The nature of work is changing fast as new technology, changing attitudes to productivity, and better travel options make it possible to work from nearly anywhere. While these changed work requirements increase efficiencies, they also intensify pressures on dual-career couples trying to raise a family.
While some governments have advanced public policy to help such families, what can employers do to ease constraints for a growing number of such employees, particularly working mothers?
Work-related pressures are particularly acute for women from the start. Often the first hurdle a young woman faces is being valued for her abilities and skills. She often has to justify to family and friends (and in the process to herself) why she prioritizes a career over “settling down.”
Once she enters the workforce, her potential is assessed in ways different from men. In my experience, women are expected to either stop working or work less, especially after becoming a mother. Recent research in fact shows motherhood can subconsciously be associated with perceived lower competence and hence lower productivity. Men not only are not penalized, but in some cases actually benefit from parenthood.
Sunniya Durrani-Jamal is a labor economist with over 20 years of international experience covering country strategies, sector analysis, and management of projects in both the public and private sectors. She has worked with ministries of consumer and business services, finance, education and health to establish service delivery standards, design measurement systems, analyze outcomes, develop policy options and outline the implications of these for senior management.
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