Motherhood as a Retreat from Equality
Great article in the New York Times today about the choices that women have made in Germany, where only 14% of women choose to go back to work their careers full-time after having their first baby and only 6% return to work the office after having their second. This is a stark difference from the 60% of women in neighboring France who have young children and continue to work outside the home.
The article explores the question of whether this phenomenon is due to Germany's lack of infrastructure to support working mothers or whether it is based on traditional, societal beliefs that women themselves continue to perpetuate. What boggles my mind is that such a trend can be reversed by encouraging the business industry and public policy makers to think outside the box -
With 21st-century reach-everyone-anytime technology, might we not rethink child-unfriendly work hours?
According to The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, in the United States, women make up nearly half of our labor force - a threshold never before reached in the history of our nation. Mothers are now the primary breadwinners - making as much or more than their spouse - in nearly 4 of 10 million families. Check it out:
So how do we ensure that women are given the support they need to truly make a choice that is best for them? Some would say: flexible work schedules, comprehensive child care policies and equal pay. Yes, women definitely need equal pay, regardless of motherhood. I believe we need more than just those things. We need the support of our communities.
I encourage you to think about your own actions, reactions and judgement as woman or man, employer, subordinate, coworker, team member or simply a street conversationalist. Women should never have to retreat from equality because they feel limited by societal beliefs. And they should never be penalized for their choices. If we continue to limit a woman's options, we all end up paying for it, one way or another.