How Gender Bias Affects the Work-Life Balance

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road signs showing work life balance in three directions

A healthy work-life balance assumes greater significance for working women for the family and workplace balance still pose more challenges and time restraints for women as a norm. This current environment affects growth in both areas of life, and leaves little to zero selfcare time for every working woman.

The dynamics of the work environment have exerted enormous pressure on working women as they need to cope with virtually ‘two full time jobs’ – one at the office and the other at home. Review of literature related to the subject has revealed that working women experience greater difficulty than men in balancing work and family.

It is also found that they experience conflict as there is job spill over into the home more frequently than home spill over into work. To succeed in one environment, working women are often called upon to make sacrifices in the other as each of the environments make different demands on them having distinct norms to adhere to.

Since 1975, the percentage of working mothers has increased from 47.4% to 70.3%. And yet, over 40 years later, women are struggling with work-life balance more than ever. Despite the progression of society’s thinking about women in the workplace, some things really haven’t changed much in the past couple generations. Women are still the primary caretakers, and men still hold the overwhelming majority of leadership positions in most professions.

Data obtained through a structured questionnaire administered to 125 randomly selected working women across businesses, organizations and institutions in Bangalore City with a response rate of about 93% obtained data that were statistically analyzed. The results indicated that a significant proportion of working women are experiencing difficulty in balancing work and family due to excessive work pressure, too little time for themselves and the need to fulfill others’ expectations of them.

Major consequences of poor work-life balance are: high levels of anxiety and stress, disharmony at home, burnout and inability to realize full potential in either areas of life.

Women feel irritable and resentful often due to their inability to balance work and family life. The majority of the working women experience job spill over into the home as they have to put in longer hours. Women often feel that they have to choose between their careers and their families. In western society, consider that 50% of women in the USA take a break from their career to manage their personal lives, while only 22% of men do the same.

Future Generation Affected Poorly

A more pervasive problem that arises from women struggling with work-life balance is the ambivalence among promising younger women during their educational and early occupational years. They see the disproportionate ratio of men to women in leadership roles, know the work involved to join the ranks, and weigh that against what they know awaits them in raising a family. “Why bother?” they essentially ask, anticipating having to decline promotions and leadership roles when their parenting years come around.

Gender disparity is a global issue for women and finding a work-life balance may just be the first priority for all. One key to opening this door would be to work on achieving equality in both the workplace and inside the home.

Once men are carrying 50% of the water inside the family unit becomes a social ‘norm’ and realizing just how heavy that ‘water’ truly is, a newfound sense of appreciation and respect would ignite into a fluid feeling of equality to their partners and remove the double standards that exists in our society today.

Once a gender parity mindset becomes a reality in our world, it would definitely permeate into the business side of life.

A New World of Gender Parity

In this new world, men and women would naturally share all responsibilities inside the home first. Balance inside the family unit will springboard a ripple effect of action that will permeate all society’s mindset. ‘Home is where the heart is…’, and finding any form of equality either in the home or office can only be created by a common goal set with the same rules for both genders.

Change in the Workplace Rules

As society stands today, women have little to no expectation that their employer should provide accommodations to enable them to continue in their careers, nor do they consider joining with other employees to make a collective push for more effective policies. Women spoke of their choice to have children, but they did not acknowledge how the choices they made subsequent to having children were structured by the circumstances of their workplace. Not feeling entitled to ask for supportive work arrangements, opting out of careers felt like the only option for most women.

In return, women now also must share the credit with their male partners as to that ‘choice’ to have a family. Procreation is a natural and required action to maintain the human race; ergo, should be the top priority in the workplace for any employer. In an ideal business environment, all employees would be single and childless; but, in reality all workplace mindsets must restructure corporate policy to achieve zero gender policy.

The best ‘Man’ for the Job can now be a ‘Wo’man.

In this gender parity mindset, the workplace now functions under the same rules and the home – equal responsibility. The issue of women not taking high positions in the workplace issue actually should disappear; as men will now also decide to stay home over promotion.

The assumptive thinking that only women need extra time off and workplace schedule planning for family is gone. The thinking that men working long hours neglecting family responsibilities to climb the corporate ladder is no longer a respectable mindset.

The ‘family issue’ and ‘career achievement’ balance are now both genderless challenges; as parity allows both these issues to become personal choices and not a gender decision based on a societal biased condition.

Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement

Harvard Business Review states: Research has definitively shown that overwork isn’t good for employees or their companies — and yet, in practice, it can be hard to overcome unhealthy work habits and reach a more sustainable work-life balance.

To explore what it takes for busy professionals to make a change for the better, the authors conducted a series of interviews with mid- and senior-level managers at two global firms. They found that while the majority of respondents assumed working long hours was inevitable, a significant minority of them were able to resist this pressure and achieve a healthier balance through a process of increasing awareness, conscious reprioritizing, and implementation of public and private changes.

The authors go on to emphasize that to achieve lasting change, you must view this process not as a one-time activity, but as a cycle in which you constantly re-evaluate your evolving feelings and priorities, and adjust your work and life choices accordingly.

Once our world reaches this new parity mindset, the real work begins … ‘work-life balance’. For this balance to become a natural state of existence, humanity as a whole must reach a level of consciousness that allows a fluid, genderless cycle to begin.

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