Women’s roles in the workplace have rapidly shifted in the past few decades. Roles that were once reserved exclusively for men are now being filled more and more frequently by women. Of course, progress is a process and there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done. While working for a more equitable pay-scale is absolutely vital, there are other issues that working women face as well. One of the most prominent is creating that ever elusive “work/life balance.”
The workplace is getting increasingly demanding as a whole. A recent survey by the EY research group suggests that weekly work hours are increasing, and time away from work is also often spent working. Although these statistics impact women and men, women are still less likely to effectively balance their personal and work lives. This is because, as the survey shows, women are less likely to sacrifice their careers for their own personal needs in the ways that men will. Men expressed being more likely than women to change jobs, give up a promotion, or relocate if it meant better being able to manage their home and personal lives. Women face a specific conundrum that men simply don’t. Because of the historical context surrounding women in the workplace, they are less likely to say “no” at work out of fear of being penalized.
1. The importance of dividing domestic labor
Meanwhile, in addition to feeling guilty about anything less than a continuous stream of “yes” at work, women are still taking on most domestic responsibilities. Although women are beginning to work as much or more than men outside of the home, they also spend around twice as much time on housework as men do. Women have expressed feeling guilty for missing children’s events or for working too many hours, but they feel like giving that up will negatively impact their career paths. Women don’t want to neglect their families, but they also don’t want to miss out on the success they’ve tirelessly strived for.
If women are going to achieve a better work/life balance, then they need the support of their partners with work done at home, such as raising children and cleaning. In addition to a demanding first job, women often find themselves thrown into a second one, the moment they get home. Spousal support is important in making sure that both partners have their career and familial goals represented.
It can be intimidating to talk with your boss about your home life, especially because women are far more likely than men to be stigmatized for what has come to be known as the “motherhood penalty” — a phenomenon in which women with children are considered to be less committed to their work once they have children. This means they’re often overlooked for promotions or pay raises. Despite this bias, Arianna Huffington has said that if women communicate what they need from their bosses, then they may see results. Asking if it’s possible to telecommute or work from home one day every week may be a negotiation worth going for. There are certain negotiations that may satisfy you and your boss: if you want to be home in time to eat with your young children, then you can offer to come into the office earlier.
3. Keep work at work
While it may occasionally be important to take a call or check your emails while you’re on vacation or spending time with your family, it’s best not to make it a habit. With modern technology our offices are always at our fingertips, but this isn’t always beneficial. Constant work engagement can create familial strain, making it feel as though breaks or personal time are not personal at all. It’s important to refrain from being digitally connected at all times. Emails, although often important, are rarely life or death situations; however, if you respond to emails constantly, people will begin to expect an immediate response. Set your boundaries and maintain them.
Women should decide what is most appealing in a job. Many envision a career that allows flexibility and a six-figure income; however, this is not always entirely feasible. Make an assessment as to what matters most: Is being able to work from home or create your own hours more important than your salary? Would you be willing to relocate if the job called for it?
To conclude, there are a number of structural issues that women must face in the workforce. Many of these contribute to a poor work/life balance due to feelings of guilt on both sides: women feel responsible for maintaining both a career and a home life in ways that men don’t. Women with children are especially stigmatized, with biases creeping in regarding her level of commitment. While it may take time for ideologies to change, women can still take steps towards maintaining a healthy balance between work and life.
At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.