Man vans and dinnertime plans: family work and the wage gap

By Eliana Huffman

“I call it house work

‘Cause it’s life work

But I’m gonna throw shade

If I don’t get paid for this house work”

Jax Jones may be onto something here. In 2000, researchers Barbara Arrighi and David Maume found that women who do more “housework” than their husbands (after their professional days end) make proportionally less money than men who do more “housework” than their wives. Crazy, right?

The researchers discovered this by creating a survey (completed by 385 men) that considered the following three factors the most important in determining how spouses split up family work: available time, gender-role attitudes, and power dynamics. But before we continue, it’s important to note that all of these factors influence each other, and can’t be weighed without this context.

The major takeaways? When men feel that they’re subordinated or feminized in their professional jobs, they retaliate at home and don’t contribute as much to what they consider “feminine” household tasks: think cooking, cleaning, etc. Weirdly enough, women picking up more hours at work also didn’t increase the amount of family work that their respective husbands contributed—and in the reverse situation, when men picked up hours at their jobs, their wives yet again were the spouses that took on more family work.

Basically, in every scenario they studied, men either contributed the same amount of “housework” that they did before, or even less, regardless of the woman’s professional commitments. Still with me here?

Here’s the big kicker; with this information, the researchers determined that men not contributing equally to shared household tasks is a huge factor in the wage gap, and that women are held back in their careers because of it.

Why? When women are overwhelmed at home with family tasks, they lack the energy and confidence that males (who have female partners picking up the slack) have to seek promotions, ask for raises, and generally advance themselves in their careers. Further, women who report that they expected their husbands to contribute moreand don’t have these expectations metalso rank their marriages as less satisfying and more distressing than women who expect less. As a result, tensions like these led to many dissatisfied women simply quitting work, which decreases marital tension but decrease their experience and tenure—and all of the professional and financial advancements that come with them. 

So what is a woman to do when she’s feeling stressed both at home and at work, with less support from her partner than she deserves in an equal and healthy partnership?

article-2695134-1fb4024500000578-653_634x766I wish I could tell you there’s a simple solution, but there’s not. Communicating to your partner that you’re feeling overwhelmed and believe you should work on dividing family tasks equally is a start. And if you’re not already in a committed relationship, don’t commit to a person who hasn’t demonstrated an ability to share housework; Sheryl Sandberg says that picking your partner is one of the most important decisions a woman makes.

But this is a larger social issue, where it’s hard for men to contribute to family work even when they want to, because we lack structures like guaranteed paternity leave. Policies like this would normalize men contributing more equally at home (and they have worked very well in countries like Sweden). Along the same vein, we act as if men who drive minivans or change diapers are “heroes” for “overcoming stereotypes”which would be totally cool if we praised women for these same behaviors, but we don’t. We also unfortunately judge women who try to compensate by taking off long periods of work to care for children, while accusing others of being cold or unmotherly for returning to work “too soon” after a child is born. It’s just truly hard for women to win here.

Fortunately, the situation isn’t hopeless. Businesses have the power to adopt new policies that give parents more flexibility and work-life balance. The government has the power to encourage these businesses to do so. And ultimately, the people have the power to speak the heck up…and do their part.

It all starts with one man picking up a toilet bowl brush.

She’s Still Got It

By Erika Harrington

older-woman-working-in-office-669x469-2

As a soon-to-be college graduate, getting ready to enter the workforce, I’ve got a bone to pick with baby boomers today that refuse to leave the workforce. You’ve had your fun, and now it’s my turn to know the joy of a steady paycheck, saved capital, and credit. And apparently you all are working longer because every generation gets healthier and healthier and live longer lives. Which is cool and all, but come on–can’t you enjoy your health in retirement?

Okay, okay. I know you don’t deserve all the blame. The economy and personal debt crises are making it difficult for you to leave the workforce even if you wanted to. We can all agree, regardless of age, that that is lame.

Now that I’m done with my typical “millennial whining,” I will say that I’m loving the new trend of unprecedentedly older women remaining in the workforce much longer than their predecessors. It’s a true sign of progress to see women, who in past generations would have been weeded out of their jobs because of domestic pressures, experiencing fulfillment at later stages of their career. This also adds an exciting new question to the conversation surrounding professional females: what is it like to be an older woman in the workforce?

Researchers Carol Atkinson, Jackie Ford, and Nancy Harding recognized the need to investigate this new demographic of professionals. They interviewed 51 year old HR Director, Flora, to ask about the rewards and obstacles of working in this stage of life. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of her experiences.

