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The New Breadwinners, A Women’s Nation Changes Everything

 

Rosaline Obah is a graduate from the University of Buea with a Bsc. In Journalism and Mass Communication and women and Gender Studies. Presently Communication Secretary for the PCC in the Northwest Region, she has taken a profound interest in gender issues and presently writes a column on BamendaOnline.net (Feminine line). She has also been contributing similar articles to The Eden Newspaper. Obah is currently the PRO of the Northwest Chapter of CAMASEJ.

 

 

Women have made great strides and are now more likely to be economically responsible for themselves and their families than ever before. Today, the movement of women into the labour force is not just enduring but certifiably revolutionary-perhaps the greatest social transformation of our time.

Women are more likely to work outside the home and their earnings are more important to family well-being than ever before in our nation's history. This transformation changes everything. At the most profound level, it changes the rules of what it means to be a woman-and what it means to be a man. Women are now increasingly sharing the role of breadwinner, as well as the role of caregiver, with the men in their lives. Even so, we have yet to come to terms with what it means to live in a nation where both men and women typically work outside the home and what we need to do to make this new reality workable for families who have child care and elder care responsibilities through most of their working lives.

Indeed, the transformation in how women spend their days affects nearly every aspect of our daily lives. As women move into the labour force, their earnings are increasingly important to families and women more and more become the major breadwinner-even though women continue to be paid less than men for every franc earned in the economy. What's more, women are now much more likely to head families on their own.

These gains are by no means an unqualified victory for women in the workforce and in society, or for their families. Most women today are providing for their families by working outside the home-and still earning less than men-while providing more than their fair share of caregiving responsibilities inside the home, an increasingly impossible task. At home, families cope with this day-to-day time squeeze in a variety of unsatisfactory ways. In most families today, there's no one who stays at home all day and so there's no one with the time to prepare dinner, be home when the kids get back from school, or deal with the little things of everyday life. Instead of having Mom at home keeping her eye on the children after school, families face the challenge of watching over their latchkey kids from afar and worry about what their teenagers are doing after school.

Yet the flip side is this; the presence of women is now commonplace in all kinds of workplaces and many are in positions of authority. Millions of workers now have a female boss and the more collaborative management styles that many women bring to the workplace are improving the bottom line. Increasingly, businesses are recognizing that most of their labour force has some kind of family care responsibility, and therefore are creating flexible workplace policies to deal with this reality. Many of the fastest-growing jobs replace the work women used to do for free in the home. The demand for home health aides, child care workers, and food service workers, for instance, has increased sharply.

Social patterns also are changing, and rapidly so. The assisted reproductive technologies industry has blossomed as women-especially professional women-invest in their careers and delay motherhood into their 30s and 40s. And the share of women who are unmarried has skyrocketed: many women over age 25 are now unmarried. This transformation also boasts profound implications for communities around the nation. In schools, religious and community organizations, women are now less available to volunteer during the work week and have less time to devote to leading community organizations. The transformation affects our health care system, too, since health care providers have to cope with the fact that there is not likely to be someone to provide free, at-home care for a recovering patient.

Quite simply, as women go to work, everything changes. Yet, we, as a nation, have not yet digested what this all means and what changes are still to be made. But change we must, especially as the current recession amplifies and accelerates these trends throughout our economy and society.

While women have made great strides and are now more likely to be economically responsible for themselves and their families, there is still a long way to go. Equity in the workplace has not yet been achieved, even as families need women's equality now more than ever.

A Women's Nation Changes Everything

By Rosaline Obah

Women have made great strides and are now more likely to be economically responsible for themselves and their families than ever before. Today, the movement of women into the labour force is not just enduring but certifiably revolutionary-perhaps the greatest social transformation of our time.

Women are more likely to work outside the home and their earnings are more important to family well-being than ever before in our nation's history. This transformation changes everything. At the most profound level, it changes the rules of what it means to be a woman-and what it means to be a man. Women are now increasingly sharing the role of breadwinner, as well as the role of caregiver, with the men in their lives. Even so, we have yet to come to terms with what it means to live in a nation where both men and women typically work outside the home and what we need to do to make this new reality workable for families who have child care and elder care responsibilities through most of their working lives.

Indeed, the transformation in how women spend their days affects nearly every aspect of our daily lives. As women move into the labour force, their earnings are increasingly important to families and women more and more become the major breadwinner-even though women continue to be paid less than men for every franc earned in the economy. What's more, women are now much more likely to head families on their own.

These gains are by no means an unqualified victory for women in the workforce and in society, or for their families. Most women today are providing for their families by working outside the home-and still earning less than men-while providing more than their fair share of caregiving responsibilities inside the home, an increasingly impossible task. At home, families cope with this day-to-day time squeeze in a variety of unsatisfactory ways. In most families today, there's no one who stays at home all day and so there's no one with the time to prepare dinner, be home when the kids get back from school, or deal with the little things of everyday life. Instead of having Mom at home keeping her eye on the children after school, families face the challenge of watching over their latchkey kids from afar and worry about what their teenagers are doing after school.

Yet the flip side is this; the presence of women is now commonplace in all kinds of workplaces and many are in positions of authority. Millions of workers now have a female boss and the more collaborative management styles that many women bring to the workplace are improving the bottom line. Increasingly, businesses are recognizing that most of their labour force has some kind of family care responsibility, and therefore are creating flexible workplace policies to deal with this reality. Many of the fastest-growing jobs replace the work women used to do for free in the home. The demand for home health aides, child care workers, and food service workers, for instance, has increased sharply.

Social patterns also are changing, and rapidly so. The assisted reproductive technologies industry has blossomed as women-especially professional women-invest in their careers and delay motherhood into their 30s and 40s. And the share of women who are unmarried has skyrocketed: many women over age 25 are now unmarried. This transformation also boasts profound implications for communities around the nation. In schools, religious and community organizations, women are now less available to volunteer during the work week and have less time to devote to leading community organizations. The transformation affects our health care system, too, since health care providers have to cope with the fact that there is not likely to be someone to provide free, at-home care for a recovering patient.

Quite simply, as women go to work, everything changes. Yet, we, as a nation, have not yet digested what this all means and what changes are still to be made. But change we must, especially as the current recession amplifies and accelerates these trends throughout our economy and society.

While women have made great strides and are now more likely to be economically responsible for themselves and their families, there is still a long way to go. Equity in the workplace has not yet been achieved, even as families need women's equality now more than ever.

By Rosaline Obah

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