Women can’t have it all, so can’t men

Photo source: http://www.imigion.com

Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi’s famous quote at the Aspen Ideas Festival has caused a lot of stir. Mostly among feminists and journalists. Nooyi says that women pretend that they have it all but it’s not the truth. “Every day,” she says, “a woman needs to make a choice between whether she wants to be a wife or a mother at least once.” On the other hand, Kim Kardashian who many term as the poster girl of first world frivolity “begs to differ.” Kardashian says that her mother taught her that women can have it all if they prioritise right. Feminists and social mercenaries were quick to jump and dismiss Kardashian’s point of view. After all, “how could a world famous celebrity with a legion of staff to take care of childcare, career, and husband’s untameable ego know about the truth in the ground?”

As much as one may hate to admit it, Kardashian does have a point. A deep one too!

The world’s cruel, yes

Women undergo the biological event of child-birth and subsequent motherhood which causes them to take a break from their corporate careers. Women start out with peers from business schools in a corporate career, the top percentile get ahead of the race while the others are still at par with their male peers. There is, of course, the 25-40 age window where most women take a break from their corporate careers mostly because of motherhood obligations. Irrespective of what stage a woman is with her corporate career, the feminist lobby argues that she comes in with the disadvantage of starting behind her peers and loses the motivation to carry on. Even if the woman gathers enough motivation to join another corporate job, she finds out that her male peers have moved ahead and she has to catch up.

At work, the woman is worried about her child/children and the health of the family. She faces prejudice from her bosses because of the perceptions that a woman cannot stay back for late hours, and there is always the risk of another career break with a new pregnancy. Many corporate women complain that they were unfairly overlooked by their bosses for a well-deserved promotion because of gender bias. As a result of all that, a woman’s CV looks less prolific than a man’s. There are fewer women in leadership positions in the corporate world than men. All of the above is true. And all relevant. But is that how we really measure success?

Corporate success does not equate absolute success

All the issues listed above are true for the modern corporate woman. The truth is, corporate success and success in absolute terms are two different things. Would you call the “douchebag CTO of the global service firm who cannot tell a scone from a macaroon and talks like a jerk” a successful person? Does the word “CTO” negate the words “douchebag” and “jerk”? I guess not! In absolute terms, this guy has been unsuccessful in becoming an all-rounder. He is highly unsuccessful. In fact, in absolute terms chances are, more people will end up calling him a “loser with a capital L.”

Measure success on absolute value, not bell-curve placement

Why does no one talk about absolute value? Giving birth and nurturing a child in absolute terms is progressively more valuable than growing older and less valuable as a social and economic entity. After an individual is past her/his prime, the capacity of the individual to generate value diminishes. True, the individual may continue to earn more based on his experience. But s/he will progressively have lesser and lesser energy for family and friends, and lesser capability to remain “an interesting person.” Not to mention, beauty and pleasing looks will fade away too. The absolute value of the individual goes down. The only way to continue being valuable is to nurture a progressively valuable entity. A child is a great bet!

One’s placement in your organisation’s bell curve may not be in the lead area, but that’s really not a measure of somebody’s worth, right?

Men can’t have it all either

Once someone’s measurement standards are truly elevated to absolute terms, it is possible to acknowledge that men can’t have it all either. For a man, not succeeding is not an option. A man is born with the expectations to lead, to be faster, better, swifter than the rest.

While a man is busy attending to the world’s expectations, he fails to invest in overall well-being. He stops developing a personality, stops doing things that interested him once, and invests as much time as he can to vegetate and regain lost mind space. Being taught all life to have things under absolute and unequivocal control, to be on top is of the game now and always, men cannot afford to just float if they have to lead “a worthy life.”
Read about hikikomori in Japan. It’s the growing trend among men in Japan unable to cope with the society’s expectations around them to ultimately withdraw to a vegetative state. It’s a miserable life to lead. It’s not just a phenomenon in Japan. Men all around the world face the same burden and will continue to. We don’t need WHO statistics to tell us that significantly more men die of stress-related disease than women. Simply put, men have it tough too!

Kardashian may just be right

Prioritisation is an unfailing answer to the question, “What is success and how do you measure it?” I hope there will come a time when the world becomes more rational and measures people in absolute terms than their economic worth. Until then, there is one thing someone can always do. Just find out what one enjoys doing, prioritise that over everything else, and invest in overall welfare. As my 20 year old cousin puts it, “YOLO.” (If you didn’t get that, it’s possible that you’re past your prime)


The ever increasing skilling demand

To bridge the future skilling gap, the gap between market reality and perceptions about employable skills needs to be reduced.

