The headline on Melinda Gates’ op-ed about women and work, published on LinkedIn last week, says it all: We’re sending our daughters into workplaces designed for dads.
It is so simple but encapsulates the one thing that really hasn’t changed over the past 50 years despite the many advances in workplaces and the fact women comprise 47% of America’s workforce.
“The American workplace was set up based on the assumption that employees had partners who would stay home to do the unpaid work of caring for family and tending to the house. Of course, that wasn’t always true back then, and it definitely isn’t today.”
— Melinda Gates (@melindagates) September 29, 2017
Yet the idea that there is someone else at home doing the caring and running the house persists which the US philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says punishes women and minorities most.
“Women, of course, continue to shoulder more of the work at home, meaning many can’t dedicate as much time and energy to their jobs, and some drop out of the workforce entirely. And minorities have less access to networks, mentorship, and resources to help them manage mounting responsibilities at work and at home.”
There are broad policy improvements and workplace practices that can change this: flexible hours, paid parental leave, affordable childcare are a few that Gates highlights that will ensure more workplaces reflect modern lives.
But she is also open to the fact individuals have the capacity to lead some change too.
“Many solutions won’t come from the top down. When it comes to the future of work, it’s clear that we all have a role to play—from better balancing caregiving responsibilities at home, to reimagining office culture from the ground up.”