Is Work-Life Balance Feasible For Women?

Growing up in a family where the women stayed at home while the men worked shaped my view of women’s responsibilities and duties. The women in my life cooked and cleaned and planned birthday parties and made Christmas really feel like Christmas. They were and still are the essence of what makes a family a home, so growing up and realizing there was untapped potential that never saw the light of day because of their duties as mothers is bittersweet. 


Can we really have it all? Can I work and be a mother and be a multifaceted individual? The answer varies depending on so many factors, which is frustrating to see in 2020 where the answer should be a simple “yes.” I went on a search to find why this is still a debated topic.


The International Labour Organization advocates for social justice by fighting for a change in worldwide labor standards and released a report that investigated the global gender gap. The report found a number of reasons for the major difference in employment between men and women and the trends that stuck out the most to me were vulnerable employment, socio-economic status and public education. 


Vulnerable employment basically means working less hours, not getting paid, not getting compensated for maternity leave or not having access to social protections such as against discrimination. Women tend to work less hours than men, sometimes due to taking care of children and doing household-related work. 


Maternity leave can also serve as an obstacle in retaining work after pregnancy. Worldwide, 60% of women do not have a right to maternity leave and 66% are not legally entitled to paid maternity leave. All of these issues combined lead to a bleak outlook and harsh reality of the ideal work-life balance a lot of women hope for. 


Socio-economic status is another thing that pushes a lot of women out of work. A lack of affordable child care in many countries leaves women with the sole responsibility of caring for their children while also trying to juggle a job which isn’t realistic for a lot of women. Even in countries where there is childcare, a lack of affordable child care whether it be nannies, babysitters or daycares, is a contributing factor to women staying home. 


This lack of access decreases the chances of women going to work by 4% in developed countries. Interestingly enough, economic stability of a partner either decreases or increases the likelihood of women going to work. In developed and emerging countries, the economic stability of a partner decreases the likelihood that women are in paid jobs. 


This can be due to gender bias where men are supposed to be the breadwinners of the household. Once this is fulfilled, women might not feel the need to work. In developing countries where economic stability is a constant struggle, women are more likely to go to work and often have to sacrifice time and mental health, because they have to both work and take care of their children.  


After doing my research and reading through countless of statistics that made the possibility to have work-life balance seem slimmer and slimmer, I came to a conclusion that the answer to my question is not that it’s impossible to have a work-life balance but as the generation that will be next in line in entering the workforce, it’s also up to us that we encourage and empower one another in order to find solutions to this problem. 


As I see my sister-in-law balance work and her newborn baby, it makes me optimistic that in fact, we can have it all but unfortunately, that reality is still too far away to touch for a lot of women. By educating ourselves and each other, we can continue the fight so one day, women won’t have to make life-altering decisions, because they want to be more than what society expects.