It was around 4:45 pm on a Thursday when I walked to her office to have a discussion with her. As the discussion went on, she went quiet for a while, and I went quiet too. When she realized I was also quiet and looking at her, she said, “Vincent, I am sorry, I was trying to figure out what I would cook for the family this evening”. We both smiled over it and I left her office. Well, I was thinking of getting home to get a good sleep since the day had been busy for us all at the office. Whiles, I was thinking of a good sleep, she was thinking of putting food on the table for the family. I hope she was not going to prepare palm nut soup though. Interestingly, we both came to work the next day and maximum productivity was expected from us. This got me thinking though. Aside from all the stress and pressure that comes with our work, career women have an added “task” of thinking of what their families eat and actually have to fix the food on a daily basis? Can I add this to my task should I make a family someday? Probably “No” because I am a man and society does not expect that from me.
A year later, I had to travel to facilitate a workshop with a female colleague, as we were sharing ideas, working on our slides among others, she was also hoping to get an “Auntie” at the workshop who can help to babysit her son anytime she had to facilitate training. It seems female colleagues in the industry always have extra tasks to deliver simply because they are women/mothers.
We find ourselves in a world where competence, experience, availability, and capability is the order of the day. A field where work schedules and timelines must be met religiously. An organization where outputs and outcomes really matter. A community where results and performance are the benchmarks. The big questions are: Will these benchmarks be adjusted a bit to accommodate the extra role nature and society have imposed on women? Will a woman be pardoned for not meeting her timelines because she had to attend ante-natal or post-natal care? Will supervisors be lenient on women who are unable to complete tasks due to pregnancy or menstrual-related cramps?
I share an office with a female colleague. I noticed that, anytime other colleagues come in and leave without closing the door fully, she would always get up and close it properly. Occasionally, I will leave the office and not close the door very well and she will have to get up and close it well. After a while, I realized she always ensures the door is well closed to prevent mosquitoes and other insects from entering the office for the fear of her baby being bitten. Well, I am also learning to close the door very well these days. I am sure she may have to deal with this extra task of closing doors and windows properly even in the house and at other social gatherings. In spite of her busy schedule, facilitating training, virtual meetings, physical meetings, and working on reports, she still has to make time for the baby simply because she is a woman. We are all learning to be "responsible uncles” at the office for the baby, our office “Chairman”.
In this era of bill sharing unlike in the past where men were the sole providers, every young man seems to want to marry a woman doing well and a bit financially stable. For others, they want women who earn big money so that they can really live comfortable lives. To the men out there, as you seek, yearn and desire the partnership of a career woman, are you also ready to share in the extra tasks society or nature has placed on them? Are you ready to make time to visit ante-natal and post-natal care with your wife? Are you ready to think of what the family will eat every day and release her of that burden? Are you ready to get up every five minutes to close doors and windows so that the baby is not infected? Are you ready to help her with some of her tasks from work? If you are not ready, then you are surely not ready to enjoy the benefits of a career woman.
Career women are on a daily basis confronted with either accepting or rejecting offers for the sake of the welfare of their families. A lot of women have lost opportunities simply because they were women. Some were denied roles because people assumed they can’t meet up to the task and pressure that comes with the roles. I know mothers who had to decline to attend international conferences which would have given their career a good boost simply because they were women and had to attend to the extra role nature had given on them. When it comes to career advancement, society expects women to stay low so they can cater for the kids whiles the men are encouraged to further their education, take on more challenging roles among others. Men will usually not think twice on accepting new roles because the wife "should" be home and available to cater for the kids.
On events marked to change the narrative and empower women such as International Women’s Day and Elimination of violence against women, one major theme that has dominated in most organizations is “Balancing your career with motherhood”. I am yet to see or hear of a conference themed "Balancing your career with fatherhood". In as much as it is important for women to be educated on balancing their careers with motherhood, it is also imperative for such workshops and seminars to be organized for men. After all, it takes both men and women to keep and maintain a healthy home. Without the support of men, women will continue to be subjected to needless stress and pressure from both home and work.
In this era of high graduate unemployment, a colleague in the industry shared a very heart breaking story of a female who was job hunting. This young lady had been unemployed for three years after graduation. This colleague managed to secure a paid internship offer with a reputable firm for the lady. She declined the offer because her prospective boyfriend felt that the job could threaten their relationship. The boy further threatened her with a breakup should she accept the offer. This may appear absurd but these are the realities facing some young ladies, especially from deprived communities who have been indoctrinated to believe that marriage is a “passport to heaven”. In the world of this lady, her survival at work will greatly be dependent on the husband and not her output.
Dear Young men hoping to marry career women, the narrative must change! You must be ready to be a supportive husband and not the "1823 husbands" of our mothers and grandmothers. If you can afford extra hands in the home, pay for it. If you can afford equipment such as a washing machine, blender, microwave etc. in the home, Get them o, get them! These equipment are no longer the preserve of the rich in the society. They have been made to make life easier and less stressful. The times when the worth of a woman was measured by her ability to combine work with domestic chores are far extinct. No individual was created with a manual on how to survive with household chores.
Dear male colleagues at work, be kind enough to support and assist your female colleagues especially nursing mothers and pregnant women.
May we find the strength to speak truth to realities facing the society.
May we have the honor to contribute to building a fair world.
May we never be denied any opportunity due to societal construction.
Career women matter!
The writer is a Development Practitioner with interest in Local Government, Youth Development and addressing issues of gender biases in the society.
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