Home / Money / Personal Finance /  Opinion | In which women move away from visual imagery of being the devi diva

Women’s Day imagery often shows a sari-clad woman with multiple arms bearing various implements that run the home and work—a laptop, a belan, detergent, kid, a phone. The woman is usually smiling and looks serenely on top of all that there is to do. Not a hair out of place. If women don’t think deeply about this image, there can be a feeling of pride in being able to manage and stay on top of all there is to do. But step back and see the subliminal messaging of this image. It says that a successful woman can do it all. Work outside the home. Inside the home. Be the one to take off in case of a family emergency. And manage to keep it all together while looking good. Look again and you see that most of these images don’t have money in her multiple arms. Why not? Oh, she gave it to the father, husband, brother or son to manage. In doing that, she has tried logically to reduce one job from her already packed schedule. Hand over money and its investment to the trusted man in the family. Notice that the monthly household spends are still part of her work load. She is fully capable of managing the home spends. It is just the control over asset creation—and therefore the assets—that is not part of her work. The social messaging around money to women aims to stop her from claiming her share of assets.

What can women do to change this image? Notice that I am not even debating the ability of women to manage money. If women can be lawyers, doctors, rocket scientists, run washing machines, drive cars, manage homes and the extended Indian family, money management is not going to be that tough. Women need to create the time for this crucial function in their overloaded lives and this can begin by letting go of a few things that are never-ending and usually thankless. I would let go of running a perfect home. Stepping back from jobs that are not crucial to the home will only result in a messy home, in things that don’t get done on time. Specially if you work outside the home, it is a good idea to simply step back. Most things sort themselves out. Let the family order out a few nights if the gas bill has not been paid. It is the woman’s attachment to not being judged for running a less-than-perfect home that makes her eligible for more work. Unless the responsibility is transferred to the rest of the family, it will be her name that is called when something is missing. Self reflect, does being the person who has all the answers about the home give a power trip? If it does, let it go. Next, outsource. Make a list of all the things that are taking up a lot of time in domestic chores. See what can be outsourced and the responsibility of running it be handed over to somebody else in the family. Finally, do the time and money math. Spend on freeing up your time. This time has to be used to learn, manage and then control money.

The home needs to change in terms of the male mindset and that is a long battle because you are battling a very old social and family pattern. The first sign that this is beginning to happen is showing up in some ads and social media videos. A washing machine detergent ad is hitting hard at the double standards in the Indian home. One shows a mother picking up after her grown up son, while she is on the phone with her married daughter. The daughter is going to give up her job because she can’t handle both work and home. The mom suggests that the son-in-law share the work. The daughter replies that he has never done this work, so he does not know how. The mum is shocked at the son-in-law but soon realises that she is doing exactly the same thing with her son—pampering the prince. The next shot shows her teaching her son to run a washing machine. Another video series celebrates the cool moms-in-law who push back at the conventional norms of who will cook, what women will wear and when to have a baby.

After education and work outside the home, the next step is financial empowerment for women. That will happen once women give up on the cherished control on the home and find the time to manage money. Women must give up on being the devi diva—it just increases the work load and its internal rate of return is pretty low.

Monika Halan is consulting editor at Mint and writes on household finance, policy and regulation.

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