What Caitlin Moran taught me on International Women’s Day

What Caitlin Moran taught me on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.
I woke up this morning with a sense of deflation. Today, we are recognising women from around the world – Our collective achievements and the progess of society. Individuals who inspire us and key moments in gender equality history. I have many women in my own life who inspire me everyday. However, I woke up feeling that we still have such a long way to go if we still have a need for IWD. This deflated me. I couldn’t see past this fundamental truth. I did not feel empowered.

When you assess the progress for gender equality across the World, we have had some extremely substantial policy upgrades in the last few decades. From the UK equal pay act in 1970 to the outlawing of FGM in Nigeria, just recently. On the other hand, in India, the law doesn’t recognise or criminalise marital rape, whilst In the US, Planned Parenthood clinics keep closing. These are epic fails in our fight for equality. Even when policy is changing for the good, things aren’t actually improving at the same pace. Women still get paid less. Girls still get cut. Rules change but culture prevails.I find it extremely hard to see any progress at more than face value and this has become exhausting.

However, on International Women’s Day, I was reminded that it simply isn’t acceptable to think this way by none other than kindred feminist Spirit, Caitlin Moran. Caitlin headlined at the Southbank WOW festival in London, and through her reading and discussion of her new book Moranifesto, inspired a room full of Londoners with her witty banter and epic muppet face. 

However it wasn’t her clever puns and naughty humour which changed my thinking today. It was something specific she said at a moment so perfect, it was as if she overheard the voice inside my head, interruped me and directly answered back without a moment of hesitation. 

“I simply cannot afford to be pessimistic,” She said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the luxury of being able to say ‘oh, things are shit, oh well.’? But as a woman or a person of colour we cannot afford this. We have to be optimistic. We don’t have the option. If we want to see the change then we have to believe it can happen. Being optimistic is a political choice.

Although somewhat paraphrased (as this brain of mine is still buzzing from the last few hours of Morantertainment), this statement really struck a chord with me. How can I be a feminist and pessimistic? How can I feel this and then commit myself to ‘being the change’. The two cannot co-exist. I am a woman and a person of colour. It would be self-defeating to set about to improve the situation for myself and others but then not believe that things can really change. Being optimistic is not just a political choice, it’s my responsibility.

As always, watching Caitlin Moran talk was an emotional rollercoaster. I have regularly had tears in my eyes from laughing and being sad at the exact same time whilst reading her Times Magazine column. Today, I want to thank Caitlin for giving me more than that weekly ride; I want to thank her for reminding me that it is our responsibility to be optimistic in our pursuit of equality. This is how you can ‘Be The Change’.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Over & Out.

P.s the picture is from a previous book signing where I met Caitlin and pretty much fan-girled the whole time. Worth it.

What they don’t tell you in school about how to be successful

For a few years now, I have been very much engrossed in the idea of the ‘secrets of success’. Sometimes I feel like there is some sort of ‘special sauce’ that some people add to their lifestyles that enables them to become successful, know what to do, how to do it and when. Do they meditate? Do they all wake up at 5am? I feel like the kid who turned up late to class because of traffic, and missed the lesson which taught the recipe. After an insightful conversation with colleagues and friends today, it seems i’m not the only one who believes this.

It seems that hard work in your chosen field might not be the only way to get ahead. It also seems like good strategy and tactful thinking to elevate your hard work might also not be enough. When it comes down to getting a big investor on board, attending an interview, making new friends, going on a date or even trying to get a better seat on a flight, it seems that your commitment to your lifestyle, appearance and wellbeing goes half, if not most of the way to securing a positive result.

From having nice teeth to healthy looking skin, a slick suit to polished shoes, an impression of looking after yourself is desired by most people who would be interacting with you. No one likes to admit this is the truth in the fear of seeming shallow. However, it seems that the effort one may put in hard work in your field, might have to be matched by the hard work you bring to your own appearance and general lifestyle, in order for the stakeholder to believe you are a good investment, partner, employee, client etc.

Instead of focusing on the widely covered negatives on this topic, I am going to [for a change] comment on the positive. I know and believe the negatives exist and I think it is unfortunate that we have to concentrate on our appearance, however I do think that young people should be aware that this is how the current global society operates so that they can make their mark and use this society to do so, if they wish.

