Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Women and the quest for happiness

The 20th of March is observed as the International Day of Happiness – as established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 (see Resolution 66/281). Why an International Day to celebrate happiness? Because there is a rising awareness and a shift in attitudes that progress is not so much about “economic growth” but more and more about human happiness and wellbeing. Caring about our own happiness and creating happiness around us by connecting to others has a spill over effect that boosts our own wellbeing and – we can say it – increases both our self-confidence and productivity in everyday life. This year, International Day of Happiness is led by Action for Happiness and Cheers, in partnership with a network of organisations and people supporting the Day of Happiness all around the world.

Wikigender’s new special focus is on “What makes (working) women happy?” – And exposes different point of views as to what makes women happy nowadays. We often hear how working women struggle to balance their family responsibilities with their work obligations, for example. But isn’t all this subjective? Some women may prefer to be ‘stay at home’ mums and enjoy their time raising their children, while others prefer to focus on advancing their career as the sense of achievement they get out of it is what makes them happy. But is a middle-ground possible? What about women for whom happiness is about managing to combine both – having a fulfilled family life while also achieving success at work? We’ve seen quite different perspectives of women in the press recently: some, like Anne-Marie Slaughter, think that women can't have it all, others like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer claim that combining motherhood with work is not that difficult (if you have the means for it that is!) and others, like Sheryl Sandberg in her new book insist that women should just speak up and impose themselves more - but the true debate here is about how can (working) women be happy and feel fulfilled - both at work and in their personal life. What are your views on this? 

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of long-term data on time use, mothers and fathers’ roles are converging, as dads are doing more housework and child care and mums are doing more paid work outside the home. This engagement from dads certainly helps career-oriented women. However, the results also show that dads are much more likely to say they want to work full-time, but when asked what they value most in a job, dads place more importance on a high-paying job while mums put the accent on flexible working schedules. So maybe one way for working mums to be happy would be for them to accept to be the primary breadwinners and let men take the care giving role more? This and also more flexible measures at work – such as flexible hours or telecommuting –  would make a huge difference in women’s lives, especially for the ones that need both a family life and a successful career to be happy. What about you, what do you think would make (working) women happy or happier?

Add your comments below and read more in Wikigender’s Special Focus.

Estelle Loiseau
Gender Programme Assistant and Wikigender Community Manager

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