Equity is about recognising that there are imbalances in our society. Nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace. This International Women’s Day, we take a closer look at what equitably practices need to happen, so that we can ALL enjoy equality at work.
It’s pretty easy to agree, International Women’s Day is wonderful for bringing issues of gender disparity front of mind. This year we’re exploring the term “equity”. It’s one thing for women to be considered “equal” in the workplace, but another entirely to have equity, as we’re sure you’ve come to learn as you’ve made the transition to motherhood.
When it comes to women returning to work, whether that’s from maternity leave or an extended career break as the primary caregiver, one thing is clear: success requires equity — at home, in the workplace and in policy.
#EmbraceEquity At Home
How many of us assign exactly equal roles to the men and women at home? More often than not, the mental load of managing a household falls to the woman, even if she is juggling a successful career. Part of the reason is that we believe the narrative we have been fed – women are better caregivers and they are more suited to juggling responsibilities. Biology dictates that mothers have to bear children, therefore, they naturally must be more family and home oriented, while men are more suited for work.
These outdated thoughts are changing, but not rapidly! It’s only when this mindset changes on a societal level that you will see an equitable distribution of work at home.
While women all over the city are grateful that maternity leave in Hong Kong was increased to 14 weeks, it’s fair to say that it’s a far cry from ideal. Not to mention the pitiful five-day paternity leave!
The minute a birth partner or co-parent can take as much leave as the mother following the birth of a child, it frees up the woman to return to work. It also sets the tone and rules for a more equitable distribution of work at home right from the get-go.
After all, if your partner has spent six months being the primary caregiver for your baby, you know that they are capable of doing it on a regular basis, freeing you up for work, relaxation, me-time and so much more.
Read More: Spotlight On Women In Business
#EmbraceEquity in the workplace
So what can organisations do to promote equity in the workplace?
Supporting both parents to have equal access to maternity/ paternity leave would be a start, but there are still more hurdles ahead. Companies could commit to investing in training, mentorship and coaching for anyone returning from a break, regardless of gender. This makes it a more level playing field.
Likewise, there needs to be some flexibility in the workplace. After years of offices being forced to move online, a hybrid office setup has proved to be possible. Simply having both parents at home more often, means that both are more involved in the day-to-day childrearing routines. At a minimum, this creates increased understanding and empathy of the mental load and at best, helps the division of that load be shared more equally.
What’s more, once there is fair and equitable distribution of work at home, it will not be solely the woman’s lot to pass up growth opportunities at work in favour of the family. Does that mean that we will now have both partners feeling torn, guilty and dissatisfied? Of course not! When there are enough families that practise equity at home, they will have better work-life balance and you may just find that it’s not only women, it’s their partners too, who can really have it all!