Thursday, August 02, 2007
Women at Work
How many women do we know who had to quit their jobs because they could not reconcile the demands at work with those at home?
I had to almost quit my job after my eldest child was born 17 years ago because as a journalist, my hours were so irregular that I was not able to spend time with my son when I should.
The irony is that the very nature of my job offered some flexibility and so I was able to work around my work schedule. And therefore able to give my fullest to my work and still give time to home and family.
Still it was not easy and called for a tough balancing act.
Thankfully, I had great and understanding (male) bosses who were very helpful because they did not want me to quit.
I was lucky too. My parents and siblings live within a 10-mile radius of my home, so I could always rely on any of them in times of emergency. Also I was able to afford a maid which helped immensely.
The issue of women having to quit work because of commitments to their children and their home is a long-standing one.
I know there had been attempts to find solutions to this problem so that women need not leave the workforce because of family commitments.
The reality is that not many women can afford maids. Child care problem was and still is the main reason for women leaving their jobs.
One solution was providing creches at the work place to help women overcome this problem.
This worked for some but not all.
Today, we have still not made much progress. Women are still up against prejudices/discrimination - they are not given any option at work which is either you work like the rest, or quit. Many are forced to quit.
The truth is, working mothers find it really difficult to keep a balancing act. Most times, something has to give. Most opt to give up their jobs. We all wish they do not have to.
But, it is a decision they have to make. I admire these women because when you think about it, what choice do they have? Their family is priority as it should be.
But the up side is that women, being God's fantastic creatures, never say die. Many turn to successful stay-at-home ventures which have allowed them to put their talents and resourcefulness to good use while still able to care for their home and family.
But that is a story for another day.
Meanwhile, more and more women leave the workforce.
Here's what I think -- if you do not find ways to retain a valuable workforce, then you will lose it. And you should blame no one but yourself.
So, today, I heard our Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak say that something is going to be done to retain this valuable workforce.
He said that the Public Service Department (PSD) wll be asked to study a proposal to give women flexibility in employment so that "they can focus their attention on their families".
Here's a bit more from Bernama:
The deputy prime minister said the public and private sectors should look into providing flexibility for their women employees to stop working temporarily to fulfil their family responsibilities.
"Flexibility should be given for women employees to leave their service temporarily, for example, when they have just delivered their babies, and when the babies are older, they can re-join the service and continue with their careers.
"I find that many women want to quit their job temporarily to take care of their families but at the same time they don't want to totally leave their jobs either in the government or private sector," he told reporters after opening the Women's Summit 2007 in Kuala Lumpur.
Najib said that giving them such flexibility would prevent an exodus of female workers from the employment sector to fulfil their family obligations.
The proposal will then be submitted to the Cabinet.
I say, good on you, Sir.
It's about time too. Still not too late to offer working mothers that option.
But, I'm wondering. If it's good to do that now, why wasn't it thought to be good before.
Ok, ok.. that's the devious mind working.
Let's hope this is for real and not some pre-election candy to woo women voters.
Here's the story. Click here.