The Head of the Table

From Campus Ambassador, AFH

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It is the century of the woman. It is the decade of upcoming female CEOs, well-represented Fortune 500 board of directors, equal pay, and the rise of women in finance, healthcare, technology, and sports.

However, society doesn’t change as rapidly as we forecast the future – the glass ceiling in many avenues is apparent and present. It is still an unequal playing field. ‘Women and money’ continues to be a taboo topic around the world, especially India. This is not to disregard plenty of initiatives to empower women from all backgrounds around India and the world – from loan programs for small business female entrepreneurs, to education initiatives to gear the rising women workforce in technology and finance, to recognition of homemakers. Yet, we live in a world where female hygiene products such as sanitary napkins are not listed under ‘essential goods’ resulting in a lack of supply during the 21-day lockdown in India amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and where three women are raped every hour (as of 2017) across the country.

There are innumerable articles on women and money – exclusion of them from financial matters, how they are actually ‘better’ at handling it, financial literacy, why it is important for a woman to be involved in family and personal finances, an understanding of household budgeting, and much more. While these hold true, my take on it includes a little more than hard evidence and statistics on how women deal with, understand, plan, and value money. I believe the emotional quotient of empowering women with handling money is key in ingraining a female’s financial independence.

By giving a female entrepreneur in a small village in India a loan to start her embroidery business, yes, you are empowering her financially, equipping her to run a business, and adding bread earners to her family. But moreover, you are making her feel secure in her career trajectory, and able in her job to feed her children. You are giving her the belief in herself to do what she has seen only men be successful in, and the vision to set an image for those she leaves an impression on. By seeing her goals coming one step closer to fruition, the tenacity and wave of emotions that she experiences is incomparable to that tangible monetary achievement. This very drive makes her more equipped to be financially independent and high in entrepreneurial spirit.

By promoting a qualified woman to a leadership position in a company, you are reminding her of the worth of her education and hard work. She feels recognized, confident, and valued. It’s not just the higher pay or increased responsibility that makes her feel accomplished and worthy of being a role model – it is the emotional value-add to her personal identity through this promotion that leads her to greater success and ability to grow the business.

By sending that pay cheque to your female domestic household help’s first bank account she independently and proudly set up, yes, you are letting her buy that pair of jeans and sunglasses she aspired to own, and empowering her to provide for her family back in rural villages. But more importantly, her voice echoes “I can do it too!”. She self-actualizes, recognizes her potential, and feels happy and mentally fulfilled.

I can give countless such examples, but it boils down to the crux of what women and money entails: confidence. Whether it’s building, having, inspiring, or gaining confidence, it is the key to compounding a woman’s ability to handle and value money. It is a reason to lift the taboo of ‘women and money’ in our society. It is only when we give women the opportunity that we can see the results. Individual confidence through said opportunities is what I believe is the greatest driving force to progress our thinking, refine our views, and empower the generations to come.

I have sat at the head of the dining table at my house ever since I can remember, justifying (to the amusement of elders) with absolutely no basis that I am the seat’s righteous owner. However, unlike my naive 8-year-old self, many highly educated, self-made, self-reliant, and confident women – leaders in their own right – deserve to sit at the head of their metaphorical tables. It’s time for them to seize their opportunity, be recognized, and most importantly, disrupt the narrative of who is the ‘natural heir’ of that seat – at home, at work, anywhere.

On Aspire For Her’s one month anniversary, I encourage every woman to go the extra mile to be the head of your table, and earn the respect you strive to have. We celebrate women who dream and dare to take that one step forward.

Malvika Sriniwasan

Campus Ambassador, AFH

 BA Economics and Data Science

New York University, NY, USA