For one, there’s mentoring. Flora explained that entering this stage comes with a great deal of uncertainty. She can’t look to older women in her life like her mother or friends, because she doesn’t know many women who worked this late into their life at all. That’s tough. Being a female in the workforce is hard enough at the start, but if women don’t feel like they have any mentors to look to for help in continuing their career throughout later parts of their life, they might not be motivated to keep at it. And a cycle continues–a cycle that limits the shelf life of our careers.

Then comes a crossover between ageism and sexism. The researchers also discussed the new environment that’ll be undoubtedly formed in the professional world as the number of older women working increased. This environment includes the overlap between sexism and ageism that older women would inevitably have to face. Flora, like many women, also took a break to tend to her family. Coming back with gaps in her career is an obstacle unique to older women.

The cringe-worthy questions have switched from “Do you plan on having kids? How are you going to balance that with this job?” to “Are you sure you didn’t fall behind during the time you took off for your kids?”

Tsourcehe beautiful thing is that women in their 50s and 60s are paving a new way that female professionals in the past have not. They’re dodging the loaded speech and breaking stereotypes so that maybe, just maybe, the next wave of ladies won’t have to.

So as a millennial about to enter the workforce, who is lucky to have so many women with 20+ years of experience in their fields, I would like to not only apologize from my sassiness earlier, but also thank you for being an example to look up to when I plan out my long term professional goals. Not only do you show me that I don’t have to cut my career short for any reason, but you show me what bravery looks like in a world of uncertainty.

Never quit makin’ that money.

 

Fake People, Real Love.

By Erika Harrington

Teamwork makes the dreamwork and two is always better than one, right? Well yeah, kinda. And maybe not if you’re the type of person that gives all the credit for a job well done to your partner. The success of the group should mean success for all parties—and should is the key word here.

We’ve seen the research that suggests that women have trouble with self promotion, and tend to shy away from boasting about themselves. The problem reaches a different level when women start to give all the credit to their partner after a successful collaboration.

You know the moment when your boss asks, “How much do you think you contributed to the success of this project?” Please tell me you didn’t answer “oh it was all them.” Because we both know that’s not true.

Researchers Michelle Haynes and Madison Heilman found that women give their credit away more often than you might think. They set up an experiment in which participants worked on a project and were told that they and a partner working from a separate locationa partner they would never have any contact withwould have to complete individual tasks remotely. Their separate contributions would be compiled for the final product. The catch: the partner is completely made up.

Did you pick up on that? A partner, that only exist in the land of make believe, is supposedly helping these participants with their assignments when the reality is that no one is contributing but them.

This is where it gets really wild. When some participants were told that they had done good work, the researchers asked who they thought deserved the credit. And they said their partner. Their partner. Their completely not real, totally made-up partner who totally did not deserve credit for their totally fake help on the project.

drake-rips-jay-z-raptors-netsFake people, man.

I was speechless when I learned this. I couldn’t believe it. How could these women attribute all their greatness to some pretend person?

Okay, now let’s take a step back. Not all of the participants gave away their credit to Casper the Friendly Ghost™ and the Easter Bunny™. The male participants did a good job of talking about their contributions.

And this is a trend we know holds true for many, real professional women. We have trouble taking credit for our own success and we struggle to promote the skills that our employers have benefited from. It’s also worth mentioning that when the participants of this study were told that their remote partner was female, they tended to take more credit for their work. They simply gave into misconceptions about male superiority.

The solution here is so simple; own it like the queens of RuPaul’s drag race. giphy

The reason why you are constantly creating quality work and seeing projects you’re a part of achieve success isn’t because of everyone around you. And it’s definitely not because you’re fortunate enough to have male coworkers. It’s because of you! And it’s high time that you start making sure people know that.

Undoing Gender at Work

By Joey Konrad

Picture this:

You are a trained physician on a flight to Hawaii. A flight attendant announces over the intercom that a passenger has become unresponsive and a doctor is needed immediately. You rush out of your seat and run to notify the attendant that you can help. However, the attendant simply brushes you off and refuses to believe you are, in fact, a doctor.

The enormous amount of money and time spent at medical school and residency to finally reach the status of a practicing physician, and all of it washed away by a simple refusal to trust your words.

This situation is not a nightmare or work of fiction, but a personal account of events that actually unfolded.

