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.


zaitgha said...


this posting made me kinda sad...i used to work with a very established financial institution and i really loved my job, i loved the challenges and i loved the people i worked with especially my immediate staff...and i was good at it too...however, after successfully completed one assignment away from the office, i started to feel the pressure...'people' started loading me with so much thing on my desk, i could only go home after 8.00 daily for nearly 2 months and i was also expected to come on weekend, one thing led to another, i decided enough is enough and i tendered the letter of resignation...come September 1, it will be exactly a year since i left the workforce...i wish i didn't but i had no choice...

Anonymous said...

Am not married, and don't have kids, so I would like to ask working mums:

Why do you have children when you are married to men who won't commit to being full-time fathers?

(A working mum is still a full-time mum, in my opinion).

Why is it that the mum has to be the one that stops working?

Anonymous said...

You should have been at the Women's Summit Nuraina to see how powerful the modern Malaysian women's network is and the potential it has to make a difference.

What was really wonderful was that the gathering of 2000 women that packed the Sime Darby Convention Centre was truly Malaysian i.e.there was an equal mix of the major ethnic groups. And the camaraderie was great!

I'm not too bothered about equality or equity at work or at home because quite honestly the outer world and the creatures that inhabit it can never be fair or equal! To me, we can only be equal in mind and spirit!

And women have this mental and spiritual strength and resilience to do so much better, to achieve so much more for themselves and their families, including their husbands.And we have integrity - at least those of us who are not caught up in the power game!

I don't really regret that I could have had a better career. It's true that in life we make the choices but it's also true certain things are beyond our control.

The important thing is that we never stop trying to make ourselves relevant - whether as part of the country's employable workforce, in the family, among our network of colleagues and friends, as responsible citizens or simply as human beings.

I feel empowered more so in middle age and in retirement!

eva's haven said...

I think you don't really get to see the seriousness of the problem in malaysia because most households are able to afford domestic help.
Once, while back home for a holiday I was at One-Utama (God, what a huge shopping complex) on a weekend.
Do you know how many people are with maids?
In the US, the UK or Australia, that is something so alien.
only the very well-heeled can afford maids or nannies.
We use the help of neighbourhood baby-sitters.
As for why women have to be the one who have to quit their jobs? I can tell you, this speaks very well for women -- because they're the ones who are better care givers and providers.
I can mow the lawn, I can throw out the garbage, I can cook, I can wash, i can keep the house clean, I can run errands, I can change the light bulb. and i do a damn good job of taking care of the kids.
I can do a host of things THAT my guy cannot. you see, I am a better all-round person capable of performing many functions. And so are my sisters out there. That is the truth.
But I think usually, it happens that the man earns more and it is usually a practical decision that the woman has to be the one to quit her job.

mokciknab said...

Kak Aina, just heard that you're included in The Primate List.

Pack your bags and come live with me in Jakarta for three months while the dust settles. I have lost every shred of faith I have in the country's administration.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the blessed one. I am a single mother, who works fulltime and I am allowed to have my child at work. After school, she returns to my office where I supervise her homework and we leave for home together. My bosses are Singaporeans and they understand that my young child needs me and I def. perform better knowing my child is not in someone else's care and my heart is at ease.
I look forward to going to work everyday and yes I am passionate in what I do for living.

If I ever have to leave this job, I want the next job to have the same arrangement if not I will work from home.First priority is always my child.

My child has got only me and I take the full responsibility to her upbringing.


Anonymous said...

If I can afford it, I would rather ask my wife to stay at home. But living in KL with so much RM needed just to survive, we both had no choice.

My dream is for her not to work, every month I can give het RM5,000 pocket money to spend and all other expenses paid for by me.

She just relax, meeting friends over coffee at Starbuck, jaga anak and relax again!

Ini betul-betul dreaming...


hahaa... me and a few dozen others. i stil have a sense of humour,
thanks for the invitation and i'd love to run away to jakarta, but, er, er, there's a battle to be fought and won. heheheh, i've always wanted to say that.


zai: oh...your bank's loss, surely.
and your family's gain.
wouldnt it have been good if there was a happy compromise, mainly because you loved your job.

anon@10:05pm: i think Eva has said it quite aptly. usually the husband is the one who earns more, although there are exceptions. and yes, i do agree, women are an amazing specie.

OFF:i do agree. we empowere ourselves and we can make a difference. change he world, even.

Lily: You are really blessed!

basree: it's good to know that you've put a high value on you wife.

Alliedmartster said...

Oh yeah sure. And you will believe that they will support Malaysian women in motherhood!

This Malaysian government which owns Malaysia Airlines will have no qualms in terminating pregnant Flight Stewardesses! I know one who has an uphill task in fighting her termination come September 5th 2007!

^&*$ MAS and the gender discriminating policies of the Airline!

Alliedmartster said...


The reason most middle income Malaysian families have maids are because of the low wages these maids earn. About RM500 should give you a good maid (live in too). But beware of course the many dangers that come with it!

So lets say a household income of RM8,000.00 a month should be able to let you have one.
Instead of having the wife stay home, it would be wiser if the income is doubled.

my opinion...

niconico said...

Hi Kak Aina,

I love reading your blog...never once missed it since the day I stumble onto your blog.

Refering to your writing on working mum (and also a full-time mum)which also refers to me.

You know when we talk or read about people having a good boss that understand our needs as a employee and also a mum...the bos would always turn out to be a male. (well, maybe not all).

But in my experience and other people of having a lady boss, it usually turns out the other way round. You expect that since they are women with family, they would understand our feelings (women to women) but it doesnt seem so. Especially when they are the "very big" bos. It seems that they just forgetten how it is to be a mother and a worker. Their kids all have grown up and doesnt need her attention as much compared to young families. Im sure none of these young working mum is finding excuse not to work, but sometimes you have to prioritise which is most important, your family or your work. Yes, work gives you money and a career and satisfaction, but at the end of the day come hail or storm, its your family who will always be there and needs you
(yes, not all female boss are like that, but supprisingly, most of them are like that)

Of course husbands also needs to play important role in assisting the wife, but isnt it most the time, our kids still prefer us than their father?

What do you think?
Just my story.:)


just like most women prefer male obstetricians. women obstetricians are less compassionate becos they have gone thru it and expect you to deal with it. i've been told.
i suppose some lady bosses are like that. but i wouldnt generalise. i happen to have been working under male bosses. successful women who have made it to the top based on merit and their hard work are usually understanding and compassionate. oh i dont mean that those who went up through other ways, are not. the point is, i think not all lady bosses are cold and lack compassion.
of course this is debatable.
thanks for visiting and reading my blog. the way, your blog is private.

niconico said... blog is private because i'm too malu to share with everyone else...not very good at writing...supposely...i was berangan of creating a blog as means of improving my english and also feeling inspired la after reading other people's blog..always envied those that can write well, like you, and those blog that are linked with your blog....hehe after the 3rd posting..rasa macam tak jadi pula..


Nyonya-budi: that's ok. you know. but then it's like writing a diary just for yourself. and, if you feel a little less private, you'd share what you write with your friends.
I have no opinion on that because, really, it is your choice.
but you read other people's blogs, you know. other people allow you to share with them their personal views, ideas, experiences.
it does not matter how well or not well you write.
you write for yourself and others have to accept your style. if they don't then they don't have to read you. is your choice. a pity, though.

take care and don't be shy.