One senior manager with a multinational services organization drops off her 2-year-old daughter with her in-laws every Sunday evening and picks her up on Friday, and this is a typical scenario. “Of course, I miss the chance to be with my daughter, but working mothers have to focus more on work,” she said.
But if child care isn’t a career threat, elder care is. Every woman in China knows being a good daughter or daughter-in-law unquestionably trumps satisfying personal career ambitions, no matter how successful that career may be. “In our culture, we take care of our parents,” said one executive in the financial sector. “Whenever they need me, I will be there” — whether that means relocating to be near them, as this woman planned to do, taking a less-stimulating job to free up time to spend with them, or leaving the workforce entirely.
Among the Chinese women surveyed by the CWLP, 95 percent already have elder care responsibilities. Every woman personally interviewed knows someone who put her career on hold to care for an aging relative. More than half — 58 percent — of Chinese women also provide financial support to their parents or in-laws — an average of 18 percent of their annual income, the CWLP data showed.
A similar number of Chinese men are in the same boat: 93 percent of the men surveyed already have elder care responsibilities, with 67 percent providing financial support.
The pressure of being a good daughter or daughter-in-law can be crushing: daughterly guilt affects 88 percent of the women surveyed. Adding to a high-achieving woman’s burden, China’s one-child policy means women in their 20s and early 30s have no siblings to share the load. China’s rapidly aging society will only intensify the problem.
Despite communism’s push for egalitarianism, gender bias continues to limit women’s potential. Some 36 percent of both men and women surveyed believe women are treated unfairly in the workplace. Problems of bias have been severe enough to make 48 percent of the women responding to CWLP’s survey disengage or consider quitting their jobs.