On Wednesday, a Japanese politician attended a municipal assembly session with her seven-month-old son. She wanted to draw attention to the need of creating a woman-friendly work environment in Japan. Her co-workers, however, didn’t relate to her views, and she was asked to leave the assembly.
Be it a mother struggling with a crying baby on an aeroplane, or a woman breastfeeding in a restaurant we still have a long way to go before becoming family friendly. We keep hearing about these incidents where women have been asked to leave or ‘remove’ their child from the premise. Here, I am talking about new mothers, not the mother’s of toddlers throwing tantrums or sugar rush. New mothers everywhere struggle to lead an active social life postpartum.
Here is some data from around the world:
- According to PewResearch Centre, a fact tank, nearly 10 percent of highly qualified women around the world chose to stay at home to raise kids.
- According to an NCBI report Eighty percent of the women who worked during pregnancy in our sample had resumed work before their infant’s first birthday.
- However, in India, the figures are a staggering 25 percent. A growing number of highly educated women in urban India are abandoning their professional lives to become full-time mothers as raising children while maintaining a serious career becomes complex, noted survey by ASSOCHAM
A quarter of highly qualified working Indian women, put their careers and lives on hold for the sake of motherhood.
Most of the times, their families pressurize them to put their professional ambitions on hold and ‘enjoy’ motherhood. Even if they do return to work, they face constant criticism and accusations of neglecting their child.
Hence, most women chose to wait it out till their ward is old enough to go to school. It comes as a rude shock, when their work experience becomes irrelevant. They find out that technology and infrastructure has changed in their absence. Often they have no other option than to start all over again, and settle for a smaller paycheck, despite having equal skills as their male counterparts.
Working women in India earn a mere 57 percent of what their male colleagues earn for performing the same work. Also, this gender-based pay gap increases as we go up the professional ladder.
If our society realizes that bringing up a child is a social responsibility, more women will return to work and social life after maternity.
The world is slowly changing its attitude towards working new mothers. Be it Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, who has attended various voting sessions at the European Parliament with her daughter or Australian senator Larissa Waters, who made history by breastfeeding her child in a parliamentary session this year.
We should take inspiration from such incidences as well and provide as much moral and professional support as we can, to our working women. Moreover, we should encourage them to participate in social activities without feeling guilty. It’s about time we normalize professionally and socially active mothers, as it is an essential step in closing that gender pay gap and bias.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.