Stereotyping ways of life

I interviewed a lady for an open position in my office and was contemplating on the final decision regarding her candidature. I came across another colleague who had worked with this candidate in her previous organization. I approached this girl and casually sought work-related feedback. The response that I received got me thinking about how we stereotype certain ways of life and derive generic conclusions that do not take into mind the perspective of the individual whom we are so self-righteously analyzing.

My colleague shrugged of the lady’s candidature as inappropriate, stating that she smokes at work, and also wears knee-length skirts to office, and hangs on around with the guys. I said, but how does this effect her performance. She may be smoking and having male-friends, but that doesnt imply she is a poor worker. Pat came the response that how can a woman with such a character concentrate on her work! I was stumped. But then doesnt this categorization make most of our male colleagues incompetent at work, because they smoke and also flirt with the girls; the only concession being that they dont wear short skirts to work or otherwise (except, of course for the kilt or the double-folded lungi, which technically is a wrap-around turned knee-lenth skirt)!

With regard to this candidature, I had faced an earlier stereotyped roadblock also, which was laid down by the project manager of the team in which we had to fill the vacancy. During the interview process he was quite perturbed by the fact that the girl’s parents were staying in Delhi, but she was staying independently in Noida. He raised concerns of stability that the girl may decide to quit job in Noida, and go back to her parents, but he actually voiced a deeper curiosity of why she (read, what kind of girl!) is staying away from her parents while she is single. Once again, the stereotyping hit me and I was flustered by the way people analyze women from so-many aspects.

Bias at workplace are common when it comes to female resources – from concerns to when will you get married, to when do you plan to have children, to how many children and family obligations you have – the stakes for the women to get into a good job, are virtually higher. Why arent men questioned about their family obligations, or the number of dependants in their household, and then a formula drawn up to calculate how many leaves he will be taking, or how much he would be able to manage home-office stress! Infact, as a comment to one of my previous posts, Check Mate!! , my friend Snigs, had thrown light on how interviewers perceive men and women as prospective candidates for a job.

Coming back to my initial observation about women who smoke and live independently, I also want to comment on how BPO employees are also categorized as wayward and “different,” and for once even the men in this field are ostracized. Partying, inter-mingling of young adults at work, exposure to the so-called “rock-and-western-culture”, less concentration on acquiring regular academic degrees, and late night work hours coupled with love for hamburgers, chips and Pepsi, have made BPO employees a seperate social group. So much so, that I recently, came across a matrimonial site exclusively for BPO employees. Well, you see, who would want to marry a girl who works and travels late at night with male colleagues; and the matrimonial value of the boys who do overnight work usually with not more than a graduation degree at hand, is virtually reduced. Even today, the obvious choice of a good profession for educated girls is Teaching. No wonder, few women are encouraged to excel in fields like astronomy, space and other scientific research and travel, sports, politics and even management, and even fewer make it to the top.

In fact its not just the BPO employees, but there has been a similar cliche about Doctors, where they are expected to marry within the medical community. Media is another area which draws highly-opiniated stereotyped responses about ways of life and thinking, specially women. And while, we calmly segregate groups from our society, these groups also create sub-groups, and further the divide. A typical example, can be the segregation of Item Girls vis-a-vis the actors. Its evident that stereotyping in our society in general is slowly going to prove the philosophical statement of John Donne false, that
No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…

We are slowly moving towards isolation of each individual, making each individual an island of stereotyped sorts. And the divide is growing larger by each passing day.

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3 Responses to Stereotyping ways of life

  1. SRINI says:

    reminds me of some one…who used to smoke…drink…date….have lots of male friends but EXTRAORDINARY AT HER WORK..STEREOTYPING IS BAAAADDDDD :lol:

  2. snigdha says:

    Very well written and raised a very relevant question. When I was reading this post I was thinking which era these people live in who stereotype women based on their independence. I feel women stereotype another women because she so wishes to have all the fun which the other woman is having. Men on the other hand, are just scared of these women because they know these women wont need them.

    I think as a society we are still in transit. Dont know which way to go. On one hand we all want to be Levis wearer, Pizza eaters and on the other hand we want to do a character analysis based on what the woman does not confirm to.

    Good that you wrote about this, I almost forgot that there are people like this all around us scrutinizing me, you and many like us.

  3. Amit says:

    Well, I agree its bad to stereotype anyone, be it a male or a female, because not everyone is same!

    But I think I can understand the concerns of interviewer when he asks a female candidate if she plans to marry anytime soon or plan to have children anytime soon. In our Indian society, a woman might decide (or her in-laws might make her decide) to leave job once she’s married or when she has children, the possibility is quite good. But a male candidate won’t leave the job if he’s married or becomes a daddy, he’s more likely to stick to the job after those events since he’ll have more responsibility on his shoulders. Another reason I think why interviewers ask when a woman candidate plans to have children is that she’ll also need to go on a maternity leave (which is her right) but I haven’t seen any would-be-daddies going on the same, so thats why male candidates are not asked these questions.

    Imagine that you are a company boss, while you are not a tyrant & while you are a kind hearted human, you still have a business to run and your first priority will be that only. Employees come and go, if one leaves you can always hire another, but if the business sinks then its not easy, or at many times possible, to get it up again. So if you were to hire a person for a job (& all jobs are important in a company) and you have two women candidates, W1 & W2, and you know that W1 is already in 4th month which means she’ll go on a leave soon while W2 isn’t planning on having a kid in next 2-3 years, you would ofcourse deviate towards W2 and big possibility that you would hire her instead of W1.

    Jobs are “you scratch my back I scratch yours” kinda affairs. Every company wants best for themselves, so it will be folly to think of them as humanitarians who would put employee benefit before their own.

    But I agree that “living alone”, “having too many guy friends”, “smoking” etc are stereotypes and are hypocritic in nature, its just ridiculous. But the marriage & children issues aren’t stereotypes or something to be felt bad about. Afterall, women bear more responsibilities in a household than men, thats what I’ve seen mostly with few rare exceptions!! :)

    Btw, do you know that major beauty pageants like Miss World and Miss Universe have a clause in their terms that the winners would neither get married nor have children before a certain amount of time. If they fail to do that then their crown will be taken away from them along with all the endorsements/contracts that they get on winning the title.

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