Twenty something Kalpana (name changed) was working in the technical department of a multi-national in the US. Unhappy with the manager, she looked not just for a change of jobs but a new field of work. Thus, Kalpana flew down to an institute of repute in India to pursue management studies. So, what’s unusual?
The extraordinary bit about this real-life story is that Kalpana is married and has a child. At this juncture, she has taken up a residential course at an MBA institute, nearly a thousand miles away from her husband, child and in-laws.
Hers is no exception though. Kalpana represents the increasing number of married Indian working women, who do not hesitate to stay away from their families to pursue higher studies.
The changing trend caught the fancy of Richa Saxena, a fellow student and professor Dipti Bhatnagar of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA). In a working paper — titled Soaring on wings of aspiration and support: A study of married Indian women professionals staying away from families to pursue higher studies — the duo spoke to 10 married professionals pursuing PhD courses spanning one year, two years or even five years. The sample included women aged between 25 and 52 years of age.
The shift highlights a pleasant transformation in the Indian set-up where most married women, even those working, are bound by familial responsibilities and, thus cannot take a break for skill enhancement, personality development and carve out their own identities. The changing trend is also reflected in IIMA’s Post Graduate Program for Executive (PGPX) that has the highest number of female students taking a career break this year of which many are married professionals staying away from their spouses, children and families.
Incidentally, almost all the candidates interviewed suggested a raise not in money but having better career prospects, discovering untapped potential and exploring their capabilities.
The paper also mentions the difficulties women face while striving hard to accomplish academic assignments away from their families. Of the many challenges faced by these women, the effect on relationships (with spouses and in-laws), psychological turmoil, guilt feeling and shifting children’s responsibility to parents or in-laws, apart from going back to academics after many years were the most common reasons mentioned in the paper.
“Our study shows that the same traditional (Indian) society, which at times restrains the professional growth of women through its heavily gendered expectations to take care of the family first, also acts as a facilitator in the form of support from these women’s spouses, children and members of the extended family.
"The family members tend to pitch in and lend whatever help is required to make her dreams of professional and personal growth come true,” the study stated.
Shift shows transformation in the Indian set-up where married women, even those working, are bound by familial responsibilities &, thus cannot take a break for skill enhancement or their personality development.