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Monday, 12 June, 2000, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Are women undervalued?
The idea of the "superwoman" who effortlessly juggles a successful career with family life is simply a myth according to a recent UK study.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
62% of women say they are overworked and three quarters think they are underpaid and at "breaking point" from stress.
The majority of women say that they have to work much harder than men to get a promotion and that having a baby damages their career prospects.
Working mothers feel that stress of work is reflected in their home life and that they are emotionally damaging their children.
What do you think, are women undervalued? Are working mums damaging family life? Are managers and spouses to blame or are working women trying to achieve the impossible?
Send us your views and experiences.
Clare Fitzpatrick, England
As the UN reported in 1980, women constitute half the world's population, perform nearly two-thirds of its work hours, receive one-tenth of the world's income and own less than one hundredth of the world's property. I doubt if much has change since then.
Women's lib is no friend of women or children. Can a woman have a successful career and raise a family too? She can if she has a lot of support from her husband and her employer. If you look at the hardcore libbers are, they are usually older women with no children at home, or single women with no families to worry about.
Women get ideas about work being good and men having all the fun. However, when they get a job and find out it's hard work, they complain because all they really want is to be treated like kids and be mothered all the time.
I received an E-Mail comment recently, which I think sums the situation up rather nicely.
"Women will never be equal to men until they can stagger down the street, wearing ill-fitting clothes, with a bald head, a beer gut and still think they're beautiful!"
This raging topic never seems to progress positively. Perhaps the best answer to this is to turn to India and Hinduism. We have goddesses who are revered and worshipped. In some Hindu communities, women hold the purse strings and play a dominant role in a family. Justly so as such families thrive and survive well. In my opinion women above 35 who have done with rearing children prove to be better administrators and stronger minded than most men. No wonder India has produced women like Indira Gandhi, and today's Maneka Gandhi!
Let's just look at the terminology here. Why do women have to be classified as "career women" or "working mums"? You never hear people talking about "career men" or "working fathers". Why can't a woman just do whatever she wants, without being sneered at or criticised - nobody tells men that they are bad parents because they go to work, or that they are freaks because they choose not to have children. Give us a break!
I believe that men are as capable of women as looking after children, but do they really want to? I think we have a long way to go until men willingly take on a fair share of the domestic workload. Unfortunately this problem is perpetuated by the attitude of a lot of women - I know several highly intelligent, successful women who firmly believe that their partner is utterly incapable of coping with a child by himself. This results in the woman stopping paid work, or opting for part-time lower level work, even where the woman has a much better job than the man. This makes no sense to me at all. However I think it will be a long time before these attitudes change.
Women who are 30ish who want to return to work after having children are an untapped and undervalued resource. Their ability to cope with important decisions and organising nine different things at once, which is a normal days work for a mother, are perfect attributes needed for a business manager. Let's give these ladies a chance and get them back to work!
Career women have lost the plot. Most are driven to succeed and only give birth to children to satisfy their biological instincts. Most do not know how to love and have got their priorities all wrong. These smart people ask their children's opinion on everything except "should I go to work kids"
Barry Hammond, England
I have to go back to work after the birth of my baby in order for my family to survive - 'wanting it all' has nothing to do with it, I'd rather stay at home if I could. The dual role that women struggle with today is not a recent phenomenon! We have juggled work inside and outside the home for thousands of years.
So what about 'superwoman'? She can only exist when 'superman' comes home from work and does his fair share of the housework.
Keith Lomax, UK
W. Hammond, England
Give us a break, everyone is overworked, stressed and undervalued. Why does it always have to be a 'woman's issue'
As a working Father of three I can sympathise with the sentiments expressed in the study. If one parent remains at home the other must work. This is typically a man's role yet we are expected to be perfect Fathers and New Men as well.
Women in certain other EU countries could change jobs tomorrow and still get a full year of 90% maternity pay. I think that if you allow women enough time off when the baby is born, to bond with the child, get over the pregnancy, breastfeed as long as they want to, more women would be happier, less stressed and, most of all, less guilt-ridden when they go back to work.
