One of the most empowering experiences of my life has been having a job that lets me buy presents for my parents and not be accountable for my purchases. I no longer have to justify my purchases of books that I will never read; my coffee table book on the works of Lawrence Olivier has been untouched for three years but no less beloved for it. It is a huge relief to be off the pocket-money system.
Earning money is a giddy feeling of power, and most of us eventually come to the conclusion that this power has to be exercised responsibly. I am now saving towards a retirement farm with single-minded focus, a goal I’ve held onto since I was 12. Given that I have the privilege of being born into a middle-class family with a heavy emphasis on education, I’ve had a head start. These dreams and opportunities are common for many women in the workforce, and the unifying factor that allows us to dream boldly is financial independence.
Women have fought tooth and nail to be allowed into the workforce, and have moved up the ladder from being relegated to secretarial jobs to leading multinational corporations. We are far from being a society of equal opportunities, but women today have exponentially greater opportunities than those a few decades ago. Here are more alluringly legit reasons to join the force and work your way to a bigger life:
In a world that is heavily driven by consumer goods, and where one cannot step out of the house without money in the pocket, financial independence is a game changer. Not being dependent on parents or a spouse for either purchase of goods or planning the future, is liberating. Financial independence also comes with a fair amount of authority in making decisions for the household. It also makes one self-reliant in difficult situations – if you are estranged from the concerned family member, being your own source of income can be a lifesaver.
Joining the network of women at the workforce
There is a sore lack of female role models within the workforce. Representation of women is important in order for an organisation to grow holistically and address challenges and concerns that are unique to women. Creating a strong network of women at the workplace has the benefit of ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all. Seeing strong women succeed at the workplace also creates a template for younger women, which sets them up for success. Women leaders in the workforce can advocate for change to ensure equality within a workplace. Moreover, forwarding the cause of women leaders who have shattered the glass ceiling, and playing a significant role in something bigger than oneself, creates a strong sense of belonging to a community.
Moving away from a patriarchal society
While the roots of our patriarchal society are lodged deep into the crevices of history, it is evident that male dominion over society is perpetuated by their control over resources. Today, that resource is money. For women to occupy public places, assert themselves as equal participants in society, and change the perception of women as being inferior, it is indispensable in today’s capitalistic society to be equipped with resources and have significant control over wealth.
Equality cuts both ways
While we expand the dialogue of feminism, and address the inequalities faced by women, it is also important to look the other way. The same gender roles that have been stifling women are also the ones that can suffocate men. Gender stereotypes are toxic regardless of whom they are boxing in. Expecting the man to bear the weight of financial responsibilities only cements the idea of patriarchy. While this is in no way a critique of women who choose to be home makers, it is definitely an appeal for them to challenge the intentions behind their decision and to ensure their partner has been afforded the same choices.
Being financially independent is empowering. It expands one’s horizons in life and affords a taste of a different lifestyle. Being in control of such a significant aspect of one’s lives also contributes to better mental health. The impact of women entering the workforce is positive for both the individual and society.
(Edited by Varsha Roysam)