WOES OF WORKING WOMEN IN 2020
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
Soon after the novel coronavirus outbroke, the World Health Organisation declared it a pandemic on March 11. This demanded organisations across the globe to announce work from home leading to massive economic disruption. With the nationwide lockdown, Indian economy too set towards a downward spiral. With social distancing at high priority, the workforce was asked to home-quarantine and work from home. Becoming the need of the hour, the 21-day lockdown and the subsequent work from home paved the way to the new era of the digital divide.
However, working from home hasn’t come easy for most. Notably, the women of the century are confronted with a host of challenges. Having the kitchen and the baby crib inches away from the workstation has not really been a win-win situation for the women. As the domestic space has now turned into a workplace too, maintaining a healthy work-life balance has not come effortlessly. This has not only impacted the work but also the family dynamics for all. Consequently, distinguishing one’s work from one’s family roles has become a difficult task. Such role-blurring in a patriarchal set up such as India has highlighted gender-defined roles.
Today, work from home has become our new normal. Sadly, the new normal also brings the gender divide to the foreground. This pandemic may have reduced the physical distance amongst family members, but it has diminished the quality of “family time”. Consequently, the new quality time is about mothers managing the kitchen and children in addition to their office work. The woman of the house no longer has her 9 to 5 job, instead goes a full circle around the clock.
Women, today, are juggling between their office work, the endless demand for coffee by their husbands, and children seeking the pre-meal snacks. The onus of preparing several meals a day, unquestionably, falls on the woman of the house.
The virtual house arrest has suspended and frozen innumerable lives not only physically, but mentally too. The virus has revived the ghosts of typecasts through our gender, class and caste. The case of pretence is dismissed and at last, we hit the hard reality. One’s responsibilities in a household today are an encasement of our genders. Indian women spend about 577% more time on household work than men (Source: Business Standard).
Sadly, gender disparity has been dyed in the wool and deeply entrenched in our society. Children are not taught gender bias, but they live through it. Through the act of imitation, children imbibe gender-defined roles. These gender roles are stereotypes that live through generations without formal teaching including culture-based expectations for the appropriate behaviour of males and females in society.
Likewise, the pandemic and this lockdown are not gender-neutral. The burden that has
traditionally been borne by the woman of the household continues to, disproportionately, be borne by her. In essence, gender equality, still, remains a concern primarily due to lack of self-corrective measures. The working women are mentally frustrated due to the excessive burden of work and the increased stress levels are leading to fights and arguments in couples (Source: The Times of India). Women are battling with pay cuts/loss of jobs along with enormous amounts of unpaid labour at home.
The lockdown has, undeniably, increased the labour disparity. During this lockdown, working women have meagerly shrunk to the ‘aayas’ of the house and the ‘ghar se kaam’ has turned to ‘ghar ka kaam’ in no time. The subsequent disappearance of “me-time” in the women’s lives is a consequence of the patriarchal set up in our society. As an outcome, we observe women are left with no choice but to quit their paid jobs or take ‘leave without pay’ (Source: The Guardian).
In response to the prevalent social disparity, Ariel by Procter & Gamble (P&G) took the initiative in 2015 to address the issue. Their award-winning campaign #ShareTheLoad has ever since been asking pertinent questions making the men introspect. P&G throws light on the gender dynamics of the household tasks that children learn during their formative years itself. Through their ads, P&G questions the idea of being ‘normal’. In one of the ads, we observe a woman jumping onto her household chores as soon as she enters her house. Preparing food, checking onto her child’s homework, and washing dirty clothes whilst being an office call is her
In a voice-over, this ad allows a proud father to apologise to his daughter for making ‘inequality’ normal. He apologises for not stopping her from playing a home-maker during one of her childhood enactments. As a man, he defined that the domestic chores are the woman’s domain of work and passed the same to his daughter. Led by example, the daughter is observed living through inequality and passing the same to her son. In the heart-warming visual piece, the father moves forward to make a difference with one little change i.e., doing laundry for the mother.
It is high time we make a difference. As the problem arises from our social conditioning, we need to change it. It is time we raise our sons right. It is time we raise our sons the way we raised our daughters, making sure that the future generation is equal. The matter in question is self- reliance. The idea is not to ‘help’ the women of the house but to ‘do’ the chores of your own house.
By Shikha Nangru