I have recently become the member of a reasonably high level committee of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – chaired by the Honourable Minister himself and membership including a few members of Parliament and eminent members of my profession. The male bias at most meetings of this nature is strong and not unexpected, considering the representation of our sex in the more senior ranks of all fields!! The ratio in this particular committee is 4 to 14, and I have been often in even more skewed meetings. For a year, I worked in close proximity in a committee which had five other members – all male!!
This was the first meeting of this particular group and we were all given a conference bag with the agenda, annual report, pen and other miscelaneous content. And when I cam home and opened these, one of the things I found was this
There can be many explanations – the task was disputed to a low level administrator (they are not supposed to think!!), the bag was put together in hurry, etc….. I am not even taking serious offence, this not being the first time that I have had similar experience. I expect, that the feeling is, that there will anyway not be any woman without a man in her life!!
This happens, not so much for the lack of sensitivity, as the fact t hat the ratios are very strongly biased. Hence, they will be right more often than wrong. And of course, the reverse also happens – I am sure many a male gynecologist would have found pieces of jewellery in their conference bags. My primary issue is the distribution of freebies – why do we need to do this? At least in my profession, it is the norm – without any constraints or ethical qualms on the part of the giver or receiver. And if we do need to, can we not make it gender neutral? If we cannot, how can we expect change of the pervading practices from communities who are far more cohesive, static and therefore custom and tradition bound? All I can say is that misogyny is entrenched in our lives, and only we can bring about the change.