It all started with this deeply saddening article https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/28/asia/japan-suicide-women-covid-dst-intl-hnk/index.html.
My sister reminisced how our grandma, many a time wondered how women juggling careers and jobs outside the home was called “progress” when none of their familial responsibilities was lessened. She would give her and grandpa’s lives as an example. Grandpa’s realm was his professional life as a professor, and outside tasks of money management, while grandma took care of all things home, hearth and the kids. There was a clear understanding and sharing of responsibilities. Grandma would feel for many a younger woman around us and point out how she was running a home and a career at full steam and muse if the other family members are benefitting at her cost. Grandma was spot on.
While the additional paycheck with the wife/ mother being in the workforce is welcome, by family and society at large, the balancing to accommodate that is not sufficient. Daycare is not affordable in most economies, and no one else is picking up that slack, requiring the woman in the household to manage both.
Photo credit: Photo credit #KetutSubiyanto/ Pexels
That got me thinking, in most places in the world, there are still underlying issues that have not been addressed about women being in the workforce, and the COVID year has acerbated the situation.
This is all too relatable to any of us. Just look around you, or maybe it’s you. My friend, for over a decade now is taking on only night shifts as a nurse, so she could be home by 7 am, sleep and rest until her kids come home from school at 2 pm, tend to them and dinner and chores before heading out at 11 pm. Her husband, a great guy no doubt, is good about his exercise regimen and motorcycle hobby, and gets complimented about that at gatherings. But what I see is my friend, who has very little energy and time to spare for leisure. Or think of the mom who works in your rec center in the evening shift or in the mall on weekends. They made these adjustments to save on daycare. But that also leaves the women with the entire load of running the home and kids. And now specifically in the pandemic year, moms who would rather skip simple pleasures/ activities, like her walk, in fair weather during the day, to finish work projects before the child finishes school time. Very understandable, she cannot give the attention her work needs with a young child, home after school time. But that means she gives up a simple activity, on an everyday basis, to balance work and home.
And then there is concern on the focus the woman brings to her job, because she has these "responsibilities". Nancy Pelosi, age 80, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives was saying in an interview that when she first became a known political figure as a US representative in 1987 there were always questions around how she would manage. She said by that time, her kids were all grown and independent but what struck her was that would never be asked of a male senator of any age with a family and kids!
The worst part, though knowing all this, few women empathize or support each other. The generation of 9-5 women office goers and professionals who battled it out with remote work not even an option they could dream of and relied on their female relatives for watching the kids think that the current women workforce have it all easy, considering they have the flexibility to work from home. And the younger generation of women, in a myriad of careers and roles where technology does lend itself well to work remotely, despise the non tech-savvy users. In this way, we all generally want to either judge or trivialize the other woman's situation. To top it off, there is veiled criticism about those women among us who strive and manage some regular optional self-development or self-preservation activity, it could be yoga twice a week, or a daily mile run. While we do secretly acknowledge that could not be easy, what we voice is the sense of heroism about how our environment (work or home) would never support us to pursue the same.
I will end the write-up on the note that I am hopeful that increasingly women will self-advocate and advocate, in small and big ways, in our professional and personal lives, for ourselves and other women, and steadily bring about positive changes that can only help us.
What recommendations and suggestions would my fellow QV women give, on baby steps we can implement to empathize or support our tribe? The women aspiring to have it all, but in reality are giving their all to their families and careers.
Shalini Ramachandra is an IT specialist with over 2 decades in the field of software analysis. She has worked for some of the largest IT companies and multinational banks in this time. A keen supporter of WIT, Shalini calls for women to stop explaining themselves and act with conviction on their thoughts (a viewpoint that makes her the quintessential QV Woman!). She lives in Superior, Colorado with her husband and daughter and is an avid hiker.