It is, first and foremost, a good thing for individuals to become healthy, fit individuals – which much of the time can be seen through aesthetics. It is a widely believed view that the attitude you bring to your own wellbeing is a reflection of the attitude you will bring to work and relationship. As children or even young adults, we should be taught the importance of healthy lifestyles as a tool to being successful, not just as a stand alone entity of a gym class or food tech class.

This does not only apply to food and exercise, but also mindfulness and self awareness. We teach children how to use a fork and knife and brush their teeth as this is important in their day to day life and future, yet we don’t tell them, for example, that it is important to meditate for their day to day mental health. Considering many successful people consider meditation an important part of their daily routine, it seems that it would be useful to develop such habits from a young age through the education system.

These are a couple of the most important lifestyle features that I feel are not taught enough to children and young people. However there are many more from public speaking to increase confidence, to resource management so children understand how to manage what they have, to politics which are all so poorly covered in many education systems. Although I wholly believe that a varied and stimulating academic program is necessary for young people to discover their passions and choice of field, the practical nature of those very fields must also be taught early on, whilst the importance of well-being needs to be seen as the path to be successful in those fields. This is the secret sauce.

Over and Out.

What I am thinking, when I am not writing.

Featured image

As my work days get longer and the stakes get higher, I sometimes feel extremely confused. Some people may not completely understand why I do what I do. Many people don’t actually know what I do, let alone understand why. In stressful times, these voices can latch onto your mind and make you question these things yourself. 

I wrote something down in my iPhone notes a couple of weeks ago that made me realise that this was all nonsense.

“The impact you might potentially have on others has proven to be a phenomenal thing for those who want to change the world for the better. Many of us are overcome with this desire after an experience has shown them just how much work our world needs. We see that someone or something needs to bring justice to the less fortunate.

One you see this, you can never un-see it. Once you realise that you could make a difference, this becomes all you think about. Once you see how your own actions are helping someone else’s life, pursuing these actions becomes an addiction as strong as an adrenaline junkie’s thirst for adventure. You must be the change.

We spend the more important part of our lives in education being encouraged to make our mark – but not to disrupt things too much in the process. We can do whatever we like and what ever makes us happy, as long as you colour within the lines.

This creates a life of constant battle between quenching the thirst for change and satisfying the part of you that wants to play it safe.”

Just another one of my whims that I forgot to write down on time. I read it now and again, and everytime it makes me realise how thirsty I am.

Over & Out

Can we have it all? A Humanist Issue – Not a Gender Issue!


‘So I was raised to believe that championing women’s rights meant doing everything we could to get women to the top. And I still hope that I live long enough to see men and women equally represented at all levels of the work force. But I’ve come to believe that we have to value family every bit as much as we value work, and that we should entertain the idea that doing right by those we love will make all of us better at everything we do.’

I would go as far to say that Anne Marie Slaughter has inspired me through her TEDtalk just as much as Sheryl Sandberg in her [EPIC] speech on ‘Why We Have So Few Women Leaders’. Not only does Slaughter address the issues facing work-life balance & gender inequality, but she rightly acknowledges the importance of the role of family and how work-policy & societal norms have rendered the home as second-rate to the work place. Here are a few random thoughts I had whilst listening:

Coming from an Indian-background [full of cultural controversies], I find the dynamics of home decision-making extremely interesting. Anne Marie claims that in most cultural norms, Men are considered the primary breadwinners and Women, the caregivers. Ironically, in the same cultures, and more-so in developing countries, patriarchal family dynamics allow Men to be at the helm of decision making in the home. [I haven’t referenced this, however i’m sure you wouldn’t disagree!] This means that, although women are the primary care-givers, Men are in charge of family expenditure and therefore decisions on health, education and the futures of their children. Something doesn’t quite add up!

I also love the fact that Anne Marie recognises the pressures on Men to be the breadwinners and the increasing ability of Women to choose their positions at home and at work. It’s like the reverse of Caitlin Moran’s checklist on inequality & sexism, number one of which is, ‘Are the men worrying about this?’. Instead, Women are increasingly being championed when they succeed in either realms of family or work, whilst Men are reduced to one option of what it means to be a Man.