If that’s not wild enough, this is not an isolated event. In 2009, Elisabeth Kelan conducted interviews with working men and women at technology firms. She found that women reported frequently struggling to be accepted by customers as technology workers. Eerily similar to the earlier story, one women had a customer refuse to believe she was an executive and lead programmer. They had the nerve to refer to her as a secretary during meetings and told her to take notes.

The interviews suggest that our thoughts about gender inform our thoughts about who is suited for different work.

Let’s look at some statistics that back up that statement.

The prevailing idea in American culture is that individuals are free to pursue whatever passion or line of work they choose. However, the workforce remains significantly gender segregated.

The U.S. Department of Labor occupational statistics reveal that women dominate caretaker fields; 96 percent of secretaries, 95 percent of childcare workers, and 91 percent of registered nurses are women. Meanwhile, women make up only 14 percent of engineers, 9 percent of construction workers, and 6 percent of programmers.200

And we’re supposed to believe this is just a coincidence?

What if we look at the earlier examples to account for cultural bias and assumptions?

The customer can refuse to believe the woman was an executive programmer if information technology is considered  “masculine” work. Furthermore, the customer assuming the woman was a secretary shows cultural assumptions that tell us what work is feminine.

Kelan noted that all the women interviewed described struggles with not being perceived as competent and legitimate in their workplace. Since programming is assumed to be masculine work, women’s ideas and skills are often ignored, so women face pressure and anxiety to legitimize themselves in the eyes of customers and co-workers.

So let’s talk about where we go from here.

Well first, we want to give a shout out to all women working in male-dominated fields. Any frustrations you feel about being taken seriously in your workplace are absolutely important. Your work blurs the lines between what is “feminine” and “masculine” work, and shows that people should be able to follow passions that inspire them.

But in case our encouragement isn’t enough – and it most likely won’t be – Elisabeth Kelan found that some women used business cards as a strategy for establishing legitimacy. Presenting cards early at meetings and interviews allows professional women to define themselves instead of customer’s assumptions.

You go girl!

Who you know or how you do?

By Rachel Garretson

The Gilmore Girls revival is out! But I promise, no spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.

We’ve learned so much from this show: family, friendship, and of course…..work.

For example, watching  Rory use her network to get that meeting. Like so many of us, Rory is very independent. While we really admire her if-I-just-work-hard-I-will-make-it attitude, depending solely on hard work is a mistake many women make in the beginning featured-imageof their careers.

But you can’t just rely on hard work- sometimes we think that reaching out to others to get ahead is cheating, but it’s not. This is because there are good people out there who want to help you. What’s more, they’re probably going to need you back at some point too.

Also, it’s not just who’s in your network that matters. How you network is important, and research suggests men and women do this differently. Case in point: Yvonne Benschop studied the how of networking by interviewing 20 female and 19 male account managers about their networking practices. She found that there are four types of networkers:

The first is the aspirational networker who views networking relationships as a means to the end. They often value assertiveness, authority, and upward mobility. Their networks consist mainly of people in the higher echelons and they call upon them when they need to get something done.

The second type is the supportive networker, someone who views the relationship as the goal. They might stop by someone’s desk and catch up or take personal time to call and see how they’re doing. Even when they have something urgent to get done, they think of others and pay attention to their needs.

These types follow the traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity. They aren’t necessarily separate, and many of us blend the two, although Benchop found that women are indeed more likely to embrace the latter. However, we can see how solely supportive networking won’t get you as far, since you’re placing others above yourself.

These next two types deal with the degree of separation you put between work and personal life.

Instrumental networkers draw strict lines between work life and professional life. That’s not to say that an instrumental networker won’t have friendly relationships with their coworkers (after all, you’ll be more productive if you get along) but they will be clear that it is a business relationship. Unfortunately this may make you feel alone in your workplace.

Open networkers blur the line between work and personal networks. To them it’s all one big network. Sure, work is work, but open networkers are more….well, open about their personal lives, and consequently form more genuine and personal relationships at work.

dwp-insertOpen networking sounds great right? Best of both worlds! You’re upwardly mobile and get to have friends! But… women tend to be instrumental. So what’s up with women? Are they just your stereotypical type A, Miranda Priestly?

 No!

Why? We often assume a level of professionalism about men that we don’t extend to women. Consequently to emphasize their professionalism, women sometimes place strict boundaries between work and play

It seems to us that the best is a blend between aspirational and supportive and a tendency towards open. We women face enough in the workplace without having friends by our side. We want you to have the Lorelai-Sookie relationship you all deserve.

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