By Mercy A. Okezue
‘My career, my family’, or ‘my family, my career’; which one takes precedence over the other? This forms the question with which many professional women in the African and indeed many other societies battle. Battle? Yes, indeed, I describe it a battle and I am positive that stories abound of gender bias experienced by women trying to raise a family alongside building their careers in academia or other professions.
From life experiences, I have known women who chose career over family needs and vice versa. Some expressed profound regrets at their choices years after those decisions, while others recorded resounding success. My thinking is that everyone reading this write up has examples of some positive and negative outcomes from choices made by women in different phases of their lives. In assessing “why women still can’t have it all”, Lachover (2014) documented different scenarios where women in top leadership positions had to sacrifice some important career privileges to be able to spend more time with their families. Those professionals, very much like their African counterparts, were faced with the choice of prioritizing either the family or career demands at some points in the prime of their lifetime. The choices made could be somewhat likened to a risk:benefit analysis.
My opinion is that the family-workplace conflict will not only affect the women ‘in the line of fire’, but the society at large will also be impacted. I recently read a book authored by a female which described different strategies for resolving work-family frictions employed by womenfolk in different parts of Africa; alternatives included the role of household helps and recommendations for government measures such as welfare packages. Additionally, a quest for family-friendly policies, such as men’s greater participation in family life as well as gender equality, all aimed at ameliorating the situation faced by the working woman within the region (Mokomane 2014). Another perspective suggests that women respond to work-life challenges in a variety of ways: choose not to have partners or children; turn in to “super humans”; take leave of absence; or choose to work part-time (Bielby & Bielby, 1988). Finding a balance between career and family demands would provide a desirable endpoint. In making choices, it is important to not compare one’s life circumstances with those of other peoples, rather endeavor to evaluate each situation and find what works best based on personality, environmental settings, and personal value systems. In any event, whichever turn a woman chooses to take at those critical decision points should be respected; her choice, her family, her career!
Mercy A. Okezue, B.Pharm, FPCPharm, MSc.(Purdue), NAFDAC certified GMP lead inspector for Pharmaceutical products is a PhD. Student in Biotechnology Innovation and Regulatory Sciences at Purdue University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Bielby, D. D., & Bielby, W. T. (1988). She works hard for the money: Household responsibilities and the allocation of work effort. American Journal of Sociology, 93, 1031-1059.
Lachover, E. (2014). “Why women still can’t have it all?” Israeli media discourse on motherhood vs. career. Hagar, 11, 105-126,175.
Mokomane, Z. (2014). Work–Family Interface in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Responses. Cham : Springer International Publishing : Imprint: Springer.