How can women be equal at work when inequality at home still thrives (especially at Christmas)?

How can women be equal at work when inequality at home still thrives (especially at Christmas)?

Christmas stress
Most large organisations in Australia have set targets to minimise gender inequality. From pay transparency to flexible work, paid-parental leave top-ups to mentoring and unconscious bias programs.

But while these efforts are all valuable (and long overdue), an ominous question mark hangs overhead: How can women be equal at work when inequality at home still thrives?

According to recent data from Household Income and Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA), the average woman completes seven hours more housework a week than the average man. Even in households where the woman works full-time and the man is unemployed, women still pick up almost half the slack on the domestic front.

Add to this carers obligations, child-rearing and all the nitty gritty in between, it’s no surprise that the Victorian Government costed women’s unpaid work at a cool $205 billion this year.

The sentiment that women should be caregivers and men breadwinners isn’t one that’s being dismantled anytime soon. Sure, we want women to get ahead at work, but not at the expense of the traditional, family-unit.

A new, US study certainly supports this. Examining nation data from 1977 to 2016 the study showed that despite women’s advances in education and the workplace, attitudes about equality in the home have stalled.

Examining attitudes of 27,000 people over four decades, the study posited questions like: Are men better suited emotionally for politics than women?; Do children suffer when their mothers work?; Can a working mother establish the same sort of relationship with her children as a mother who does not work?; and is it better when a man is the breadwinner and the woman stays at home?

Sixty five percent of Americans were shown to support gender equality at work, but simultaneously felt (even across generations) that women should be taking on a more dominant role at home.

“The primary pillar of gender inequality in today’s society is in the family,” William Scarborough, a sociology doctoral candidate at University of Illinois at Chicago and an author of the paper told CNBC.

“People’s attitudes toward gender in the family have remained more traditional, with the persistent feeling that women are better suited for childcare than men and should take on more household labor.”

The end result? Women take on more paid work while continuing to shoulder a wildly disproportionate load of domestic duties. And with Christmas around the corner, this load is likely to increase exponentially with gift buying, wrapping, decorating, school concerts, parties, cooking and cleaning aplenty. Yes, this work can be enjoyable for some but it can be equally stressful.

On average women dedicate a whopping 83 hours to festive season preparation while male partners skive off with only 58 hours. One in three women dedicate an entire week to Christmas duties while one in 14 men concede they’re contributing “an hour at most”.

We need an urgent shift at home to see real progress for women. Guys, how about you start by wrapping those bloody presents?

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