There’s no denying that women around the world have made great strides toward equality in the past century. One hundred years ago, women in the United States still didn’t have the right to vote, and very few were allowed to pursue higher education or a meaningful career outside of their household duties.
Fast forward to today, and more than 70 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 54 are active members of the national workforce. On top of this, 2015 marked the first year when women were, on average, more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than men, and this trend is on the rise.
But despite all this newfound opportunity, the prevailing societal attitudes about what women are historically supposed to value still have a long way to go. That’s why we’ve partnered with SK-II to learn more about all of the ways women are still pressured to stick to outdated gender norms.
“Women have won unprecedented rights thanks to the feminist movement, but as a society, we still expect women to prioritize family over career, or even over their own needs,” says Silvia Dutchevici, president and founder of the Critical Therapy Center in New York City. Dutchevici says many women feel pressure to “have it all,” meaning both a thriving career and the perfect family, but that can be very difficult to achieve.
“Most women try to balance work and family,” Dutchevici says, “but that balance is seldom equal.” In fact, she says working mothers ― even those with partners ― often find themselves essentially working two full-time jobs: keeping their career together while doing the brunt of housework, cooking and child-rearing.
This happens for a variety of reasons, but societal expectations about the roles of women and men at home are still very much to blame, says Tamara Lashchyk, a Wall Street executive, business coach and author of the book “Lose the Gum: A Survival Guide to Women on Wall Street.”
“No matter how successful she is, the burden of running a household still falls on the woman’s shoulders,” Lashchyk says. “Men get more of a pass when it comes to these duties, especially those that involve children.”
Lashchyk says much of this pressure on women to conform to a more domestic lifestyle comes from friends and family.
“In many people’s minds, a woman’s career success pales in comparison to having a family,” she says. “Especially if the woman is single, no matter how great her professional achievements, almost every single one of her conversations with her family will include questions about her romantic life or lack thereof. I could literally tell my family I’d cured cancer and the conversation would still end with, ‘But are you dating anyone?’”
While covert societal expectations might contribute to some of this inequality, workplace policies on maternity and paternity leave can hold a lot of the blame.
“Unfortunately, many workplace policies regarding taking time off to care for family do not the changing times,” Dutchevici says. “Both men and women suffer in their careers when they prioritize family, but women carry far harsher punishments. Their choice to take time off and start a family can result in lower pay, and fewer promotions in the future. The right to family leave is not a woman’s issue, it is a society’s issue, a family’s issue.”
Lashchyk agrees with this sentiment. “There should be more flexibility and benefits [in the workplace], like longer periods of time for paternity leave….If paternity leave was extended, men could share a greater responsibility in child care, and they could also spend more time bonding with their infant children, which is beneficial for the entire family.
Both men and women suffer in their careers when they prioritize family, but women carry far harsher punishments.
Another less visible way the modern workplace forces women to choose family over career has to do with the fact that women are pushing back pregnancy, says Jeni Mayorskaya, a fertility expert and CEO of Stork Club, an online community for women dedicated to fertility issues.
“Compared to our parents, our generation is having children a decade later,” Mayorskaya says. “Unfortunately, when we hit our mid-30s and we’re finally ready for that managing position or that title of a partner at a firm we fought so hard for, we have to think about putting our career on pause and becoming a mom.”
So what can women do to combat these societal pressures? Finding workplaces that offer flexible schedules, work-at-home opportunities and ample maternity and paternity leave is a good first step, but Dr. Neeta Bhushan, an emotional intelligence advocate and author, says women should also to learn to put themselves first.
“The first step is being mindful of your emotional health in your relationships with others and the relationship you have with yourself,“ Bhushan says. “When you put yourself first, you are able to make a bigger impact on your community. This is different than being selfish ― think beyond you. You want to make sure that you are being taken care of so that you can take care of others.”
SK-II brings the power of Pitera, a fermented yeast ingredient which contains amino acids, minerals and vitamins to keep skin looking refreshed, rejuvenated, soft and smooth, to all of its skincare saviours. In the 1970s, SK-II scientists saw how supple and youthful the hands of aged sake brewers were, inspiring them to use the ingredient in their products. And the rest is history. And gorgeous skin. #inpartnershipwithskii. SK-II hopes to showcase the unspoken timelines and expiry dates society places on women and spark a conversation around age-related pressure that women all over Asia, and indeed the world, experience. Watch the film and get involved.