Lastly, I believe the over-arching issue at play is the responsibility of businesses in the wider society and as the creators of work-culture. Are businesses accountable to their employees and therefore the wider society? Or are they only answerable to their shareholders? As a believer in corporate responsibility and social mobility, I think that businesses have a responsibility to ALL of these agents, equally. As employers of individuals that strive to balance their lives, businesses should champion the flexible strategies that allow both Men and Women to excel together in both work and home. At the same time, these qualities should be valued by shareholders. This is important for the business, for employees and for future generations.

As a young women who is extremely far from making these decisions, I am already thinking about the issues that may effect myself and my future family/career. It’s more scary that I am considering these issues than the fact that these issues exist in the first place! I believe this is a sure sign that the paradigm we currently live in needs to shift away from the militant work-culture and towards a healthier [and evidently more successful] flexible norm.

Over & Out.

12 Myths that Lead to a Busy, Unfulfilling Life

a.k.a The 12 things that we say to ourselves everyday without knowing that there are other options.

By Gregg McKeown, New York Times Bestselling Author

as published on Linkedin, 02.06.2014.

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Myth #1 “I’m Too Busy Living to Think About Life.”

A friend of mine once said in passing, “Oh, I am too busy living to think about life.” These days you need to be always on, always plugged in, and always on the go. If you wan to be stressed and unfulfilled, make sure you have no time to think, read deeply, reflect, or get perspective.

TRUTH: In order to have focus we need space to focus.

Myth #2 “If You Can Fit It In You Should Fit It In.”

Do you want more pay or more time with your family? For a stressed and unsatisfied person, the correct answer is “Yes.” Do you want to do to the event at work or go watch a movie with your family? “Yes.” When faced with a tradeoff, go for a bit of both. Assume you can have the best of both worlds.

TRUTH: We can try to avoid tradeoffs, but we can’t escape them. We have to make a choice.

Myth #3 “If everyone is doing it then I need to do it.”

Do everything that’s popular—now. Let the fear of missing out consume you. Buy into the cultural bubble that glorifies being busy and checking social media and email constantly. Don’t pay attention to the quiet voice telling you a different life is possible. Just go with the crowd.

TRUTH: There is a joy in missing out. Discover it.

Myth #4 “Everything is important.”

One sign you are a going down the wrong road is if everything feels important. If this is true for you, your only option will be to emphasize everything. Don’t make the hard choices just call them all priorities and work flat out to do them all.

TRUTH: You can’t emphasize everything—it’s arithmetic.

Myth #5 “Being a team player means always saying yes with a smile.”

Be helpful to everyone, all of the time. Don’t worry about whether you can actually execute the tasks you’re taking on—be a good team player. It’s the kind of corporate citizenship you should embrace fully without thinking about it.

TRUTH: Saying yes to everything is a form of madness.

Myth #6 “It’s not enough to help people, I need to save them.”

You need to get good at making other people’s problems your problems. It’s not enoughto listen to a challenge someone is facing; you need to take it upon yourself to solve it. It’s not enough to support someone—you need to save them. Don’t worry about boundaries. Make it personal. Own it fully.

TRUTH: You need not, and should not, rob people of their problems.

Myth #7 “If I have said I would do it then I have to do it.”

As Edgar A. Guest writes in his famous poem, ‘It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.’ And if it’s in a poem, it must be true right? If you have said you will do it, then you have to do it. If you have started then you have to finish. You are committed, and you cannot walk away. After all, nobody likes a quitter.

TRUTH: If you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing then doing it isn’t the thing to do.

Myth #8 “I’ll stay up late and get it done.”

If you ever mention sleep to someone remember to talk about how little you’ve had lately. Boast about getting five hours last night, or about how you pulled an all nighter earlier
this week. It’s okay to be tired and to admit it. But don’t show weakness—or worse, laziness— by suggesting you need a full eight hours.

TRUTH: Sleep is for high performers.

Myth #9 “When things don’t fit, force them.”

When people say, “I don’t think we can fit that in,” take it as a personal challenge to prove it can be done. Don’t worry about the stress you cause yourself or others. In fact, get so used to the pressure that you don’t notice it anymore. Ignore the strain in your neck and shoulders. Keep telling yourself you aren’t stressed.

TRUTH: You should never force anything.

Myth #10 “I have to do this.”

