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SOCIETY RUNS ON THE UNPAID LABOR OF WOMEN

Women hold 27% of U.S. Congressional offices (1), are less than 20% of the world’s landowners (2), make 77 cents to a man’s dollar (3), in addition to a laundry list of other staggering statistics of how women, especially women of color, are disadvantaged (4, 5, 7, 8).


She performs, on average, 37% more unpaid labor than her male counterpart (4). Domestic engineering, child, and elder caregiving within a patriarchal society is like running a business with minimal staff, unreasonable expectations from corporate and co-workers that highlight your worst impulses. You get paid zero dollars an hour with mandatory overtime and no paid time off or sick leave.


This could contribute to why LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co stated, in their 2021 Women in The Workplace reports, that women are 10% more burned out in 2021 than they were in 2020 and 2021 women were more burned out than 2021 men by 7%.


She’s not a demigoddess for knowing how to operate a household appliance and make dentist appointments. But, when the family leave policy falls short, and childcare costs consume her salary, she’s expected to make up for this negligence by leaving the paid workforce. Then they penalize her when she re-enters the workforce.


On a surface level, it looks like you’re just nagging about chores to a person who ‘defers’ to your ‘competence.’ But on a deeper level, you’re experiencing not being able to trust and turn to your partner for support.

- sarah spencer northey, marriage and family therapist (8)


For every 1% increase in unpaid work, women lose 0.062% in weekly earnings, while unpaid labor as no effect on male wages (4). She’s penalized through an unwritten “mommy tax” for requesting time off for those domestic/caregiving responsibilities, resulting in less career advancement opportunities and lifetime pay. As if working more hours directly correlates with dedication, capability, and ROI. Even when she’s working full-time, she still performs 22% more unpaid labor than her man, which negatively affects her already lower salary and contributes to intra- and interpersonal tension.


The thing is, when men are given a paternity leave, they take it! After the introduction of the Quebec Parental Insurance Program which provides five weeks of non-transferrable time, men who took advantage of leave increased by 250%. Not only that, but these fathers spent 23% more time on household work and mothers spent more time in the workforce (4) .


If paying women less, failing to provide adequate family leave, and overwhelming them at home is the wound, weaponizing incompetence is the salt. It happens with domestic tasks and caregiving at home, and with secretarial tasks and DEI (Diversity, Education, and Inclusion) support in the boardroom. “You’re just so much better at that than me” fills the space between requesting help and eventually just doing it ourselves.


The home/office that’s built and managed is the responsibility of all. There will always be a dish to wash, a form to fill out, a room to clean, a bill to pay, a project to manage, a gift to buy, a claim to file, a note to take...


You get it. This list isn’t exhaustive and just when you think you’ve checked everything off, it starts all over again. Even when we create honey-do lists and reminder memos, execution is only a portion of a larger task. The mental load that accompanies unpaid labor includes conception and planning and its weighty. Effective planning accounts for approximately 20% of a project (6) so if directions, teaching, or supervision is required then responsibility for the task hasn’t been assumed.


This doesn’t mean it’s coupled with malicious intent. In fact, the creator of Fair Play, Eve Rodsky felt this massive inequality within her own marriage and they grew through it (6) . She outlines a system for fair, not unnecessarily equal, division of labor so no one lives overly burdened with responsibilities that are shared with others.


REFERENCES:

  1. Blazina, C., & DeSilver, D. (2021, January 15). A record number of women are serving in the 117th Congress. Pew Research Center. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/15/a-record-number-of-women-are-serving-in-the-117th-congress/

  2. Equal pay for work of equal value. UN Women – Headquarters. (n.d.). Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/csw61/equal-pay

  3. Facts & figures. UN Women – Headquarters. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/commission-on-the-status-of-\women-2012/facts-and-figures

  4. Hess, C., Ahmed, T., & Hayes, J. (2020, January). Providing unpaid household and care work in the United ... Providing Unpaid Household and Care Work in the United States: Uncovering Inequality. Retrieved March 6, 2022, from https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/IWPR-Providing-Unpaid-Household-and-Care-Work-in-the-United-States-Uncovering-Inequality.pdf

  5. McKinsey & Co. (n.d.). Women in the workplace 2021: The full report. LeanIn Org. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from https://leanin.org/women-in-the-workplace/2021/introduction

  6. Rodsky, E. (2019). Fair play: A game-changing solution for when you too much to do (and more life to live). Random House Large Print. Mothers and families. United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://www.dol.gov/agencies/wb/data/mothers-and-families

  7. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, September 1). Earnings of full-time workers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-earnings/2020/

  8. Wong, B. (2022, January 27). 'weaponized incompetence' screws women over at work and in relationships. HuffPost. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/weaponized-incompetence-women_l_61e71983e4b0d8b665717814

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