Have you ever wondered why women have to start over their careers from scratch after a maternity break?
The other day I chanced upon an article on Linkedin by a woman joining back the workforce after her child care break which led me back to the same question again.
The woman hadn’t anticipated that the path to rejoining the workforce would not be a straightforward one. Her qualification and experience which had given her that confidence somehow didn’t seem to matter anymore as much as those gap years. In every interview, she was asked to explain her break from work. She was asked to justify her maternity break. In every single one of them. The break became a liability in her resume. The years of experience she had wasn’t given as much importance as her ‘break from work’. Her experience became zero because of the break. She wasn’t even considered fit to be employed for a job suited for her years of experience.
Why do women need to explain themselves for taking a maternity break or a break to raise their children? I was thinking just that after reading the article when the biggest question of all behind all these other questions raised its sneaky head – why do only women have to take a break to raise the children? What about the fathers?
“For many men, the fundamental assumption is that they can have both a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. But many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best and impossible at worst.” – Lean In
Well, think about that for a moment while I go on.
A few months ago I asked why women don’t make the cut when projects are being downsized? It’s nerve wrecking really because I don’t understand why motherhood or even marriage mars the employability of women. But somehow it always comes to that pregnancy, motherhood or a childcare break. These factors are always used to hold women back or force them off their chosen path.
Both the husband and wife become parents but somehow it’s the mother whose career is more often than not reset on childbirth. It’s the mother’s career which takes a hit, almost always. And the women who still fight the fight will tell you how hard it is to keep their heads above the water every single day.
Why is it so hard for a woman to get the opportunities she deserves when she decides to make a comeback?
As women, we play a very important role both at home and at work. Our decision to stay back at home to care for newborns or toddlers, or not work late helps men in our lives carry on with their careers unhindered. We help raise the next generation doing the dirty work, the heavy work and the exhausting work. But when it is time for us to be given a chance we are looked at like outcasts. Does our biology make us unemployable? Does our selfless commitment to the family make us worthless?
Both the husband and wife become parents but somehow it’s the mother whose career is more often than not reset on childbirth.
Why can’t employers see that we are great at multitasking and when we take up a responsibility we give it our all? I am a working mother myself. Yes, I leave at 5 pm on the dot every day but my work is never affected. My day starts at 6 am to accommodate everything for the family to my work. In fact, I’m more committed now. I want to excel at both my office work and at home taking care of my daughter. Not only that I try to hold on to my other interests as well. I’m driven and as engaged as the man sitting next to me who carries a lunch box from home prepared by his wife or mother. I’m as committed and driven as a man who stays back late at work because he has the luxury to do so with his wife taking care of everything at home.
So, is it fair that I or anyone else like me has to start over or looked upon as someone who isn’t invested in her work?
Why can’t women’s careers start off from where they had left off if they can prove their calibre in interviews? Yes, I say grill us on our capabilities in interviews but don’t judge us because we are mothers or that we had taken a break from work. We are not saying that you count our gap years in our experience but at least give due consideration to the years we had worked for. I can’t fathom why our absence from the active workflow for a certain period becomes the cause or concern and not our education, expertise or knowledge.
Why can't women's careers start off from where they had left off if they can prove their calibre in… Click To Tweet
Women wanting to get back to work are not asking handouts. We want you to test us and only then employ us. But not reject us because we had taken a few years off to raise our children. That’s not fair or right.
Why do women all around the world face this kind of prejudice? If we get pregnant we are anxious that we’ll be overlooked for promotions or hike in the course of our pregnancy. In fact, we don’t even know if the job will be waiting for us when we are ready to go back. And god forbid, we take a year or two off work, getting a job becomes an existential crisis.
“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.” – Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In.
When will things change? Well, maybe not in my lifetime but I hope they do someday for the fight is on and shifts are happening even though not seismic.
So what happened to the woman who had written the Linkedin post? Well, someone listened, someone who knew to test her calibre rather than her break from work and now she is back to the workforce.
She fought, was dejected but was lucky to have been given the opportunity to prove herself. Many women don’t get that chance. And that’s my beef with the world. Women keep doing a thankless job of taking care of the children and the family, stepping up to sacrifice so much without being asked (yes, sacrifice) and still are sidelined or rejected.
If you are a man, are you doing anything to ensure your wife or your daughter doesn’t go through the same? And if you are a woman who hasn’t faced this, one of the lucky ones, what are you doing? You do know that saying you have never come face to face with something like this is not enough. The world is bigger than what you have not faced.
This post is part of the #FeministMondays series (previously called #IAmAFeminist series) on the blog. Inspired by a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists, I intend to talk about the need for feminism through my posts, posts on my experience and observation as a female. I intend to talk about issues concerning women.
Join me and let’s work towards a world of gender parity. Remember, each voice counts. Tell me your story.