Q: What’s the Torah’s view on women in the workplace nowadays when earning a living is so difficult with one income?
A: What does the Torah say about women in the workplace?
In Mishlei we have a model: אשת חיל – the woman of valor. And it describes her as being a woman who earns money. She takes wool and she spins it and she makes garments and she sells it to merchants, and the husband sits all day long among the Sages in the gate.
So here’s the case of a kollel woman. Women who wish to work and support their husband; that’s a proof. It’s a proof.
There’s another question however. Should a woman be in a place mixed with men? That’s a different story.
That’s a very delicate question. If a woman is capable of working – she doesn’t have to work. It’s not necessary. There’s plenty of work raising a family. Ooh whah! The Gemara says if you have tzaar gidul banim, you have the stress of raising a family, you don’t see even the doorway of Gehenom. When your time comes, you’ll leave this world, you won’t have to visit Gehenom at all. You had Gehenom in this world already. You raise a family, you’re going to sit on a golden throne in the next world. You’re a queen. You’re a queen if you raise a big family. Plenty of work at home. A homemaker is a tremendous job. It needs wisdom. It needs ability. You have to be patient. You need to be a diplomat to be a homemaker.
But in case a woman wants to work to support her husband while he’s learning, that’s also an ideal. It’s a voluntary ideal; nobody can force you to do it. But if you choose to do it, go ahead. Why not? But this I would say, that we must exercise caution.
I know from much experience. People call me up every day! My phone, my two phones, are ringing every day with questions. And I know what happens. It’s very unhealthy for the mixing of the two genders. As much as possible, separate. Like here, you see you’re sitting separately; wonderful. It’s an am kadosh, a holy nation. And in the workplace, as much as possible don’t mix. As much as possible.
That’s just my private advice but it’s built on solid experience. Don’t mix. Don’t mix!
Even at funerals; in the olden ancient times, it described a funeral of a Beis Dovid, of a royal person that passed away, so the men separately and the women separately. Even though a funeral is a sad occasion and nobody thinks of any foolish things, no. Even at a funeral, separately and separately. It’s a very great holiness for the Jewish nation.
And therefore, if possible, if you can do that, it’s better to be in a workplace where you’re not forced to mingle with other people.