The Entire Family Needs to Step Up At Home to Keep Women in the Workforce

It’s been over a year now since a large number of working parents have been dealing with online school at home, the lack of consistent domestic support, and a new way of working, working from home. To say the pandemic has been hard for parents is an understatement, particularly for caregivers, most of whom are women. Furthermore, many women have had to work a double shift to ensure that their work and personal life do not suffer due to the burden of unpaid work. One solution to ease the burden on women is for the entire family to contribute towards unpaid work, dads in particular. The idea is very simple when men take on more unpaid labor, women can do more paid work.

The pre-pandemic division of labor set the precedent

A recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that in homes where dads did a greater share of housework and childcare, moms were more likely to keep their jobs. This was discovered in the early days of the pandemic and a year later, this study has shown that the role of fathers in unpaid can really help women thrive in the workforce. 

‘Using data collected on 989 parents in different-sex relationships in late April 2020, we found that among mothers doing nearly all (80–100%) of the care of young children prior to the pandemic, one in two (50%) voluntarily left their job or reduced hours in paid work. Increases in fathers’ shares of childcare drastically reduced the likelihood that mothers would experience negative employment outcomes. When childcare was shared equally prior to the pandemic (i.e., fathers did 40–60% of childcare), the probability that mothers voluntarily left jobs or reduced work hours decreased to 15% — a similar probability as fathers (11%). The average drop in work hours for working mothers of young children during the early pandemic was just over three hours per week. For every 20% increase in fathers’ shares of childcare, mothers’ time in paid labor increased by three hours per week.’ * Harvard Business Review

Gender-agnostic parental benefits is a key factor in sharing unpaid labor

However, the solution has to go beyond fathers doing more at home because this will never work if the work schedules of partners are conflicted and if men aren’t given parental benefits. To ensure that fathers contribute more in the home, organizations need to give working dads more freedom in terms of flexibility and leaves on a regular basis. Also, the term “primary caregiver” and “primary earner” needs to be addressed because, it means that only one person will be doing the earning and caregiving, respectively. This results in men and women going back to age-old gender roles, when it comes down to taking a decision about a career break, for example. Moreover, we need to start setting better examples of the division of unpaid labor in our own families to ensure that our children see that sharing the load can be done and it has little to do with one’s gender.

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