Sri Lanka is one of the two Asian countries that continue to be in the top 50 for global gender equality. Yet in practice, as this paper shows through 22 targeted interviews of professionals in the health and education sectors, women continue to be highly disadvantaged. This research has demonstrated how gender ideologies and external constraints such as state intervention limit the capacity to reconcile the competing demands of motherhood and employment. Apparently progressive state policy interventions have been unable to ameliorate gender inequality in the workplaces studied. The paper argues that it is time to think again about the drawbacks of the traditional maternity leave scheme in Sri Lanka, as it applies to women in the public sector, and to develop a work-life policy that is appropriate to the contemporary Sri Lankan context. Key points: Although Sri Lanka ranks highly in global gender equality, professional women remain disadvantaged by gender. Gender ideologies and state intervention limit capacity to reconcile competing demands of motherhood and employment. Current state policy aimed at working mothers positions them as child carers. State policy interventions have proved unable to ameliorate gender inequality in workplaces. The present maternity leave scheme needs replacement with a policy appropriate to contemporary Sri Lanka.
- Quality of work life
- Social issues