Is it that women do not think about studies and a consequent job for lifetime regardless of the economic situation of the family or a husband or partner as the ticket to freedom?
How is it that we don’t think about being a working woman to gain independence and freedom no matter what the future might present?
Do we really think that the salary disproportion is just a matter of gender?
What if we thought about the cultural statement of working men as a duty and women exercising a right.
I was fortunate to grow in a middle-class home where studying at the University was not a negotiable issue. Getting ready for an independent life was the main goal, studying to see the doors of the labour market open in front of us, being reassured we could have a self-sustaining life and a ticket to freedom.
Then, we could choose how to live, getting married or not, deciding what to do without the need of financial support provided by a partner.
Maybe my mother’s wisdom –she had not studied at the University- drove me naturally to follow my own path: a reasonable safeguard facing life’s infinite challenges. I studied hard, dreamed, met daily needs, and freely chose maternity without stepping out of my work path.
I have 2 daughters and a son who were raised in the values of effort and work. They never lacked my love or my attention, although I seldom took them out to lunch on school days, or was not always present at school events when I travelled because of my work. Nevertheless, I have always been there for them in the important moments of their lives.
Now, this is the point. Though my partner of 15 years now, supports me and respects me professionally, he does not consider work for women as a duty, but as a complement of the main mission that is maternity and building a family. I find this is a deeply rooted thought of many men and also women in our culture.
Women’s work beside housework has long been interpreted as a possibility, as the exercise of freedom. In the case of men, the “human right” to work is associated to a duty to provide for his family.
Inevitably, the employment market reacts in a different way to the exercise of a right and the fulfilment of duty. Consequences are clear: women pose a higher risk for employers.
Apart from maternal leaves, another cause of salary inequity is that women spend more hours on housework and caring for other family members. This strongly decreases the time they have left to work for pay.
Demanding equal pay has not worked very well so far. We need to make clear that work is not just a right but a duty for us all, with equal attitude and availability to work.
We need to bring these issues up front, clearly analyse the situation women still face, and use our persuasion power to demand very clear regulations that allow us to be equally facing the labour market, such as paternal leaves, for instance.
Let’s raise our voices so that every woman knows that it is her duty to develop a career and work for pay, and that we can all equally share family and household responsibilities.
The whole mankind needs our participation, and we all need to be financially independent. It is necessary to contribute in the creation of social wealth.
About Fabiana Ricagno:
Lawyer, partner in labour law firms in Argentina. Founder and shareholder of private companies. Member of International Bar Association UK, Inter-American Bar Association, Chatham House. Law teacher in Universidad de Buenos Aires. President, Communications Committee, CICYP – Inter-American Council for Trade and Production-.