This is a guest blog post written by a student in my MCOM 473 class summer 2020 at Trinity Western University. I am posting this with the permission of Lesley Millward and am thrilled to be able to share this with you.
For years there has been an unspoken rule that women are to stay home while men go to work. There is no sure way to affirm that the rule is unspoken. It is just how things are and how things seemingly always have been. This outdated way of thinking has altered organizations and homes. The way many children are being raised is to believe this ‘rule’ is the norm. As a society, a shift in gender roles in the home needs to occur. This shift will enable parents, both male and female, to work their way to the top at the same rate of success. This paper will outline the roles of women in the home, my vision for the future of these women, and a plan for effective change that allows women to be at the forefront of organizations while home becomes maintained by both mom and dad.
For consistency, this paper will refer to ‘family’ as a married mom and dad with children. I understand there are many more versions of a family; however, to make my point, I needed to focus on just one. Additionally, I have given some household tasks a gender in a generalized way and for the purpose of an example, but they do not reflect my opinion on these jobs.
The ‘typical’ home organization has the father who works and the mother who stays home. Or, both parents working, which would constitute a father working full time and mother working part-time or full time. The challenge here is working mothers hold more responsibilities and are viewed as less eligible for employment due to their conceived lack of commitment and ties to home. This challenge is partly because “Even when working, women still do most of the childcare and housework” (Belkin, 2008; Craig, 2006 as cited in Castellon, personal communication, 2020, p.27). Men rarely face this dynamic. Meyerson and Fletcher (2000) express how “even though many households today have working fathers and mothers, most organizations act as if the historical division of household labor still holds—with women primarily responsible for matters of the hearth” (para.13). This rhetoric is what continues to keep women behind men in “family inflexible occupations” (Lovejoy and Stone, 2012, abstract). The question remains as to why women are viewed as those who need to stay home, plan for their family, schedule all appointments, do the majority of the household work, arrange playdates, and even more on this exhaustive list.
We continually hear of the glass ceiling women face in the workforce. This glass ceiling is what prevents them from making their way to the top. I believe that many women have also set a glass ceiling for themselves in their own homes. We see this in the way “women typically bear a disproportionate amount of responsibility for home and family and thus have more demands on their time outside the office” (Meyerson & Fletcher, 2000, para. 10). Although we understand that “Each [family]organization is unique, and its expressions of gender inequity are too” (Meyerson & Fletcher, 2000, para. 30), the fact is that women are being negatively affected in their ability to engage in a career due to the inequities in one of their most valued organizations- their home.
In the home organization, women are the ones who are taking steps back or away from their careers. This puts them immediately behind the men who do not ever pause their roles in the workforce. If women do remain working, their ties to the home stay strong, but they come with negative assumptions that they are not ever fully invested in their jobs. Most often, when both parents are working, it is the woman who bears the most responsibility despite her financial contributions. In most cases, even when working or earning more, the woman still has higher home responsibilities. There is this assumption that ‘pink jobs’ are done by mom, and ‘blue jobs’ are done by dad. These categories and gender attributed roles create a problem. What ends up happening is the weight of the jobs become ‘pink’ and we have multitudes of women who just can’t keep up, and they shouldn’t have to. The result: they feel forced to reduce their time at work or back away from their organizations, and the impact is that we are seeing is that men keep climbing to the top.
My vision for women- moms- is that they can see the same career advances as men. My vision for men- fathers- is to share the load. My vision for families is to create an environment that sets an example of equality. In an ideal world, the roles of the home would be shared. In an ideal world, both parents would live within their values achieving their own personal mission. In an ideal world, this would all be achievable and accepted. The bottom line is someone needs to parent. Someone needs to do the housework. Someone needs to be the household secretary. All of this can only begin to happen if families are honest with each other, decide what is best for the whole family, and move forward with a plan that is not gender-specific but works for the family’s mission statement. Gundlach and Sammartino (as cited in Klettner, Clarke & Boersma, 2016) “found that a substantial personal barrier hindering women in roles [involving international engagement] was managing family/caring roles” (p.402). As such, women are continually giving up what they want for themselves in exchange for what they want for their children.
