Sarabjit Kaur, Editor, Inspire Spectrum
A very ‘distinguished’ gentleman recently asked me as to why women choose to put their careers above their ‘marital duties’. I must admit that I was taken aback by the blatant confrontation lacking cogent rational backing. The opinionated gentleman did not stop there and began to address the “fertile phase” of women’s reproductive cycle and argued that increased engagement of women in the workplace is causing higher infertility rates among them. While it is agreed that stress is the leading cause of infertility among women, we have to understand that it is not only due to their competitive professional lives.
Women have been fighting long battles for equal representation at the workplace. The image below clearly depicts that until today, only 24.5% women in India are engaged in employment related activities.
A majority of women are still stuck in the vicious unpaid household work. The sad reality is that despite being engaged 24X7 in fulfilling their so called ‘marital duties’, such women are looked down upon by the families for doing ‘nothing’ as they put it. In 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development dumped a bucket of ice cold stats over our heads. Their survey calculated that Indian women spend 352 minutes per day on housework — an obnoxious 57.7 % more than the country’s men, who contribute merely 52 minutes per day on housework.
Over time, some women did manage to fulfil their career dreams but the distribution of the so called ‘marital duties’ still remains highly disproportional. Even as more men claim to do more housework, the Avtar survey shows that among dual-income couples, 64% of respondents reported unequal distribution of time in doing household chores. When both partners are employed full-time, 71% of the women said they spent more time on household chores than men. In such a scenario, it is obvious that the unequal distribution of household work acts as a catalyst for increasing stress among working women.
The only solution in such a situation is to encourage male counterparts to take up more household work to support their working partners. Changing the mindset of the society is still a long way to go! The presence of more men sharing more fully in domestic duties for an extended period of time has the potential to create a sea change in gendered norms — at home and at work. Real allyship and gender partnership demands that men do their fair share of household chores, childcare, transportation for children’s activities, the emotional labour of planning and tracking activities, and supporting their partner’s career. Working women can do wonders without having to take a step back for supporting the family if they are truly supported by their male partners.
As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.Ruth Bader
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