Women empowered?


When I was home yesterday evening after a long, tiring (but fairly interesting) day visiting the company’s rubber operations and conducting a briefing, I was exhausted. Absolutely flat. Nothing was left of me.

Then my mind started wondering – is this the only downside of feeling empowered as a woman, or there is a lot more to come?

Let me put it here as a disclaimer: I am married, very contentedly at that, and safely into my 27 weeks of pregnancy.My career path is in a line that I love and purposely chose.

Career-wise, yesterday was a milestone. I have been tagging along with the third-party hired to set up our carbon inventory (in seven countries, covering hundreds of business units – if you’re to get some idea on how huge this is), and this was sort of the first session handed over to me to do it with my internal team. If we are to look at it this way; that I am doing what I am most passionate about, being trusted with such a task to handle, I should have felt very excited – accomplished even, maybe.

It felt that way at first, but then it gets me thinking about the aftermath – I am doing all this, but at the same time I am flat tired – is it worth it?

I could barely open my eyes throughout the 2.5-hour journey back to KL, let alone move my hip freely (It has become so painful after a long day walking in one estate and two factories).

The Partner picked me up at our meeting point, and as I kissed his hand thanking him for braving through the 7pm rush hour in KL, my heart was crying. I am too tired to even say some nice words to him, and I wonder how worse could it be if I have a child begging for my attention at that very point in time.

I don’t choose to have a day job to feel empowered. I have long abandoned that notion. If you want to work, for God’s sake go, and stop bullshitting about women needing to have important outside job to feel empowered. I feel just as powerful in my home (I know this could sound VERY wrong indeed! =P), and should I leave the company and become a stay-at-home wife and mother, there are plenty of other channels through which I could make myself useful for a circle larger than my family.

I read news on a research conducted in several developed and emerging nations on their women – and the headline of the news on this says ‘Nielsen: Women empowered yet stressed’.

It could not be any truer than that, I thought, even without reading the whole news.

Here is an excerpt of its media press:

‘Nearly 80 percent of women in developed economies indicated they believe the role of women will change and of those, 90 percent believe it will change for the better. While female respondents say they are pressured for time and feel stressed and overworked, women in emerging countries indicated they feel the pressure even more so than women in developed countries. Women across the world are managing multiple roles, but a contributing factor in the higher stress levels reported by women in emerging markets is that there is little spare cash remaining after the basic essentials to spend on themselves or take vacations.

Among female respondents in emerging markets, women in India (87%), Mexico (74%) and Russia (69%) said they were most stressed/pressured for time; while among developed countries, women expressed feeling this pressure most in Spain (66%), France (65%) and Italy (64%).’

Women empowerment has been in the agenda for quite some times. I don’t disregard it as pointless. As fortunate that I am living in Malaysia to be able to figure out by looking around me on what are the roles of women in the society and having the freedom to choose, there are many of my sisters who are deprived of this choice, due to the cultural tradition which degrades women – think about genital mutilation, honour killing and such.

However, looking at commonly used dimensions of women empowerment in broader arenas, I feel sick looking at things such as ‘Women’s representation in high-paying jobs’, ‘Women CEO’s’ etc. If this is what defines empowerment at its highest level (above household and community), I guess somehow this points towards the wrong direction.

It could simply means that the absence of such in a nation means that the women of the nation are not yet empowered. That’s why the government comes up with regulation to have x% of women on board of directors for examples.

It looks fine in a micro way. But from a bird-eye view of the whole system, I suppose this creates imbalances. Look at it first in a household, than imagines these households turning into communities then nations, then multiply all the problems due to imbalance of roles in a household to the scale of a nation – you’ll see potential magnified numbers of child-abuse and neglect, stress-related diseases, increased healthcare cost…and so the list goes.

At one level, it is all about having choices.

And at another level is what choices do you actually make.

I think, if I have a choice, I would like to homeschool my child.

If I have the choice.

I am no powerpuff girl!

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