I surveyed 23 full time working moms and asked them if they felt the division of parenting and housework was shared and to what percentage. I also asked them if they thought that being a mom ever interfered with their ability to do their job compared to their partner. Every mom I interviewed felt that, in addition to working similar hours to their partner, they were responsible for, on average, 70 % of the household and parenting responsibilities. Over 93% felt that these responsibilities impeded their work role on multiple occasions throughout the year. The results also showed that less than 10% of them thought these same responsibilities altered their husband’s work role. Part of this comes from the fact that “Women more frequently make career sacrifices for their families than men” (Tracy & Rivera, 2010, p.9). It also speaks to how this cycle will continue due to the fact that “a greater proportion of housework performed by mothers during childhood is related to a persistence in gender inequality in their children’s future families” (Giménez-Nadal, Mangiavacchi, & Piccoli, 2019, abstract). To end the cycle of women missing out on opportunities and taking a back seat to be parents there needs to be change.
This change comes from how all members of the home view their role. Bertran et al., (as cited in Mancuso, & Vecci, 2019) found that “women are averse to earn more money than their husbands” (p.7). This aversion is just another factor in what keeps women losing the race, and another element to consider when looking at roles. Tracy and Rivera (2010) posit that “a number of factors affect women as they navigate work and home” (p.4). This is an exhaustive practice for women and requires change. My vision is succinct: women and men sharing the home workload while empowering each other to succeed in the workforce.
My plan for change is two-fold. How can we, as women, alter our role in society without needing to depend on a man to allow this to occur? As parents, how do we adjust this perpetuated gender bias so that we can change the foundation of what home is supposed to look like in terms of gender roles? Castellon (2020) believes that we can “make it easier for women to reach top positions by” “understanding obstacles” (personal communication, p.44). The major obstacles start in the home, and with a functional plan, these obstacles can begin to fade. To elicit these changes, we need to reduce gender inequity and raise a generation of children, both boys and girls, who know none other than gender equality. As parents, we can begin to break this cycle both in our marriages and in the example we set for our children.
As I mentioned before, it seems like women have placed a glass ceiling on their own homes. It is time to let that come crashing down. To start, we need to face this problem by understanding where it is coming from. We need to come up with solutions that “that deal with the symptoms of gender inequity rather than the sources of inequity itself.” (Meyerson & Fletcher, 2000, para. 23) We know that many women take the backseat on their careers to raise their families. Baker (as cited in Lovejoy and Stone, 2012) found that “women professionals are much more likely than their male counterparts to interrupt their careers” (para. 1) as well as “women were roughly three times more likely to be out of the labour force than men and overwhelmingly cited family responsibilities as the reason for this” (para.1). Women have been conditioned into these traditional roles – thus, ‘being good at it’ creates an unspoken rule that it is their responsibility. Enough of the ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ jobs; it is time to remove gender from responsibility and let the roles be shared.
After equipping ourselves and shattering our glass ceilings, we need to look at the men in the home. In a 2010 study, Tracy and Rivera cited Bond et al. saying that “two in five men still think women’s place is in the home” (p.8). Only ten years ago, this study was still connected to an archaic way of thinking. This mindset is what “causes [women] to actively choose to rearrange and sometimes cut back on their careers to accommodate family and other relationships” (Lovejoy & Stone, 2012, para. 5). It is not the woman’s responsibility to accommodate the family, but it’s the unspoken rule that it is. Evidence continues to point to women being the ones displaced in their careers. We have seen how “organizational leaders may not acknowledge or actively reflect on how the division of household labor and the complexities of care work can disproportionately challenge female employees” (Tracey and Rivera, 2010, p.9). In efforts to plan for change, couples can start the process together. I will explain the plan for change within the next section.
When interviewing dads, Tracy and Rivera (2010) found that many did not want the same success in the future for their daughters as they did for their sons. In this same study, men valued home life more than work life but did not live within their values. We see here that men do not live within their values and live alongside women who do not live within theirs. All the while, they want to see things similar in the future for their daughters as they do for their wives. The systemic structure of values is a critical piece in this process, for both men and women. This is where we can elicit change and start to raise a generation of children who view both men and women as equal in the workforce and under the roof of their homes. It begins with what we value. What example are we setting for our children if we continue with the expected gender roles in a family? By allowing this to occur in our homes, we are laying the same foundation for our children: this is how things are done and allowing the unspoken rule to be spoken. We can start by remembering that “Parents’ roles in housework during their children’s early ages is crucial in determining gender inequalities in the housework time of the following generation…” (Hersch and Stratton as cited in Giménez-Nadal, Mangiavacchi, & Piccoli, 2019, para. 3). Parents, both of them, play a role in changing the attitudes towards gender roles in the home and start with leading by example.
