Sanjeev Kotnala: Can You Blame Corporates To Equate Pregnancy With Unproductiveness?

16 Dec,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


When the recent Myntra ad was commented upon in the positively-inclined diverse set of people in a Whatsapp group that primed itself for being open, transparent and seeking diversity in opinion, all hell broke loose.


Now if you have missed the ad- you can see it here before you proceed further being an opinionated ‘Fly-on-the-wall’. Yeah, I forgot to share, you are free to have your own opinion and share them in the comments section. I personally do not promise to reply to some of the pregnant pauses I am sure to find there.


I am only going to identify the gender of the speaker and not the speaker. I have added few pointers for you to make your assumptions. This may sound like a focus group discussion and that’s what it seemed.


One way to do this is read the same speaker comments at one go. Trust me to be lazy in presenting as it happened. In the process I have been true to the art of being transparent and the science of tolerance.


MARKETER FEMALE  – Oh, wait for my contradictory point of view in the newspaper next week. (Well she must not have time or the inclination to share the POV- or may be she was worried that the group may pick on and present it outside. The content protection buzzed in her head)


GUITARIST MENTOR MALE – agreed to wait for it and suggested that Lipika Kumaran (identified as the planner who works with Santosh Desai) has just a discussion on the subject in some other space (he was going to participate in both of them- well maybe discussion points swap like Motorola Success transfer was going to be a reality) Lipika’s original post read. ‘Myntra’s ‘The Calling’  and is exactly the kind of bullshit that passes for “feminist thought” in advertising.


GUITARIST MENTOR MALE – Don’t you think she’s going to be a little surprised by the profound experience of giving birth and then tending to a new-born human that clings to her for survival? It’s amazing that an ad that’s getting rave reviews for being some sort of feminist point of view on working mothers, completely denies the unreal physical, emotional and social experience that motherhood is.
Please note that lesson 1 of feminism is to stop denying feminine experiences and choices.’ (Side comment that has nothing for the discussion said - ‘Denying feminine experiences reminded me of the person we met together in Mumbai, the one I expressed reservations about meeting’. It showed that GUITARIST MENTOR MALE had some solid strong POV when it came to feminism and corporates)


MARKETER FEMALE  – The point is not about denying motherhood experience but about the much prevalent corporate abuse w.r.t pregnancy and motherhood related insensitivity


GUITARIST MENTOR MALE – I agree there is corporate abuse on pregnancy.  We are very bad compared to the rest of the world. UK has 1-year maternity leave.  3 months full pay, 3 months half pay and so on. 4th quarter my daughter started working once a week to get back into it. And (holy shit!) she accumulated annual leave of 23 days during her maternity.


A CHIRPY LOST IN THE WOOD FEMALE  – Hi, I have not seen the ad yet but will do shortly and post my views


GUITARIST MENTOR MALE – yes CHIRPY LOST IN THE WOOD FEMALE  – wanted to know your views. Because I know you will have a point of view! (What’s wrong- every one will have) and can you do a post on it in the group we are part of. And remember the debate is not over on the Myntra ad! (Gets into success transfer mode) Arun Raman of Lowe expressed some very strong views on Lipika’s post.


PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL MALE– Oh that advertisement on TV is nothing but a harsh reality. It is made stark by the woman Boss. I agree that there will always be a debate on how long should the maternity or paternity leave should be. At what stage should one be asked to come back and take full change?


GUITARIST MENTOR MALE – Indian companies are harsh on leave. Surprisingly the Central Government is very fair with its employees. It is tough to imagine Central Government being better at anything than the private sector.


PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL MALE – We appreciate motherhood and we know the amount of care that is needed. At the same time, we all would have experienced this at some stage of our lives.  Pregnant colleague ensures that you double up and take the extra load, even when you had nothing to do with the pregnancy. And it is true that organisations avoid women (more who are recently married) for the jobs that require full time concentration.


At this time GUITARIST MENTOR MALE agree that he had also experienced thus phenomenon and it was unfair.


PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL MALE – fair and unfair is contextual point of views. Just because some one gives longer leave or a shorter leave cannot be called unfair


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE(walking in late to the discussion) I don’t get it. What’s the issue here? People make their choices. Choices aren’t forced on anyone. Both genders have their own moments of dilemma. Why do we make such a big deal about career?


PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL MALE – side stepping someone for promotion is also an organisational call and is OK.


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE - What unfair? Why do we act so helpless? It’s all finally us. We can choose one fulfilment over other or push ourselves and choose the ‘and’ option. Why do the women choose to be ‘man’? They do well being themselves. In fact they bring their own unique traits.


