The powerpuff officers
Maharashtra now has an all-time high number of women officers at secretary level, reports Ketaki Ghoge.india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 04:40 IST
“When you drive in your red-beacon car, the hand half raised in a salute often goes down because as a woman, you are often not perceived as a top ranking official,” says principal secretary for higher and technical education Joyce Sankaran.
Her statement shouldn’t come as a surprise. In the Mantralaya, there is only a motley bunch of 10 women secretaries among the 60-odd IAS officials, who run the state.
The good news is that it’s the first time in Maharashtra’s history that there are as many as 10 women officers — seven principal secretaries and three secretaries — handling portfolios ranging from home to finance and from higher education to forest.
Their male colleagues may shrug off the issue with the typical “I don’t see any difference”, but every one of these women officers could tell you one anecdote about the veiled discrimination in the portals of power. It could be as simple as dress code for women or a more complex one of the changing mind-set of their peers and political bosses.
“Urban development, finance, industry, infrastructure are largely regarded as men-oriented portfolios. It’s just a perception, but one may not find women officials here,” says Chandra Iyengar, principal secretary, home — a department viewed as off-limits for women. Sankaran agrees, adding that the issue is not the lack of qualified women candidates.
Things are of course changing. Kavita Gupta, IIT engineer and finance secretary says candidly, “Finance may be perceived as a man’s forte, but it’s not. Women are excellent in budgeting and managing finances. Just because male colleagues may be insecure doesn’t mean women don’t do the job better.”
Most of them would agree that at the end of the day, it is all about getting the job done efficiently. And, that is hardly a problem.
As one women official says, “The fact is most of us are damn good at work. How long can one ignore that?” Hopefully, you can’t. Despite the poor ratio in Mantralaya, women officers are getting their due.
At least R.M. Prem Kumar, who recently retired as chief secretary, says there is no reason why a woman officer should not be made chief secretary. “They are totally at par with men. And are capable of handling all portfolios as is evident from their positions today,” he says.