The first step in this plan involves the family. A suggestion for change is to develop a chore wheel where the jobs are not gender specified. This way of doing things would remove the specific chores from being assigned, primarily based on gender. It would also breakdown the weight of each of these chores so that they can be compared to ensure things are evenly dispersed. This would allow the woman to take out the garbage and allow the man cleans the bathroom, which would be a switch in their ‘typically gendered’ roles. It would also generate some accountability on both parents to not take on too much or too little. Also, it would show their children that household responsibilities are shared. Finally, it creates space for women to be in the workforce while sharing the priorities of home.
The next step involves the couple. Communication is a vital piece of this. Even before having kids, couples need to talk about their values, what they want for themselves in their careers and how they plan to facilitate this so that both of them are feeling confident in their choices together. Counsellors may play a role in this, depending on how involved they already are in their careers and home roles. A counsellors additional set of eyes and ears, that is well versed with shared responsibility, will be an asset to many couples. Both parties need to educate themselves on how there are barriers for women and how to overcome them together. They also need to communicate and create a plan for themselves and their children to overcome these barriers. Living within their values is a good start.
The last proposed step involves society. Society is living in a ‘call mom first culture.’ Child is sick at school- call mom. Child needs to make a dentist appointment- call mom. Child wants to have a playdate- call mom. Some of the fault lies in the way we fill things out. Many forms list mom as the primary or only contact when it should contain both parents. There is a gendered assumption that mom will do ‘all the things.’ It is time to breakdown these gendered assumptions by removing gender from jobs. One way to do this is to encourage both parents to do ‘all the things’, or divide them equally. Let’s let dad do bath and bedtime while mom pays the bills. Let’s let mom get the oil change in the car while dad bakes the birthday cake. Let’s allow all of this while removing judgment and shame from both parties and applaud parents for parenting. Society has gendered all of these roles while they should be just roles.
Together moms and dads need to fight for equality. Together they could write letters to the government to ask for better support for childcare or for sick leave when children are sick. And together, they need to create a space where both of them can work while sharing the load because they know that society accepts nothing less.
To conclude, we have recognized a systemic problem in how women are falling behind in the workforce, and it starts in the home. I have shared my vision for how together men and women can share the workload at home while supporting each other in careers, and I have outlined some plans of action. This is not a final answer. There are years of gender-defined roles to unpack, but it is a start. The process can only occur if both men and women are invested in change and willing to participate in the strategies to impose these changes. The results will be fruitful. We will see more and more women getting ahead, a generation of children who see gender equality, and families living within a value structure that they all support.
Giménez-Nadal, J. I., Mangiavacchi, L., & Piccoli, L. (2019). Keeping inequality at home: The genesis of gender roles in housework. Labour Economics, 58, 52–68. https://doi-org.ezproxy.student.twu.ca/10.1016/j.labeco.2019.03.006
Klettner, A., Clarke, T. & Martijn Boersma. (2016). Strategic and regulatory approaches to increasing women in leadership: Multilevel targets and mandatory quotas as levers for cultural change. Journal of Business Ethics, 133(3), 395.
Lovejoy, M., & Stone, P. (2012). Opting Back In: The Influence of Time at Home on Professional Women’s Career Redirection after Opting Out. Gender, Work & Organization, 19(6), 631–653. https://doi-org.ezproxy.student.twu.ca/10.1111/j.1468-0432.2010.00550.x
Mancuso, J., Neelim, A., & Vecci, J. (2019). Gender differences in self-promotion: Understanding the female modesty constraint. https://learn.twu.ca/ pluginfile.php/381264/mod_ resource/content/1/Self-Promotion_Final.pdf
Meyerson, D. & Fletcher, J.K. (2000). A modest manifesto for shattering the glass ceiling. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved https://hbr.org/2000/01/a-modest-manifesto-for-shattering-the-glass-ceiling
Tracy, S.J. & Rivera J.D. (2010) Endorsing equity and applauding stay-at- home moms: How male voices on work- Life reveal aversive sexism and flickers of transformation. Management Communication Quarterly, 24(1), 3-43. http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/24/1/3