FEMINIST AGGRESSIVE FEMALE –The thing is that role relaxation for men is neither expected nor desired by society at large. So when women enter men’s world of work they are expected to play by the rules set for a male world Motherhood then is forced into the reduces productivity and contribution box So women then face forced choice situations. Meanwhile to carry your point home- Central Government does not have ambitious market share gain and growth and profitability goals. So they also do not really have the hyper need to squeeze and extract productivity from employees they can be more humane


MARKETER FEMALE – Maternity leave = period of zero producing = non-performance = demotion. This is a very prevalent mind-set


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE -  If you have a problem. Make your choice. Don’t work in organisations that don’t deserve you. Choose ones that do. Work for your own self. Don’t work. Do as you please.


PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL MALE -  (have been waiting to catch something that he could comment upon) do we say unfair. When it is the issue of late night working, it is always the male who has to take on the pressure, as if he does not have home and fatherhood should be undervalued.


FEMINIST AGGRESSIVE FEMALE – I don’t think everything in life I about individual choice this is as false as a fatalistic attitude. We are members of a collective called a society that lies outside family extended family and clan That larger society needs to have enabling values laws and policies. That supports the enablement of all to reach their potential. We got more progressive values in our constitution because of what the progressive thinkers of that time thought our society to be. Else we could also be living in a country run by the mind-set of medieval clerics, which shoots and kills girls because they want to study


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE– Let’s assume the current environment is suited more to men; men will do the easier thing, they will rush to become corporate slaves; by the time they realise they weren’t helpless it’ll be time to retire. Women have the opportunity not to choose corporate slavery.


FEMINIST AGGRESSIVE FEMALE – So the argument you are making is that it is all down to individual choice and that reflects a position of great privilege. Sure say that to all the girls in Afghanistan or Bombay slums or tribal in Jharkhand.


GUITARIST MENTOR MALE – The point really is that the current environment is discriminating. Women should have an equal right to corporate slavery if they choose so, as men


FEMINIST AGGRESSIVE FEMALE – I think there is a role for individual response to circumstances and for collective action both are required for the fulfilment of the human potential not just a privileged few but the largest no


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE – (not liking the slow simmering discussion throws some bait) do women have to be more ‘man’ then men to succeed?


FEMINIST AGGRESSIVE FEMALE – (gets drawn to it) some women seem to think so I don’t agree. A woman trying to be more of a man than men is as foolish and mistaken a pursuit as a man trying to be more feminine than women. Each is different and both should be celebrated for their specific qualities


GUITAR MENTOR MALE – (brings back the person I did not wanted to meet reference) I met a man-woman in Mumbai recently


FEMINIST AGGRESSIVE FEMALE – (takes another bait) I have met some such women too in corporate life I feel sad for them because I see them as lost souls. (Suddenly realises she is in a group and must be a bot more polite) My view of course and others may totally disagree


NEW VOICE MALE. – Corporate culture can be equally unkind to both genders. While for females the discrimination points become visible for men the discrimination issues can be more back stage. I quite agree with description of corporate slavery. But we make our own choices. There is a price people need to pay to sustain in a corporate environment. The price tag is the same for both sexes. The context of how that price gets paid or extracted could be different. The price is in the form of fulfilling expectations to deliver beyond the stated, almost all the time to remain relevant. Whether we like it or not either we are in the rat race or we are out. There is a price for both genders to remain in the race. Be it work life, family balance and so on.


GET POSITIVE IN LIFE MALE  – Oh. Why I liked the ad is a bit…. errrr ummm… Primal?  Radhika Apte looks hot! . Did not notice the “bump” till Shernaz Patel brings it up. Even then I stayed glued to Miss Apte, till the Mercedes S350 showed up.  Is something wrong with me? But she totally does look hot. Perhaps a bit more than Miss Apte. Tough competition for me.


WRITERS VOICE FEMALE – I remember a conversation (when I was newly married) early 20s, and meeting with an agency head after HR had done their screening etc.  This agency head asked me with no prelude – what my baby making plans were, I was aghast. Asked him what his plans on having the next affair with anyone were. Saw it as none of his business. Like it wasn’t mine to be asking about his liaisons. In hindsight could see his concern oh Woman, married, likely to become unproductive soon. But WTF


GET POSITIVE IN LIFE MALE  – When I came back to India, I was indoctrinated with the US style of interviews where you could not even ask a question such as tell me about your family. What does your wife do? How many kids etc. etc. And the first interview I sat on, with my CHRO, who was a lady, she point blank asked the female candidate, how old are your kids, how do you manage, can you travel, will your family allow travel, recently married? When will you have kids? She outright rejected a candidate who was pregnant. I fell of my chair.


WRITERS VOICE FEMALE – I know. I used to wonder if advertising gave people the license to be brash, out of line, with what was just not humanly acceptable


GET POSITIVE IN LIFE MALE – (Now going back in life style of referencing) In another company that needed people for installation work at residential area, I broke norms. (Confession coming in) I went to a girl’s vocational course college and hired field staff from there. People told me, who would take responsibility, what if they get raped and molested by clients. These girls were being trained to be factory engineers. Guess what these six girls went on to become some of the best installers


WRITERS VOICE FEMALE – But still, great u did that. Choices. They need to be available. My Brother has been a stay at home dad the last 2 years and the biggest hurdle is mom and his wife. The expectation of the male stereotype can be as daunting


GUITARIST MENTOR MALEtries to complete the loop left somewhere in the discussion– Hey GET POSITIVE IN LIFE MALE, I know you find her hot. But her reputation on the Web is quite bad, and sleazy, hope you know. There are pictures and all kinds of things floating on her. So when she appears as a stereotypical pregnant mother it was a bit of a shock for me.


PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL MALE – (thinks he must get back comment and then vanish again) Well. This is sure a big serotype.  Women with pic and a doubtful character cannot be stereotypical pregnant mother. Talk about self-made standards


GET POSITIVE IN LIFE MALE – (comes back after scanning article) Just read the interview, fascinating trail on the Myntra ad and choices. To assume that everyone has equal choice or the awareness, let alone capability, to make considered, equal choices in consort with the unique signature an individual has or wishes to, is certainly not current reality. Actually far from it hence we need (to provide) facilitation at individual and or systemic levels.


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE – People aren’t ‘equal’ but are equally free to make choices; if they stop feeling miserable about themselves and use their unique traits and privileges


GET POSITIVE IN LIFE MALE  – The amount of latent and subtle abuse a woman faces, lets say for this discussion in the Indian business context is shocking. When I compare it to my years living overseas, where it is not perfect either and where the choice paradigm is more equal, by design. So much more need to be done in India both at an individual level and at the level of all systems
But, did we expect an ad to answer/address all aspects of this diabolical (yes, strong word) mess we are in. I do not thin so. Does it raise some if not all issues, the answer is yes! Are they valid issues, yes?


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE – Here’s a way to look at things: Those who have knowledge have the unique ability, as they know how to do things. Those who don’t often aren’t aware impossible is impossible and end up doing it in their ‘ignorance’. Now isn’t that a unique ‘ability’ if they care to use it?


GET POSITIVE IN LIFE MALE  – But it is dynamic isn’t it. Those who are not aware become aware at some stage and perhaps at a stage where they cant turn the clock back. Don’t see it. A large number are in the grey zone. They want to change, exercise choice and don’t know how to. Hence strong need for facilitation.


WRITERS VOICE FEMALE –  I agree with you. While there are choices most women, women’s family, corporates etc. they do not know that there are choices. And hence we need a movement to raise this awareness of choices.  To use an abused word, most people/corporates do not feel ’empowered’ to make these choices.


CATCH THEM WITH SURPRISE MALE – How many of you have already seen Angry Indian Goddesses?   I have not seen Angry Indian Goddesses twice (not quite good enough for that) but now I’ve become adept at people watching while movie watching. The faces of the men squirmed more when the Suranjana character (played by Sandhya Mridul) was emasculating men in the boardroom, than when the Lakshmi character (played by Rajshree Deshpande) was grabbing eve teasers by the crotch.


I MUST STIR THE POT MALE – Thank god some people aren’t wallowing in self-pity looking at what they don’t have and others do; the world would have been a miserable place with everyone feeling miserable about their lot.



The above is a set of people from industry discussing the ad. Meanwhile overheard two women discussing it.


First woman: None of us ever get a chance to walk out and start on our own.

Second woman: Even if we could, don’t think I will be able to do it

Third woman: Eek Toh ( first of all )  , the family allowed her to work- and now she want to start a new business when she is pregnant.

Fourth Woman: Kya Natak hai ( what Drama ), she had decided to leave the job much before this incident. Good maybe Boss did the best thing – loyalty zero.

Third woman: To raise the kids with culture and family values is the biggest career and satisfaction. Yeh saab who upper wali society ( high society) ka chochale hai. ( life style )

First Woman. Chaal bahut hua.( enough is enough) I have to go and cook. Today is paapu key papa ka  birthday  ( father of Paapu)

Fourth Woman. Lagta hai yeh writer log kabhi pregnant nahi huey. ( looks like these writers never got pregnant) Otherwise who will ask such questions. Kaam na karogey toh promotion kyu denge. Baap ka maal hai kya. ( you get promoted when you work, it is not her dad’s office)



Meanwhile reality remains that pregnant woman lose some time off their career path- and that is a choice they and the organisation makes. People do not have choices like what is depicted in the ad- starting on their own. The laws will get a bit more relaxed and so would paternity leaves come in- maybe the 35 hour week will come in- MAYBE is the operative world- till that time- Pregnant woman is and will be seen as an issue by organisation- they may put up some mask of genuine care and support but inside they hate when women get pregnant


Sanjeev Kotnala has 28 years of corporate experience and is Founder of  Intradia World. A Brand, Marketing & Management Advisor, he focuses on IDEATION (Harvest and Liberate) and INNOVATION (InNoWait) process and workshops. He is devoted to enhancing human potential. He is also a certified Life & ‘Mid life transition’ coach. Email tweet @s_kotnala web:,


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