It's all about choice. I personally sympathise with mothers who have to work for financial reasons but would rather stay at home and look after their children. For those who believe they need to have kids AND a career in order to be "fulfilled", stop whining and get on with it - no one said it was going be easy.
My dear John S
John Martin, UK
As far as I can tell, most women want five things: satisfying relationships with the men in their lives (father, brother, son, husband); one or more deep relationships with women; the joy of bearing and rearing children; a place to call home; and meaningful work only they can do.
Davanna Kilgore, USA
Gimme a break! Thirty years ago women decided they should all get jobs. Fine. Children are warehoused in daycare centres. Salaries for both men and women are lower than they were, in real pounds, 30 years ago because the economy had to absorb all these newcomers. And now they are complaining. The pay sticks, the jobs are mindless and the stress is horrible. Now you know what we guys have been putting up for centuries!
Marina, North Scotland
It is impossible for working mums to give 100% to their children AND 100% to their jobs - it cannot be done. This is why the severe stresses build up in women's lives today. When I worked full-time I tried to give my job full priority but now as a mother of two I am at home for my two boys aged 4 and 2. This afternoon I took the older one to his "toddler gym" session and then all three of us went swimming together. Working mums - are your kids getting these activities in their office crèches?
As a working mother, I have often been told that I should quit my job for my children's sake. Curiously enough, my husband - who makes less money and has fewer benefits than I do - has never been asked to do this.
My mother was a working mother and I do not think that I came out too badly.
I had to learn, at an early age, that the world did not revolve around me.
I take my hat off to my mother because she not only reared 4 children to adulthood, she was also one of the first people (not just women) in the information technology field in Kenya. Out of the five children that she raised, three are at university, one is on her way and the fifth has a budding career in the music industry.
It is true that it is hard to have children and a career, but my parents took the task of raising children as a partnership.
We talk about a career woman as if she was a typical example when it is really restricted to the upper ends of the society food chain. Couples who both have to work and have children I take my hat off to them, it's hard hard work.
Ruaridh Shuttleworth, Scotland
There is a difference between constructive criticism and mere whining. Considering the rates of advancement in all aspects of human rights and individual freedoms, the general outlook should be optimistic. The quality of life for all people is measurably better than at any other time in history.
Those survey results do make women seem like whingers, which might explain some of the irate reactions I have read so far. However, surely it's not just victimisation or false perception or laziness! Why is it that in other countries there is more support for mothers who wish to continue with their careers (childcare facilities, but also mentalities)? And does that not make the women less stressed, as well as more successful in their careers?
If God had meant for a nanny to take care of our children, why didn't he give them to the nanny instead of us? Whatever became of laying down your life for the ones you love? This goes for fathers and mothers who put their work before their children. Relationships are what matter in life, not promotions and raises.
The lifestyle that people expect to have these days needs two salaries to fund it! I am a person, not just a baby-making machine, and I want the fast car and the nice house just like everyone else. I have a right to earn these things just like man, and I do not expect to have the job of child-rearing dumped upon me. It takes two to make a baby - the stork doesn't really exist, you know!
Why do we expect that "Women should have it all", when we don't expect the same for men? I.e. Women seem to be expected to strive to have a family and a career, possibly as a single parent, but a man's only role only runs as far as having a career.
It is the norm for both parents to work, but it is still the main responsibility for the woman to maintain children, house and job. Why should men change this status quo - it is not in their interest and as the majority of company heads are mails it will not change - even politicians in the main are males and do not give high priority to redressing the balance.
Jane Reynolds, UK
With regard to work, my experience is that men routinely undervalue the contribution which women make. Men regard themselves as the thinkers and ideas-people and women as the plodders. Often their ideas are ill-thought out and rashly pursued - an often not that brilliant in the first place. But men take each other far more seriously than they do women - whether consciously or subconsciously. A man will be listened to and respected automatically where as women cannot depend on that at all.
John S, UK
Everybody (male and female) in the world has different skills, strengths and weaknesses. People should be employed on these attributes alone.
