Equal, but different

Women can compete equally in the workplace before they have children.

Extra responsibilities

As a working mother, though, you have extra responsibilities and you begin to face obstacles that men in general don’t have to deal with.

Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, power and the quest for perfection, says; “We need a revised and somewhat reluctant feminism, one that desperately wishes we no longer needed a women’s movement but acknowledges that we still do. A feminism based at least in part on difference.”

Daily challenges

Biological differences do matter in the workplace, something which has been downplayed by traditional Feminism. Many working mothers face these challenges on a daily basis:

  •  Once you return from maternity leave, most companies expect you to carry on as if nothing has changed in your life.  However,  you are now also responsible for looking after a child, which means you have the double burden of being employed and running a household.
  • A new mother suffers the effects of many sleep-deprived nights. Greater flexibility would allow us to make a more significant contribution in the workplace.
  • Finding somewhere to pump breast milk at the office. Even though South African labour law allows women time to pump at work, many companies don’t have hygienic and private facilities available. Formula is not a healthy alternative for all children.
  • Missing work because of sick children and having to take children to the doctor.
  • Feeling guilty about leaving crying children to come to work/attend meetings etc.

Opting out

The business world is still dominated by men, as can also be seen from the lack of female leaders. This will continue for as long as women have to continue to struggle and then choose to “opt out” of the workplace or more challenging jobs in favour of their families.

Many men also want flexible working hours so that they can spend more time with their families and this may level the playing field for women. According to recent reports, men are also struggling with work-life balance and are even more unhappy with their working hours than women.

It may become easier for working mothers to get flexible hours if fathers also demand it.

Sheryl Sandberg says that women will only truly be equal once men perform fifty per cent of household duties and women run fifty per cent of companies and governments.

 A more flexible work environment for all would probably be the best solution. No excuse then, for dad not to become involved in the childcare.

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