The atypical development of the Indian economy in the past few years has resulted in the job market getting biased toward “high-skilled” jobs. In a span of 10 years the economy witnessed agriculture’s contribution to GDP fall sharply, giving way to an unusual rise to the industry and service sectors. While the economy has progressed exponentially, giving way to new employment opportunities, the potential workforce has unfortunately not kept pace with the evolving skill requirements. The past decade witnessed a mad scamper for skilling in the IT/ITES sector, as demonstrated by the innumerable number of professionals entering the workforce with technology certifications. Market experts, however, believe that the employment landscape in the coming years will change remarkably and the market will see a more balanced distribution of opportunities across all sectors and skill-levels. While the requirement for skills will continue to grow across all segments, the demand for some specialized skills will come to the fore.

In a recent skilling seminar conducted by People Matters, NSDC revealed that their skilling target stands at 150 million professionals by 2022. While enrolment into professional and vocational courses continues to demonstrate an upward trend, a large gap exists when it comes to skills that they develop and the ones that the industry actually requires. While India has taken some strides in skilling, especially in the erstwhile booming IT/ITES sector, most of corporate India finds itself staring at the face of a large demand gap in other greenfield sectors.

Mr. Santosh Mehrotra, Director General of the Planning Commission says, “The economy needs all kinds of work, people with technical diploma and above, people with vocational training in the age group 15-18; it also needs people with general academic education. On the basis of these three categories we have estimated for agriculture, manufacturing, non-manufacturing, services and the global number which we have arrived at is 265 million till 2022 end of the 13th plan. (Over the next 10 years).”

There are two macro-economic developments that will demand attention to the industry of skilling across the coming years― the transition to a knowledge-based economy and the large demand for professionals with vocational skills. The knowledge based sectors witnessing maximum growth across the coming few years include IT/ITES, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals, requiring aptitude in business communication, technology, and collaboration. Along with that, the demand for managerial and financial skills will continue to rise. The largest demand for specialized skills will come from four industries― infrastructure, BFSI, organized retail, and tourism/hospitality.

Is the workforce equipped to meet the demand?

There will be 200 million people in the employable age bracket of 18-60 years by 2030. Presently, there is a large mismatch between demand and supply of skilled talent in India. More than 50% of the employable workforce in India is employed in agriculture, a sector that contributes less than 30% to the overall GDP of the country. Large differentials exist in the skills that the future workforce is acquiring and specialized skills that the industry requires. The difference is most pronounced in four sectors, construction and real estate, transportation and logistics, tourism and hospitality, and textiles.

A 2012 industry analysis by KPMG and NSDC reveals that the existing system of skilling in India is hugely inadequate to build an employable workforce, as the largest segment of the supply comes from courses with limited industry linkage. In addition, the Indian academic system arguably lacks the outlook to prepare industry-ready skilled professionals.

Building skills of the future

There is an unusually high premium placed on pursuing higher education in India. In the same light, the perception toward vocational skills is low. The industry is not willing to pay for unskilled candidates, and from the supply side candidates do not want to pay to get skilled. The ministry of labor and employment and NSDC recognize that to tackle the broad issue of skilling, there are some conscious efforts required through planned interventions both from the government as well as from the industry.

The government needs to make conscious efforts toward making vocational education a part of the academic curriculum. The role of public private partnership will come become eminent as these partnerships will facilitate the plugging of the skill gap that exists between need and supply. Owing the limited market-readiness that the education system provides, there is a great need for the prospective and existing workforce in India to be trained both on hard skills and soft skills. The need for skilling is pronounced at all levels― entry-level, mid-level, and senior-level― and ranges from hard technical skill development to soft management and communication skill development. There is a significant need for development of business acumen, as we integrate more and more with other global economies and adopt progressive operational practices from large global conglomerates. In addition, there is a pressing need for market-linked vocational skill development amongst the Indian workforce that will allow professionals to decrease the traditional reliance on educational degrees and shift focus toward employment.

Read the published story on People Matters. http://peoplematters.in/articles/focus-areas/the-ever-increasing-skilling-demand?search=Skilling