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Work-life balance is necessary for everyone, regardless of their gender. Are we doing women and men a disservice by asking only women this question?
A recent Huffington Post article spoke of a CEO who moved to a less demanding role so that he could spend more time with his family. One of the things he mentioned in the piece was that while the media has often asked him for details of his material success, he has never been queried on work-life balance.
I’m sure many of you have often wondered the same – why is it that media members bring up this question only when interviewing high-achieving women professionals, but rarely so when talking to their male counterparts? Is it because juggling home and work is commonly perceived as a woman’s concern, and it is profitable to cater to this? Or, is it because interviewers don’t give it a lot of thought, and merely ask the question since it is asked frequently when profiling female go-getters?
Whatever the reason, it is time we consider ways to end this biased approach. By asking women the work-life balance question repeatedly, such interviews do not help the issue of gender equality. Instead, they strengthen the traditional ‘guilt’ women have always felt about spending time away from their homes and children.
By neglecting to ask men the same question, these media pieces also unintentionally convey the message that fathers and husbands do not have to worry about the kids and domestic duties, as long as they bring in enough to pay the bills.
…these media pieces also unintentionally convey the message that fathers and husbands do not have to worry about the kids and domestic duties, as long as they bring in enough to pay the bills.
So, it is clear that this kind of prejudiced questioning should be avoided. Interviewers would do well to remember that all of us, male or female, struggle with balancing home and work. Consequently, ask everyone this question, irrespective of gender. Or, do not bring it up at all, unless your research or off-the-record discussion tells you that the interviewee, male or female, has made exceptional or inspiring choices to tackle the issue.
Interviewees too, can thwart this practice. Both women and men, especially well-known or high-achieving ones, should refuse to react to this query in a gender-specific manner. There are many heartening instances of this. Woman professionals, when asked, ‘How do you balance parenting and work?, often answer that they share responsibilities in a fair manner with their partners, and at times have been known to retort, ‘The same as my spouse’. Stay-at-home moms, in public spaces such as these, talk about how their personal aspirations are many-a-time over-shadowed by their care-giving tasks. Every once in a way, a male executive, regrets, unprompted in an interview, about how his career keeps him away from his family. All these serve to remind us that this is not an issue for only women to deal with.
Audience members like us are also empowered to make a difference. When you come across a piece like this, where the basic premise is unreasonable, refuse to engage with it positively and state clearly why. Given that in today’s media scenario, audience feedback can make or break content, we shouldn’t hesitate to use this influence when required.
Step back a minute and consider a young woman stepping out of college, seeking role models. On repeatedly reading reports of women achievers dealing with work-life balance, she may begin to believe that this is a woman’s area of concern alone. If this is reinforced in her social circle, it could quite easily lead to her feeling limited while shaping her life choices and career decisions. It is to avoid outcomes like these, that it is important for readers and journalists to move away from associating the work-life balance issue with women alone.
Pic credit: xman (Used under a CC license)
Freelance writer and editor - avidly interested in food, books and people. Is there anything else even? read more...
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