It’s most likely not a surprise to hear that women spend more time performing unpaid work such as child care and housework than men. But the actual stats may shock you.
According to a survey by Catalyst, pre-COVID women were spending “4 hours and 22 minutes per day in unpaid labor, compared to only 2 hours and 15 minutes for men”. With COVID in the mix, the same survey reported that “women are now spending 15 hours more in unpaid labor each week than men”.
As I’m writing this, I’m in Starbucks researching discrimination in the workplace and I’m surrounded by men shouting over each other as they take their very important business calls. Just like those men, I came here to work. The difference? I’m six months pregnant, wearing my silly maternity overalls, and in between feeling kicks from my baby, I’m juggling more than just work.
I came here for some uninterrupted work time but found myself balancing work and the demands of being a wife and mom. I’m answering messages from employees in my brick and mortar, I’ve arranged dentist and dermatologist appointments, scheduled a handy man to come fix things around my home, planned what I’m bringing to the next holiday party (and secured a nanny), volunteered at my son’s school and paid bills. If I’m being honest, it bothers me that these men likely don’t have these same responsibilities. And yet, somehow they are seen as the breadwinners, the strong ones…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my role as a mom, as an employee, as a small business owner, and as a wife. It’s important that we take notice of the demands of women in the workplace. Our work doesn’t end with our job, it continues into the home and it’s never ending.
As leaders and business owners, it’s our job to accommodate women and moms in the workplace.
When it comes to women in the workplace, their kindness is often mistaken as a weakness. Women are perceived as incompetent and inferior to male counterparts. In reality, women tend to have a lower tolerance for incompetence. While men tend to see something as “no big deal”, women are more willing to speak up for the little things. Instead of being seen as nitpicky, this is actually a great quality to possess. It helps reduce risk by solving problems before they become bigger.
Give women the freedom to speak up. Recognize that women tend to bring a collaborative spirit that is oftentimes more inclusive than male counterparts. If a woman is asking for others to share ideas, it’s not because they aren’t competent enough to come up with the solution on their own, it’s because they want a better result that comes from listening to other viewpoints.
When a new mom returns from maternity leave, keep the big picture in mind. While someone taking leave impacts your business, it’s a short term pain for a long term gain. A new mom often returns with an attitude of gratitude. They have a newfound perspective and appreciation for life. Parents have learned how to confront issues in a healthy manner and have learned to be patient with their children, both important skill sets for the workplace.
Encourage new moms to come back healthy and look for new ways to accommodate them. It’s best if they can take the time they need to come back stronger. Some women enjoy returning back to work to regain a sense of normalcy, to have adult conversations, and to get a break themselves.
Some women may need to come back part-time or work from home. Accommodate their needs as best as possible. Studies show that working moms can be more productive and accomplish more in less time. Having added demands of being a mom has taught me to be more efficient with my work. I’ve become better equipped to juggle multiple projects at once. Have you ever tried taking a Zoom call while potty training a 2 year old?!
With so much on our plate, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or like we are failing in every area of our lives. I’ve had to learn to stop beating myself up when I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to. Instead of looking at what didn’t get done, I give myself credit for all that I did accomplish. Help make a mom’s life a little easier by giving her grace. There are times when it’s okay to go home early, get some needed rest to come back better the next day.