Few Surprises From Our Indian Parents & Work Survey
As part of our Women & Work discussion, we set out to understand the options and choices Indian parents have around work and home life.
First, an encouraging stat: 91% of our female respondents were professionally engaged outside the home. While we recognize our respondents might be a self-selecting group of urban, educated, and independent women, that’s still a great stat, especially when compared to the national figure of 29% female participation in the labour force.
The bad news is that whether or not a woman is working outside her home, all women are doing most of the work at home, too – but few, especially those who stay at home full-time, are getting respect for it. More insights below.
While 50% of working men and women said they have achieved a work-life balance they are comfortable with, none of the male respondents listed any compromises made to achieve this balance. Most women cited cutting back on business travel, work hours and social engagements.
This is likely because women are responsible for much more than just their professional work. Nearly all respondents said the majority of domestic responsibilities are shouldered by female partners: 21% of working women said they do 80 to 100% of household work compared to their partners; 36% of working women said they do 60 to 80% of household work; and 22% of working women do 40 to 60. Among the men, 27% of working men reported doing 0 to 20% of housework and 45% of working men reported doing 40 to 60%. No male respondents reported doing 80 to 100 % of housework.
The surprising bit is this: 81% of working men – who said they do anywhere between 0 to 60% of housework – said their partners appreciate the domestic work they contribute. This suggests that women have low expectations of men as far as participation in domestic work is concerned and therefore are appreciative of any contribution, no matter how little – or, perhaps, that men have low expectations of themselves, and aggrandize the value of small contributions.
However, men and women are on the same page when it comes to the actors that have the most impact on enabling women to have a balanced career outside the home: 42% of working women and 54% of men believe partners have the most impact on women achieving a work life balance, and 28% of working women and 27% of men believed it is employers.
If you look at the silver lining, this demonstrates that a large number of men are aware of the major role they play in supporting their partners’ careers. However, the data on domestic contribution and work-life compromises suggest this knowledge has yet to translate into action; men may understand they affect their partners’ ability to pursue career and family, but may not understand in what ways.
This is, perhaps, supported by the data around paternity leave: 29% of men and/or their partners reported the men only received a few days to a few weeks for paternity leave; and while the same number believe a few months is a more ideal amount of time, 21% of women and 16% of men reported new fathers did not take in full the time they did receive in paternity leave.
So while there is a clear gap between what men believe and whether and how that translates into action, there are larger forces at work: 40% of all respondents, man or woman, felt men are stigmatized for attempting to be equal partners, and 31% felt these social expectations carry the most weight in men’s decisions.
Women, too, are confined by cultural dictat, both subtle and overt: 100% of stay-at-home mothers reported feeling social pressure to work outside the home, and only 60% believe their family highly values their domestic work. Many have internalised these messages: Despite 80% of stay-at-home mothers believing hired help cannot fulfill the tasks they perform and 60% finding the impact on their child’s development the most fulfilling part of their role, 60% feel the work they do at home is less valuable than professional work.
Overall these findings confirm that as Indian women enter the workforce, their responsibilities at home don’t change because their partners are not willing, able or knowledgeable of how to equally share the domestic load. And yet, bizarrely, women feel judged when they devote themselves solely to managing their households.
Regardless of whether we are parents, professionally engaged outside the home or not, we’re all part of the larger voice that shapes societal opinions towards these roles. All of us have a part to play in lifting the stigma from equal partnership and its permutations: partners working in and outside the home, or one working professionally while the other – man or woman – manages the home. We can control the discourse if we choose. We can ease social pressure if we will.