Testimonial from Lalita Panicker, Consulting Editor, Views at the Hindustan Times, India

Lalita Panicker, International Women's DayDuring my career working as a journalist and editor for mainstream media in India, I faced situations which, I believe, stopped me from being able to make as much use of many opportunities as I could have, thanks to gender bias. But I have no regrets. Therefore, I decided that when I had the chance to make decisions, I would try and empower young women.

I used to write a lot about Israel and Palestine in the early stages of my career, one of the very few Indian women journalists to do so. I travelled in the region quite a lot and used to write both news and opinions on the issue. After writing for several years, one of my bosses asked me: “Do you really know the subject?”. I was surprised and disappointed at the same time.

In journalism, there are hard and soft subjects. Hard subjects are unusually politics, economy and security; men are still predominant in these areas. Soft subjects, which I think are extremely important and no less than so-called hard issues, include health, education, climate crisis and social development and it is to these areas that women are pushed. I write on gender, child rights, human rights, education and social development. A famous editor once told me, “You are a good writer, why don’t you write on serious issues now?”. I found it so offensive and upsetting, especially in a country like India where health, education and gender are so vital to the economy, human security and indeed all aspects of life.

During my career, after I had my children, I always had this fear that people might say “she’s bringing home related problems to work”. I worried about saying “I need to take a day off because my kids are ill”, because that would be seen as being unprofessional. But when a man would say he needed to take time off to attend to his children, the usual response was,  “Oh! He’s such a good father, he’s taking a day off for his kids.”

I felt the pressure of gender bias until I reached mid-career. After that, I decided to put it aside and use my position and talent positively. I used to manage a department that several young women used to join. I did whatever I could do to create opportunities for them, ensure they do not feel the need to compete in areas where they are not interested, and encourage them to play to their own strengths and have someone supportive as a boss. I wanted to turn my experience into something positive.