I have just started reading a book Woman & Success-The anatomy of achievement. In the very first article entitled ‘To autonomous women: an introduction’ by Ruth.B.Kundsin, I was startled and made to sit up after I read the following paragraph she began her essay with.
“If a female Einstein existed in the United States today, would she be recognized? Would she be a professor at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies? Would she get a National Science Foundation Grant? Would she be listed in Who’s Who? Or would she be found in a neat suburban house washing her husband’s socks, practicing Craig Claiborne’s recipes and imbibing dry martinis in the afternoon with anger mounting in her heart toward her family, her friends, and the faculty at the college where she majored in physics?”
Is it true that ‘for reasons deeply rooted in history and culture, potential Einstein’s (or Picassos, Salks or Lincolns), if they happen to be born as female, rarely achieve their highest potential?’This book was published in 1974.Much water has since flown under the bridge and there has been a significant change in the outlook though not adequately. Many women have successfully pursued professions and reached remarkable degrees of success. The book attempted to seek answers to the question what was the source of their motivation. A conference was held where such women were brought together to present papers on their work and how they were able to achieve and how they felt on their achievement given the “ambivalent and often hostile environment.”
Some of the findings were:
A strong parental support from both fathers and mothers were essential for developing the confidence and self esteem needed to prepare for a career. A husband’s support is essential in the later part of life.
. Strangely it was found that the support of teachers and colleagues is not as essential as that of parents.
An unhappy revelation was that women rarely found support from among their female peers. Study in strong women’s colleges or exposure to foreign countries or cultures provided better opportunities for leadership.
The most important finding was that it is not only possible for a woman to have both a career and family but it was beneficial to all concerned.The professional mother exerted strong influence on their daughters.
Another point that I observed in another article was that aspiration is remarkably low throughout a girl’s lifetime compared to a boy’s. When girls of about 700 in number in the elementary school were asked what they wished to be, their choices fell into:teacher,nurse,secretary,mother.(remember this was in 1974-choices are different now)There was no fantasy in the selection while 15% of the responses of boys were pure fantasy. It was said the girls chose ‘the roles prescribed in the literature, curriculum and in their immediate surroundings. The commitment of girls to careers declined in high school and in the college the women revealed a propensity for their role as house wife and mother.
Although the findings related to a period more than three decades back and in US, are they any different in our rural and small towns (excluding the big cities)? If not what needs to be done.Instead of a secretary take data entry operator or call centre employee to fit into the changed scenario. Otherwise are the ambitions of girls as high and vaulting as that of the boys?Are the circumstances congenial for such a denouement?
This is just to set your mind thinking on the subject.