While the strength of women in Indian workforce remains a matter of concern, their battle against stereotypes seems to have no end. Just recently I came across a person whose response to my status as a working woman was, “So you must really be living the high life, having all that money to splurge.” This is a comment especially directed towards married working women, who are thought to spend all their money on themselves. Lucky us, we are told, not having to worry about household expenses, paying the rent or EMIs, thus having the luxury to spend all our money as we please. What hurts is that such comments often come from women themselves, who are either unmarried but working, or married but not working.
- People often assume that married working women splurge all the money they earn.
- This assumption paints them as reckless and myopic. However, that is so not true.
- Many earning women contribute to their household expenses equally.
- Those who are secondary earners make it a point to save and invest their money for future use.
What hurts is that such comments often come from women themselves, who are either unmarried but working, or married but not working.
The reason behind this stigma is that women are still not seen as breadwinners in Indian households. Their incomes are perceived at large to be an added bonus for a family and their jobs, something of a hobby. Work is not a priority for women, and sadly, this mind-set gets reaffirmed every time a woman chooses family life over her profession, with or without pressure. So, when a job is not a priority, society needs a reason to justify your working status. In a lot of cases, our incomes in fact become our pocket money, our financial independence is painted a freewheeling and irresponsible shopping spree.
This stereotyping is both incorrect and damaging. Many women contribute to household expenses, equally bearing the burden of EMIs with their partners. But even if a woman doesn’t, it can’t be assumed that she is spending all her money on herself, or is poor at managing her money for a secure future. Women are increasingly taking their money matters in their hands. That means that women are not just wise spenders, they are saving and investing money, with a foresight.
It is true that for a lot of working women, work is a priority secondary to their family. Which means that they have to settle for smaller paychecks so that they can have lesser workload or flexible hours in return. It is not a situation any talented woman wants to be in. Smaller paychecks imply that they cannot boast of earning money which can take care of heavy household expenses etc. Also, not many Indian men are comfortable with the idea of their wives taking care of the bills. So yes, whatever they earn almost all of the money may rest with us, unless it ends in the hands of husbands or male relatives who manage it.
Women are increasingly taking their money matters in their hands. That means that women are not just wise spenders, they are saving and investing money, with a foresight.
Those like me who do get to handle their own finances can indeed do anything we want with it. We can have luxurious holidays, buy expensive dresses, cosmetics and gadgets, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, splurging is an occasional luxury women allow themselves. Even with low expenses to take care of women save up their paychecks for the future, not just their own but that of their family.
I may be a secondary earner in my household, but I do worry about my child’s education, or our financial comfort after my husband retires. What if a family member goes through a health crisis, say ten years from now? What if we face a financial crunch in future? All these things are on my mind, and on that of almost all working women out there. So, while you may see the balance in our account today, and zero financial responsibilities at present, please also take a moment to ask us how we spend all that money, instead of assuming it.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.