By Galia Wolloch, president, NA’AMAT Israel
Every year, in honor of International Women’s Day, depressing statistics are published on the inconceivable wage gaps of approximately 30% between women and men. The fact causing the most despair is that the gap has remained at a similar rate for decades already, as if there have been no cultural, social and structural changes in the country.
It is no secret that one of the major causes of the gaps in status and wages is the fact that women still tend to take upon themselves (or accept) primary responsibility for childcare. Even though women have fully entered the job market and constitute about half of it, their traditional role as caretakers of children has not been reduced accordingly – and this dual burden makes it difficult for them to integrate and advance.
There are those who claim that mothers choose on their own initiative to leave the job market in order to focus on their children. Thus, they essentially impose the “fault” for their inferior situation on women, as if there are no women capable of being both good mothers and successful career women.
The decisive majority of mothers does not resign or compromise on their standing at the workplace out of a genuinely free choice; rather, they are thrown out of it due to a structured inflexibility of the job market and an absence of family frameworks that support the model of a family with two breadwinners.
In recent years, more fathers have been yearning for active involvement in the lives of their children. Both men and women feel that the job market is becoming more and more demanding, and the price that the family pays is getting ever heavier. A man who asks to be an active parent gets a cold shoulder at the workplace. If it were the norm that fathers leave earlier several times a week to spend time with their kids, the mothers could invest more hours at work. But in reality, not only is the job market unfriendly to parents, it does not even allow men to exercise all the rights granted to them by law.
Most of the time, it is not the mothers who give up work – rather, it is the job market that gives up on mothers. In its rigid structure, its lack of adaptability to changing life and in the absence of supportive frameworks, the job market loses a large and significant portion of the potential work force. Only true cultural change in the working world and adapting it modern parental and family life can aid in the advancement of women toward full equality in the job market and society in general.