The pandemic could have a profound effect on gender equality at work and at home – if only businesses learn the right lesson.
Despite our increasingly modern society, gender bias still exists throughout the world (save for parts of Europe and Nordic countries). The stereotype of mothers being the sole caregiver at home and fathers being work to the bone is slowly becoming outdated, yet the stigma remains in many corporate environments.
In a survey conducted by Promundo and Dove Men+Care, the results reflected that fathers want to be just as involved as the mum in the home after having a child. In seven countries, 85% of the men wanted this, including 79% in the United States, yet, these men cannot afford to lose their job. There is such a thing called a ‘femininity stigma’ where men in the workforce seeking flexible hours to be more involved are punished by executives who think caregiving is responsibility exclusive to women. In this research, the men face lost opportunities in their career, demotion and even dismissal. Data collected over the years not only proves that this stereotype is rather outdated, but also provides clarity, moving forward.
These are not mere theories but actual responses by executives who believe the negative stereotypes of ‘lazy fathers’. Hence, when a man requests for time off to care for his children at home, the essence of this request lies in the fact that these executives believe the man would want to kick up his feet and relax resulting in this unfavourable dynamic that affects familial relationships that extend beyond traditional norms.
In the new decade, the coronavirus pandemic swept in and turned the tables on all those in the hierarchy. It may help to break down the sexism and stigma that entails working fathers – if only business leaders are open to learn the right lessons from it.
With a global lockdown, neither men nor women were exempt from this trial. Fast paced businesses may finally come to appreciate the value of remote work; flexibility and productivity often goes hand-in-hand. For example, consider the trivial task of commuting to work every day. Working from home removes this and adds to the person’s time in productivity instead.
However, it does not come without any limitations. Remote work in general and remote work under circumstances placed by the pandemic are not entirely similar. These are also tough times for families who are caring for their loved ones while ensuring their child’s education as a priority through online means. The anxiety and pressure that comes with it may certainly reduce productivity.
Those in the upper hierarchy need to understand that businesses are now able to profit from male and female employees who are working from home, sans the drawbacks it may entail. And while empathy may certainly help these executives in higher positions wear the other person’s shoes, seeing it through a lens of gender equality could also help! Men and women are both capable in the work they do, but it also takes a family to raise a child and these two can be done without interfering with the other, when given the opportunity.
Finally, the study also found opposing forces that exist which ultimately promoted equality for both men and women in the labour sector. A business should be quick to adapt to situations, lest they find themselves in unfavourable conditions, only then they may endure. The fact that most businesses have actually rolled out flexible work arrangements prove that not only are we able to take a work environment out of the situational norm, but the fact that many fathers who are now taking more responsibility for childcare may erode the social norms that we have built on for many years.
The idea of either parent being a ‘primary’ caregiver is quickly becoming outdated. But the fact that more fathers are suddenly at home during traditional work hours gives everyone a chance to stand up for equality.
As we work to get through this crisis, men and women have a chance to show businesses that all of us can be there for our families and our jobs — and show our children what greater gender equality can look like.
Gender Equality at SynergenOG
We at SynergenOG believe that we promote gender equality without bias. We have a fairly balanced workforce diversity, albeit small. Because our engineers consist of youths as well as seniors, we understand the value of a work-life balance. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible working hours has always been an option for our engineers. Our company policies also provide for paternal leave and we continue to support the right choice.
These days, working from home is still being encouraged even after the lifting of restricted movement control by the government. Nevertheless, we will soon be mobilising ourselves into the office through two teams on a rotational, weekly basis.
Our team also consists of many young adults who are single and living with their parents. We believe that parents also need to be taken care of, especially if they require assistance. In putting humanity in our work, we believe this not only betters our society but the work that we do as well.
Parts of this article were first published by Strategy+Business.
SynergenOG is an engineering and consultancy company headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. Throughout the lockdown period, SynergenOG continued to deliver to our clients. Read more about how we did it here.