It’s okay to admit that, theoretically speaking, you have a choice. Just act in practice as
if you didn’t. This will allow you to say, “I have to” a lot, which is a handy phrase when dealing with conflict. If something you’re doing inconveniences a customer or a friend, it’s okay because it “has to” be done. It’s not that you want to create a hassle but that there is no other choice. Eventually you can think this so often, you will believe, deep in your heart, that you truly have no choice. Bravo!

TRUTH: The ability to choose cannot be taken away or given away— it can only be forgotten.

Myth #11 “More is better than less.”

Remember that the key to is having more of a thing than someone else, whether it’s money, prestige, or personal satisfaction. Facebook is a good place to start. The goal is to have more friends than anyone else. Choose shallow interactions over real relationships.

TRUTH: Choosing quality over quantity makes us more truly fulfilled—always.

Myth #12 “I have plenty of time left to get to that.”

Of course you aren’t doing exactly what you feel like should be doing, but there will be time
to do what you want to do after you’re finished doing what you have to do. You’ll get to it later. It’s a long life.

TRUTH: Life is pathetically short.

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While reading this blog post on LinkedIn, I was amazed as to how many of the myths applied to myself. It was as if Gregg McKeown himself had jumped into my brain, analysed my entire life and extracted the problematic areas in my thinking & in my actions.

These myths aren’t just applicable to the situations we find ourselves in in the workplace. They are common misconceptions that affect your everyday decisions and therefore your family, relationships and even your passions. I cannot wait to read Gregg’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and to understand how I can become an Essentialist, free to live a fulfilling live.

Over & Out

 

Why I chose social enterprise over the corporate world [as featured in the Guardian]

Published by The Guardian Social Enterprise Network.

Thursday 6 February 2014 07.00 GMT

Sanum Jain Guardian Social Enterprise Career Guardian Social Enterprise NetworkBy this time last year, some of my peers at the University of Manchester had secured jobs at reputable corporations while others had launched their first business or started making travel plans. I was somewhere in the middle, like many students in third year – stuck in a limbo of tedious application forms and not knowing what would become of me after graduation.

So I decided to assess my skills, pinpoint a particular path and find opportunities. I found that I loved writing and social media. I selected PR as a possible route, and came across a GiveMeTap internship. Little did I know that what I had first approached as work experience to prepare me for a PR office job would become a love affair with social enterprise. I now co-run GiveMeTap, heading all communications, PR and marketing at the grand age of 21.

So why did I decide to stay and work for a small social enterprise instead of applying to large-scale organisations, especially when I’m not an entrepreneur? Mainly, it is the sheer fulfilment and job satisfaction that I feel every single day. Some people get this satisfaction through making money and others through their creative expression. For me, knowing that my work is helping people across the world is enough to make me excited to wake up in the morning.

Secondly, by being part of a small team, your role is constantly morphing and every day is different. One day you may be designing a website and the next day you may be talking to journalists. There is no paper pushing, no ‘cogs in the wheel’ and everything you do is integral to the business. Subsequently, you can grow your talents and develop skills you didn’t think possible. For example, I’ve started to learn code, I’ve engaged in sales activity, and I’ve been involved with supply chain operations.

Many graduates leave university seeking stable, long-term employment from a reputable company instead of taking chances on their true passions. However, that security is not guaranteed; the CIPD have observed that turnover rates for young people (especially those caused by redundancy) are significantly high and increasing due to the economic climate. If risk is already an increased factor in the conventional job market, isn’t that further reason for graduates to take their own risks? This includes joining small business, starting out on their own, and being part of socially conscious ventures.

During my journey, however, I have also learned that even if you choose a route that diverges from that of the corporate world, your paths are sure to cross at some point. Instead of working for a large company, you may find yourself working with them, just as GiveMeTap has many corporate clients who involve us in their supply chain. By engaging with these businesses, there is potential to involve them as a vehicle towards success, while helping them to achieve their own social or environmental goals.

Although the perks and prospects of the corporate lifestyle are undisputed, working for a social enterprise opens the possibility of fulfilling opportunity that many don’t know exists. I believe Generation Y can be the driving force towards a future where sustainability and ethics are at the core of every business. Muster the courage, get into gear, and enjoy the journey!