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Can Women Ever Achieve A Perfect Work-Life Balance?

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Maintaining a work-life balance can be stressful especially for a woman. They not only have to manage their household routine but also perform their professional duty. Very often this leaves them unhappy. Add to this is the gender pay gap, their inability to participate in decision making roles, limited representation on regulatory boards and the male-centric financial system.

It’s a system rigged towards women ever achieving that work/life balance because:

More and more women join the workforce…

The number of women who’ve joined the paid workforce has significantly increased over the past century.  For instance, in the U.S. women’s participation in the labour market has doubled from 34% in 1950 to 57% in 2016 and Spain is slowly reaching this level. Even in backward Mediterranean countries, this change is evident. Reasons for this could be increase in governments passing equal-rights, more female politicians like Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton and strong voices of feminists such as Betty Friedan.

…But babies are still their first job

When women and men first join the workforce they’re both paid equally. But a gender pay gap slowly begins to appear and widens over the next two decades. Why does this happen? Babies. According to new studies, the pay gap widens when women reach their late 20’s and mid-30’s- An age when they’re likely to have kids. Ironically, unmarried women of this age get paid close to what men do. The biggest reason for a women’s pay being related to her marital status and family planning is that the division of work at home is still unequal. Sometimes women even drop of the labour force to have kids while their male counterparts scramble up the corporate ladder.

So governments give maternity benefits to them…

Countries all over the world recognize the importance of providing maternity benefits to their employees. Governments provide their support and even change the laws to let women know they can work and have babies. For instance in the U.S. President Trump announced 6 weeks of paid maternity leave. India recently made it mandatory for companies to give 26 weeks of paid maternity leave compared to the previous 12 weeks.

…But what about paternity benefits?

All these benefits just reinstate the role of women and dismiss those of men when it comes to managing household responsibilities. Currently, companies in India aren’t bound by law to provide paternity leave to its employees. Even Trump didn’t mention paternity leave. No wonder companies end up hiring more men than women. And sometimes women don’t even want the maternity leave because of FOMO on all the opportunities at work.  You’d think the situation would be any different if women were their own bosses. Not really….

Even when women make it to the top…

Today women like Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi, Angela Merkel, Melinda Gates surely make us proud. They’re our role models and have broken all gender stereotypes of being on top. They seem to have got it all. But women have a different career trajectory than men. If they want children they re-join the workforce much later than men and their careers also pick up later than men. They need flexible work hours and schedules to meet their household demands. And if they don’t have children it skews the demographics of a nation. Example in the U.S. birth rates dropped as women started working. The key is to provide adequate childcare at work and help women achieve more work/life balance. This will help revive the economic slump and fix the skewed demographics. But…

…They are made to choose between career and family

As per a study at least 42% senior women executives don’t have children while only 19% of their male counterparts are childless. Having to choose between career or family is quite normal for most women. But why should they have to pick one? Most women want to have kids but striking that perfect work-life balance is a myth. In fact some go through medical procedures, pay tons of dollars to have kids, while others derail their careers. All this could change if women are put on more regulatory boards, if more women are involved in governance and if women’s voices are heard. But before they reach on top the question still remains- How to achieve that work/life balance?

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