Family Responsibilities and Gender: A Generation of Leading Lasting Change
In the 21st century, more and more women are driving global economic growth. We see a growing proportion of women in the workforce even in industries that were formerly perceived as male-dominated occupations such as construction, manufacturing, transportation, military and law enforcement (just to name a few). With this transition, these industries now provide support networks dedicated to empowering women at the workplace. However, a gender disparity that continues to put women at a disadvantage still exists in another realm not often talked about, and that’s in their own home.
Despite having made large strides towards equality, the belief and practice of women taking up the bulk of domestic responsibilities are still widespread. When coupled with the advancement of women’s career at the workplace, this creates a dilemma many aspiring women often have, which is “how can I create a balance between having a family yet build a successful career?”
Be that as it may, the effects of the pandemic have undoubtedly shaken the status quo. With lockdown restrictions and work-from-home (WFH) arrangements becoming increasingly a common practice, families now have the opportunity to reevaluate existing household dynamics to better suit their lifestyles in the new normal.
As part of this year’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to get the men’s perspective on how family responsibilities have changed in their own household. We interviewed three Gamuda employees to share their experience since WFH, and how it has influenced their family dynamics and everyday life.
Venu Mahendra, Group Sustainability Manager
Since the movement control order (MCO), Venu and his wife have been working-from-home together and share the responsibility of taking care of their 5-year-old daughter. They adopt an “I see I do” arrangement, where one takes up a task whenever available and roles are not specially designated to each other. “The concept we’re trying to implement is yin and yang, which is the idea of being complementary to each other”, he adds.
While the traditional norm is that working men don’t usually see what happens at home, the WFH arrangement creates an opportunity for them to view household responsibilities in a new light. To Venu, open communication is an important element when it comes to sharing duties equally. While it was a struggle at the beginning, he shares that the sense of awareness that is created through understanding and communication guided both him and his wife to work efficiently together.
He also believes that having both partners at home creates a healthier environment for family development. In his experience, from being able to have more meals together to the quick breaks he gets to have with his daughter, the extra pockets of family bonding time is an invaluable avenue for positive growth.
In regards to his experience at work, Venu believes that women can manage career progression and family in mind with the right support. Through his experience reporting to various female leaders in his career life,he believes women can strive in any condition regardless of industry, we can all advocate for a more balanced environment by avoiding social stigma at the workplace, and provide equal opportunities to all.
Joshua Kong Sing Hoe, Manager, Contracts and Commercial
Joshua’s household relies very much on sharing equal responsibility, delegating their tasks depending on their individual capacity, strengths and preference. For example, Joshua does the mopping as it’s a labour-intensive task, and runs errands as he enjoys going out more.
With a 14-month-old son, family responsibilities are usually centred around the growing toddler. He stresses the importance of open communication and that having a good understanding of family dynamics and their roles is vital.
Although this dynamic has always loosely existed in his household, it has certainly been tested and reinforced during the pandemic. Despite initial challenges, adaptation is a process that eases with time. Today, he describes his WFH experience positively. With no need to commute or be stuck in traffic, he’s able to spend more time with family and watch his son grow every day— a timeless opportunity he would not have had if not for the new normal.
Just like how shared responsibilities are reflected in his household, he also believes in equal opportunities at the workplace. Having great admiration for his female colleagues for choosing to join a male-dominated industry, he adds that regardless of the type of industry, a mindset shift is needed to focus on the person’s strengths and qualities instead of their gender.
Muhammad Shafiq Abdullah, Manager, Business Development and Corporate Finance
Shafiq’s WFH experience is unique and a testament to the pandemic’s drastic effects on people’s lives. With a wife who is tirelessly working at the hospital as a front liner, he now carries the majority of domestic responsibilities in his family of three. His daughter, currently at three and a half years of age, used to spend most of her time with him only on the weekends before the pandemic. Today, he juggles between caring for her basic needs and education, as well as having to meet the demands of work daily.
Having to bear new responsibilities alone, communication is everything. Communication is maintained primarily through their family WhatsApp group “Rumah Kita”, where they both share updates on their days, discuss tasks and family arrangements.
With his wife being the primary homemaker and caregiver, he now expresses a much greater appreciation towards his wife’s patient nature— a pivotal trait in managing a child. Extending beyond family, he also shares that same appreciation towards his female colleagues, adding that we should have greater empathy towards those who juggle between family and career.