Women need helpers too to perform at workplace


Personal Finance

Women need helpers too to perform at workplace

father and child
Shared responsibilities at home ease parenting burden for both husbands and wives. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

I need a wife, said my friend Wambui. We all burst out laughing, unsure what she might have meant by that. It was funny.

Wambui was highlighting a little-acknowledged state of affairs in our homes that significantly affects if, how, and to what extent women professionals fit, compete and scale the echelons of success in the workplace.

Let’s face it — most places of work are and will for the foreseeable future be fashioned based on men’s lifestyles.

Traditional family roles mean that all roads lead to the house at the end of every workday for most women.

There is a nanny to be released to go home after the day’s work, a child, two or three to check on, dinner to ensure is promptly on the table, and more than a few blunders on home care to fix.

On good days, one or two fires to put out, a maid to help with the evening chores, supervise, chat or argue with or let go of depending on the state of affairs on any given day.

All this means that while their male counterparts can spend the evening at a pub or club unwinding and inevitable talking shopping, equally qualified (if not more qualified), professional women are missing in after-hours professional action.

The extra-curricular get-togethers do affect the level of team inclusiveness that women might otherwise enjoy if they could participate in them like their male counterparts are consistently able to.

As if that’s not quite enough to exclude them from valuable networking opportunities, bedtime is a very fluid concept for women; it could go from 11pm to whenever the children and husband are fed, clean, in good health and tucked into bed.

Depending on the children’s ages, it isn’t bedtime. It is “bed-cum-breastfeeding-cum-diaper-change-cum-flu and attendant fever-care-time” until dawn. This means that those 7am strategy meetings that the over-energised head of region holds at the beginning or end of every week are mean feats of effort to attend.

Let’s not get into how participatory they can be, at these in-the-cocks meetings because we are already stretching it a long way from too far.

The guys have their wives at home taking care of the children’s department, the home administration department, and the HR — maid and other staff — department.

So they can stay out late weaving the all-important career networks and get home to clean, tranquil homes kids already helped with homework and hot dinners waiting for them. All they need to do is eat up and go to bed. A 7am meeting scheduled for the next day, and the day after, and in fact, every day of the week? No problem. There are pressed shirts, brushed shoes, and breakfast at the table by 6am. All the men need to do is take showers, get dressed, eat breakfast and leave — yes, the cars are already cleaned too. Wives organise everything.

There would be nothing wrong with the scenario at all if only men worked or if chores in the home were evenly divided between husbands and wives.

The point is not about women competing with men on who wears the pants but rather equal access to and equal opportunities to scale — to reach the highest possible score of success in one’s career.

Most organisations can but have little or no corporate will to change how the game is played on the work-front. You see, most of them are headed by men who do not share the same challenges that women face concerning not being fully present for meetings.

They are at the head of these organisations because they are beneficiaries of these real challenges — they can fully concentrate on their careers without being encumbered by kids, home-care, maids et al.

So what’s left to do? Women need to get to the point at which they can shake off the guilt allowing themselves to audit how traditional roles impact their contribution in the workplace, which affects their career progression prospects, which in turn affect their financial independence and future security.

On the other side of this audit lies the freedom to realise their ultimate potential; freedom that we are all entitled to, irrespective of our gender.


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