A couple of months ago, towards the end of a training, I was held responsible for talking too much about my work and a majority of the times, about The Express Tribune. Be it the newsroom diversity, editing techniques, feature writing, code of ethics or general newsroom practices, there was actually too much positive to share from the Tribune experience, for others to learn from. I do not know if my passion for teaching and journalism was the reason or the learning that I underwent while working in Tribune.
I got an impression that it was kind of a shock for a few of my male colleagues to see a conventionally dressed woman talking too much about her work (read journalism) and at times taking the lead. I was advised by one of them to join academics as according to them I was good at explaining things. This was just the typical Pakistani view that teaching is the most suitable profession for women. Another argument was that the working environment in the media was not women-friendly. Some predicted I would not be able to stay in the media for too long. This, however, only time can decide.
It was not the first time, however. I have been hearing this before I started working, while I was entering the field and continue to this day. Surely, the advice came in good faith, and mostly from journalists.
A woman does not have to be non-conformist to be a journalist. She does not need to always whine about the hardships she faces in day-to-day life, and the way she manages her personal and professional lives. In fact, she can be strong and deal with it and move forward. She has the right to be passionate about her career. Journalism is not a monopoly of the male sex. Although the situation may look like that today, it is changing. A woman can be an equally good professional, if not better, and she certainly has the right to be judged by her work and talents rather than just looks and gender. Men and women are different but it is not a good enough argument for not giving the latter their due right and space.
I am lucky to have wonderful people around who are truly a support, both personally and professionally, and definitely more in number than those who discourage — explicitly or implicitly. But every woman may not be able to resist the undue pressures.
We need to have an increased participation of women in the workforce, to make conditions favourable for them, and this is one thing I realise more so after working here.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2016.
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