I just read the latest entry on Marina’s blog and it was about gender equality – basically saying that: “The only thing that can level the playing field at work is a level playing field at home. And that requires a major shift in public policy and corporate culture.”
Yes, it will require legislative changes such as increasing paternity leave from the present 3 days to something more decent like 60 days (and increase the maternity leave to 90 days please). In this day and age, things like leave should not be an issue since it is possible to allow the father (and mother) to work from home for the first few months. All they need it just a laptop with a wireless internet connection. So, corporate cultures need to change starting with the boardroom.
Personally, I would go one step further and say that it would require a major shift in cultural practices and expectations as well.
Familial pressures are another thing that need to change. Wives cannot expect their husbands to provide, neither can parents expect their sons to. Men who want to be good fathers may need to sacrifice their careers and put their families first. In such a situation, it may be difficult for them to both be the bread-winner and bread-maker for the family.
However, things are not so rosy in much of Asia. In China, men are becoming increasingly frustrated as Chinese women demand a house and car as a prerequisite to marriage. This is resulting in a whole generation of frustrated men who are unable to afford such luxuries during their youth.
The trouble with our cultural norms in Malaysia means that in order for us to have gender equality, both sides must participate. Women must be willing to be bread-winners and bread-makers of the family if they expect their husbands to do the same. They must also be willing to consider a role reversal, where the husband becomes the bread-maker and the wife the bread-winner. I don’t see this happening much, even in situations where the wives earn several times more than the husbands.
So, it is not just policy and corporate culture that needs changing, our values and social culture needs to be changed as well. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening in Malaysia within my lifetime.