Today, women are getting married and having children at a later age than previous generations. This means they have more financial stability before starting a family. It also means that their professional responsibilities are generally bigger and more demanding at the moment that they choose to have kids. This creates an inner tug-of-war for women, one that is difficult to resolve. How can you balance managing a home and managing a job?
It’s not just the internal struggle. Women need to fight against perceptions in the workplace, too. It’s not uncommon to hear female employees keeping pregnancies a secret because they think it will affect their prospects for advancement or promotion. Women often fear that their being a mum leads people to think they won’t be as available for important, high-profile projects. While a ‘mummy track’ exists in the corporate world, not every mother wants to be on that track.
Even if one gets to avoid the mummy track and goes about business as usual, there are moments when a mother needs to take time off for a child-related emergency. Leaving early to fetch the kids or taking time off is often met with some judgment from colleagues, whether real or perceived. This has implications on employee well-being, motivation, and productivity.
A woman’s decision to have children and continue working also has real-world financial implications. Similar to labour force participation rates, a gender pay gap surfaces around the age women start bearing children. According to the MOM, this pay gap appears in the 30s, and often continues for the rest of a working woman’s life.
Conditions are even worse for mums that choose to take a break and leave the workforce for a while. While finding a job after a sabbatical is already tough, reentering the labour market as a mum proves to be extra challenging. Anecdotal evidence points towards a wariness of employers towards hiring mothers, as they think mums will continually take time off work using childcare leave. By law, mothers are entitled to take these days off, but some managers don’t necessarily like it. Having a CV gap also brings about a harder pay gap to overcome.
Even entrepreneurship takes a hit. Women make up just a little over a quarter of all business owners in Singapore. While there are more male entrepreneurs now than there were in previous years, the number of new female entrepreneurs have been dropping yearly.
All these factors surrounding women in the workforce trickle down into a well-documented reality–only one-third of all business leadership roles in the country are held by women.