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Wanted: Fathers who will share responsibility in raising children

Dorothy Victor, Mar 8, 2012 : 23:38 IST
Women of the new millennium never had it so good. They are finally reckoned as individuals who can run a family and contribute towards the national income of any economy.

They are portrayed as having broken through the glass ceiling. Or so, we love to wax eloquent. The reality is however contradictory. Today, women run only 3 per cent of Fortune 500 companies and globally, only 9 out of 150 countries are led by women.

Though women earn more doctorates, they draw less salary. While they are surpassing men in the work force, they still shoulder most of the domestic work. Even as fears that boys are falling behind girls in education are widespread, women’s progress seems to have stalled.

Women do as well as men and appear equal partners only up to a point - the point when they become mothers.

Motherhood still remains a huge barrier in the attainment of the aspirations and ambitions of women. Her readiness to do all in her might to chase her dreams comes to a grinding halt when she has her baby. With babies come career breaks, part-time options, work from home assignments, move to lower level job profiles and the like.

Her unwillingness to travel as part of work, her hesitation to shift to another location to enhance her professional growth, her inability to be part of informal networks like afterhours hanging out with colleagues and the paucity of time for honing her skills through contemporary training programmes all come with motherhood, which shifts her priorities from career growth to raising children.

Obviously, climbing the career ladder is relegated to the back seat, no matter how well she has excelled in her university or at her work, prior to motherhood.

Stumbling block

On the face of it, motherhood looks like a stumbling block to the career growth of women. However looking at it from another angle, the real stumbling block is that fathers have not taken to their fatherhood in the light of the changed circumstances of women as career women. Their support to the new responsibilities of motherhood is lukewarm. The crux of the problem is therefore non-involvement of men in raising children in the contemporary world.

The focus therefore should now shift from women to men, in trying to encourage women to continue with their dreams and goals well after starting their family. This requires a totally new way of looking at sharing responsibilities at home and an overall different corporate culture at the office.

The innovative concept of paternity leave in some countries where the leave to male workers is highly paid and not transferable to the mothers is making inroads in getting fathers to a level playing field at home.

In Iceland where, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index the gender equality is at its best in the world, 9 out of 10 Icelandic men take time off to be with their babies. Such shift in culture is the key towards women competing on an equal footing with men even after they wear a new hat of motherhood. Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook emphasises, “Make your partner a real partner – share responsibilities at home so you and your partner can both pursue careers.” The success of this philosophy however, requires more and more men to take the lead and internalise it as a norm rather than an exception.

On International Women’s Day, originally called Working Women’s Day, women need men to promote feminism. For, as an ambassador of feminism rightly put it, “When you want to change a culture, it’s easier for a representative of that culture to sell the change.” When men promote feminism, other men will be more inclined to buying the idea.

When more men get involved in raising children and encourage women to full time competitive careers, other men will be more open to the idea. For, in the final analysis, men will have a lot to gain from the rise of women. An ideally symbiotic relationship at its best!

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