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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Half the story on workplace discrimination

We are constantly inundated with messages on discrimination against mothers at work - cries about glass ceilings, wage gaps, lack of flexible work arrangements and unfair work performance evaluations.  At the same time, there are various organisations and movements to address this problem - media influence, provisions in the Employment Act, AWARE, etc.

No doubt the message from these organisations and movements is loud, clear and correct - working mothers should not be at a disadvantage when it comes to evaluations and promotion opportunities compared to the men.  However, with many families in Singapore getting by on dual income, I believe we have only heard half of the workplace discrimination story.

I believe that men are as vulnerable as women when it comes to being fairly treated at work, especially if they decide to give more to their wives and kids and correspondingly less to work.  Generally, women are expected to be the primary caregivers of children, and thus bosses (after being conditioned) are more inclined to be understanding of their requests to fulfill this role.  After all, happy working mothers mean better work performances, and employers know that.

On the other hand, men are expected to be the main providers of their families, and that means working hard and treating work as a priority so as to put food (and iPads and iPhones and Laduree macaroons) on the table.  Unfortunately, without the right 'education', employers might not be as understanding when a male employee tries to get the same parental leeway as their female counterparts.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is generally easier for men to be granted leave to watch live sports telecasts/visit the IT Show/queue for the launch of the latest videogame, than to spend time with their children.

Need to take leave to take care of a sick child? Is your wife not around?

Want to take half the day off to make up to your child after neglecting him for a week due to the urgent project?   Don't worry about it, your child will still love you. I know from experience.

Can't work overtime today again?  You should really consider getting a maid.

There are always two biscuit sides to a macaroon.

While the efforts of women at work needs to be duly rewarded, I think it is equally important for the workplace to encourage and enable men to be equal contributors at home.  And no, paternity leave is not the way to achieve this.  With the cost of living going up and stress levels rising, something needs to be done to address this workplace discrimination against dads.  Otherwise, movements such as Dads For Life would be reduced to sticking fancy decals on car windows, and online communities such as Daddy Matters would be reduced to a place to air our grievances.

After all, happy employees mean better work performances, and employers should remember that.

Do you agree with me?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!


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