Frankly I am ashamed of some of the comments expressed here by British men. This issue cannot be dismissed as an act of nature. Both sexes should have equal employment rigths: women should be paid the same as a man in the same position, and conversely men should be able to claim parental rights similar to his spouse.
I couldn't hope to juggle my intensely stressful job and a family. I am a senior art director at a busy advertising agency in the fastest paced city in the world. When I finally have the mental blowout that I'm heading for, I shall tackle the truly challenging career of a family. I wish I could do both at once, but in my field it is all or nothing. Each individual, female or male, must make their own priorities and focus on what's best for them and their loved ones. In the future we'll see more stay at home dads and more female CEOs.
I work in a Japanese company which employs one Japanese woman. She is 33 and has been working for this company for about 3 years. Her direct superior left on the 1st of June leaving his position vacant. Since she has a law degree and experience with the organisation, one would think that she would move up the ladder. No, the decision was made to get a 27 year old Japanese guy from Japan who has just finished law school and has far less experience with the company then she has. Nevertheless, he became her boss. I asked her whether she thought that was fair. She answered; "I am a woman, it's our system". Shameful.
Women may feel overworked and underpaid but the truth is that they are advancing in the workplace at a much faster rate than, and at the expense of, men. As a result many now face the pressures traditionally borne by men and this is the price to be paid for material gain. Unfortunately it is only when relationships break down that there is a realisation the price has been too high.
Ken Beach, Germany
It is a very difficult juggling act when both parents have demanding careers. And, when push comes to shove, most likely it is the female half of the alliance who gets tapped to shoulder more responsibility for the house and the children. I tried the career track with two small children and a husband with a demanding job and my sanity almost gave out. I opted for a lower pressure, lower paying job. The esteem and paycheque are a lot lower, but it is a small price to pay compared to a nervous breakdown. Also, another factor that is rarely mentioned is the pressure that a husband puts on his wife to get out and earn a paycheque, however large or small. This takes the pressure off of him to be the sole supporter, but he rarely makes up for it in household/child raising duties.
Since when have "women" and "family" been one and the same?? It irritates me that companies aim to employ more women by becoming "family friendly" - it's about time the two were separated! Not all women have or want children, and conversely, there are many fathers who would choose to stay at home if they could.
If you have children then it stands to reason that you can't dedicate as much time to your job. I believe in equal work for equal pay. Since I choose to be childfree, I feel just as valued as anyone else in my line of work. Why demand equal pay/rights if you're not as willing to put in the same amount of time in your job as your childfree co-workers?
Chris Klein, UK
Let me assure you that men would say similar things about many of these issues if anyone ever cared to survey them for a change.
Women are not undervalued. They have a natural responsibility to children which they seem to not want to take the burden for.
This role provided by nature must come first for the species to survive. Unfortunately women try to place a "dollar" man-made value on that primitive responsibility. In this sense, they undervalue themselves.
Frankly, there is little work that is done by both men and women in the UK owing to flexibility. Women work more depending on the task, and if they have to add on top the family commitments, it is surely a lot. But still, you find them lazing around in bars smoking. This is the price of being developed. Perhaps the women should consult their counterparts in developing countries.
Women undervalue themselves. In trying to live up to the spin that society puts forward as the "correct" way to live your life, they heap untold pressure on to themselves. The nuclear family always has been and always will be the ideal model and the sooner women realise that the better. Men have never tried to "have it all" so why should women think they have to?
Women always have been undervalued, most of all by themselves.
It may be very old-fashioned but I can see nothing wrong with women electing to take a lower-paid, less-stressful job to be able to devote their commitment to their children rather than trying to compete with those (male and female) who have no child-rearing responsibilities which made demands upon their time and energy. If women choose to do so, that's their decision and they should stop whinging about it.
Whereas only 10 or 15 years ago women were still generally frowned upon for being working Mums, the expectation is now that they should have a career AND run a family just as well as if they weren't working. However, more and more people accept that domestic duties aren't necessarily just for women, and that they can be successful in their chosen careers. Of course women are undervalued and the situation is not perfect, but it's getting better all the time and people's attitudes are changing, slowly but surely.
08 Jun 00 | Health
Women: 'Underpaid and overworked'
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