at a time. Know any such awesome women? Tag them here!

To Freeze or Not to Freeze – Egg Freezing Tactics and the Workspace

To Freeze or Not to Freeze – Egg Freezing Tactics and the Workspace

When in October 2014, the two biggest giants in the Silicon Valley, Apple and Facebook, announced elective egg freezing as a part of their benefits package, they took the world by a storm and sparked debates worldwide regarding the ethical concerns underlying this move. The announcement was welcomed by many and contested by many more. This benefit offered to the female employees, quite literally means the option to have their eggs frozen, to be able to postpone their pregnancy, thus offering them the advantage of attaining the much sought “work-life balance”. While the advantages are obvious – greater freedom for women to plan their careers and the choice to ‘preserve’ their fertility, in the form of frozen eggs, the disadvantages seem to be of a more sinister and covert nature.

This excerpt, from Frozen Progress: beyond the egg freezing debate, very powerfully opens up the space we hope to explore through this article:

It is the role of the private companies, Apple and Facebook – programmed like an organism to preserve itself above all – that makes the prospect of ‘egg-freezing for female employees’ ghoulish and Atwood-dystopia-seeming.  As if, in order to sublimate yourself entirely to the company, you offer up not only your identity (through corporate ‘personal branding’), your personal life (through working hours that would be illegal in much of Europe), but even submit your body to the corporation you serve.  “Delay having children to donate your best years to our brand” is the ethos behind the initiative, and one that has the corporation – not the lives of women and their families in all their humanness and complexity – as its primary concern.”

Egg Freezing – The Health Impact

The idea of giving women the option to freeze their eggs, is after all, not as altruistic as it sounds. For one reason, the success rates of the procedure are not very impressive the procedure, in itself is invasive and extremely complicated. “The process of egg retrieval involves weeks of self-delivered hormone injections to hyper-stimulate your ovaries, which can lead to nausea, bloating and discomfort, not to mention blood clots, organ failure, and hospitalization in rare cases. The surgery to remove your eggs involves a needle being inserted into your pelvis, with risk of internal bleeding and infection. Long-term impacts on women’s health are under-studied, but seem to include increased rates of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer” [Jessica Cussins].

Egg Freezing – now an Option but soon an implicit Coercion ?

Secondly, the thought that the ‘brand’ you work for, or the organization has the right to control your body and your reproductive choices is discomforting and eerie. By reducing the reproductive choices of the female employees to “benefits”, there is a lack of comprehension regarding the loss of autonomy of the female employees over their bodies as well as their reproductive choices. One may argue, that the employee has the right to say no to the procedure. However, it won’t be long before the recruitment decisions for female employees begin to be influenced by willingness to undergo the procedure.

Egg Freezing – the Work-place Implications

It is rather strange that “work-life balance” is being touted as a reason to promote the practice of egg freezing, amongst employees. It is, in a way, utter dehumanization of the work space, and reinforces the very gender biases we have been struggling so hard to turn away from. There needs to be more conversation and dialogue on where men figure in the canvas of this debate. The concept of family planning in itself seems to be getting obliterated from the debate, without considering two very important factors – financial stability and availability of appropriate partners (men or women). “Surely what they meant to say was, ‘We want women at Apple to spend more of their lives working for us without a family to distract them,’” Jessica Cussins of the Center for Genetics and Society wrote in a Huffington Post editorial. By making the egg-freezing policy a formal part of the organization structure, there are overt implications to the fact that it is only if decisions regarding family and motherhood are postponed, that a woman will be able to succeed professionally. Where then, is the balance we are talking about? The egg-freezing policy does not invoke a sense of balance, but is lopsided in this argument, as it implies the exact opposite. By postponing biological reproductive decisions, and letting your profession take this decision on your behalf, the choice is not to seek balance, but to automate your body in order for your corporate or professional existence. I use the term ‘automation’, consciously and with responsibility. By allowing our profession to manipulate our corporeal existence, we are reduced to nothing but robots striving tirelessly to meet the demands of an increasingly global capitalistic world. The image this thought conjures up is extremely frightening and makes one cringe.

It is important to understand how a policy like egg freezing, will reconfigure the work space dynamics, and not in a positive way. Neelam Raaj, in her article “Egg-freezing perk will not make workplace more equal for women”, writes,

I do worry that if egg freezing is embraced by employers, women who wish to have a child when they are younger may be seen as less committed employees. For a woman to make an autonomous decision, a non-coercive social situation is required. If having a child earlier means that she will take a step back in her career, then a woman may not be exercising autonomy by delaying motherhood. Instead, she may feel like this is choosing the best of many bad options. Furthermore, offering an egg-freezing benefit does not do anything to help equalize workplace policies for women. There needs to be a strong policy to support women who choose to have children without freezing. There cannot be an underlying feeling of, `Hey, you have this egg-freezing benefit, why are you taking maternity leave now when we need you?‘”

The ‘choice’ being given to the female employees, about having their eggs frozen, is, in reality, what may be termed as a Hobson’s choice, or a choice which is actually not a choice but simply appears so. By giving a choice of postponing pregnancy, the implication is that motherhood and career cannot go hand in hand. It is important for both of these to be an option, because who is to decide against the choice women may want to make of having both satisfying careers as well as family lives? It is also important to understand the responsible role that responsible feminists and feminism need to play in this entire debate. Feminism and feminists have been long divided in their modes of thinking about and believing what true feminism entails. One could debate about the same until the cows come home, however, that is not the space we are exploring in this article. While we will not talk about what feminism is, we will definitely talk about what it isn’t, which is revoking any form of choice a woman has the absolute and autonomous right to. It is true that for a lot of women, the advantages of egg freezing is synonymous with freedom, it is equally true that for a lot of women the same choice is an infringement upon their freedom. The blurring of lines between the public and the private has always been a hot debate, in this case, however, the debate is particularly sensitive and should be treated with the sensitivity it deserves. Of course, right now the entire scenario could be said to be at a purely experimental stage, what we must be cautious regarding is the phenomenon gaining ‘cultural normalcy’.

Seema Mohapatra, a law professor from Barry University, in her paper ‘Using Egg Freezing to Extend the Biological Clock: Fertility Insurance or False Hope?’, published by the Harvard Law and Policy Review, explores the complex and seldom spoken about medico-ethical, legal and social complexities regarding the process of egg-freezing. Her work is especially important for us, to understand why much of the “advantage” or “benefit” being offered, is paradoxical. It is crucial for us to understand the phenomenon in all its social, cultural as well as scientific complexity. Let us make no mistake in acknowledging that this is a pathway one would be taking to create a Frankenstein’s Monster. The larger question to address here, is, are we aware of the implications of creating the monster? Innovation, freedom, equality, equity and are some of the ideals we believe will make the world of work a sustainable realm. In the present times, sustainability is the primary aim any organization is striving for. For an organization to be sustainable, it must first recognize every employee as a human being, before anything else, and by virtue of being human, the right to un-compromised and total dignity.