The Enemy Within
Updated: Apr 23
Warren Buffett was quoted to have said that one of the reasons for his success is because he only competed with half of the population. As women, we owe the world and ourselves the best version of ourselves. Ask yourself, what could you do as a woman today? How could you contribute differently as a woman? The world is waiting – and wanting. - Baini Mustafa
What would I say to a group of young and experienced women about leading? What would their greatest challenge be in being a leader? The W.I.L.L. president is eager to launch a mentoring program to enable and empower women to move up within the organisation .
What started off as a simple topic became a
journey within to search for my answers as I continue to find my space in the business world. 'A woman in man's world' would be an exciting story line, I gathered, only to realize that most of my mentors are men, irony!
The next option was the famous soap opera version 'Women are their own enemy’. Hmm… the temptation was great! What a great storyline I could create, I recognized it instantaneously! Except.... I couldn’t pinpoint a villain in my story. There were simply none.
Wait a minute, how did this escape my mind? My MUM… of course. She set the path for me. I grew up in a traditional Indian culture where women shouldn't work, but mum defied that. She wanted the choice to have the resources to educate us. She was not about to settle with the notion that food and r
oof above our head was enough. She wanted more, and she wanted to take ownership of her dreams. The memories of her transporting me to a convent school and the conversations that ensued are still vivid in my mind. She would describe beautiful visions of freedom centered on education, during these long journeys. Mum's illiteracy bothered her; still does.
In my growing years, I saw mum juggle, being the 'career' woman she was driven to become and being the best traditional woman, who played all the roles that were expected of her. I saw her having multiple careers: cleaner, chef, transporter, accountant, counsellor and the list continued. She took pride in reminding me, "I go to work but I must NOT allow anyone in the community to speak ill of us". Today, mum lives with me, continuing to have high standards for us, the women. Your guess is right. I am not good enough, yet!
If you were about to conclude that you have mothers like mine with high standards and great expectations, let me pause you to introduce you to other voices, that may be familiar too.
Who looks after the kids and home while you are at work? How do you cope with maintaining your home? The kids coping well in school, life? Have you watched an interview with women in leadership position where the famous question , how do you balance work and life?
These are great questions but often only aimed at women. Why?
This is the struggle in this part of the world that I
grew up. I take pride in being raised with traditional values and having the choices through modernization.
The choice to pursue a career liberates me , the choice to get domestic help liberates me, the choice to have help with my kid's education liberates me , the choice to enjoy meals prepared by others liberates me but sometimes the 'voice of guilt' rumbles within. It tells me that I am not as good as my mum, who did it all by herself.
So I asked my mum, the superwoman in my life, how does it feel to do it all? And if would she do anything differently?
A resounding YES. I was relieved. Her face lit up as she confessed that she would have loved herself more, ‘abused’ herself less and still be the superwoman by pursuing her passion and use her talents to do what she enjoyed. My heart sank as she ended it with “but what choice did I have then'?
As I reflected on this, I started to feel a glimmer of hope. My heart leapt in joy as I comprehended the fact that as a woman today, I am able to enjoy the independence and have the power to choose. The choice to give my best to this world. I found my space to enjoy being a traditionally modern woman who is not interested in filling up a quota within a system but to live a fulfilled life, being the best version of myself.
I closed my eyes in gratitude and remember mum and others who have empowered me in this journey. The work in W.I.L.L , Women Inspired Leadership Legacy carved a deeper meaning in my heart as I began to prepare, knowing that the choices we make today will pave the path to the daughters of the future to have choices and own their space.
And as I found clarity for the talk , I smiled at the thought of being wrapped in tradition, the saree.