This coming Monday, most of us will have the work day off in recognition of the labor rights our forebears fought to achieve. Yet there are many people who are not afforded the privilege to take this day (and really any holiday) off. We have come a long way from the poorly ventilated factories, crowded work spaces, 6 day work weeks, and up to 16 hour work days that once marked American labor. While we have progressed from the grim working conditions of the past, we still have a long way to go to ensure rights and opportunities are equally available to all. Now more than ever there are households wherein both parents are working outside the house yet domestic labor is still disproportionately falling on the shoulders of females. Not only do we have a lot of work to do in equalizing opportunity in the workplace, but we also have a long way to go in sharing labor outside of the workplace.

Women do it all! From cleaning the house, to raising children and often caring for parents or grandparents, women are nearly constantly in a state of labor whether or not they are gainfully employed. Collectively, that labor (unpaid care and domestic work) has been valued between 10-39% of GDP! That is some serious work and it is all of our responsibility to get it done – yet the number of women who left the workforce during the pandemic (4x that of men) make it fairly evident that these responsibilities are not being equally shared.

Furthermore, it is likely not a surprise that while women’s pay has been increasing over the years, women are still making $0.78 for every dollar a man earns. If we continue efforts to close the gap at the current rate, pay will not reach parity until 2058. Moreover, women often earn less than their male counterparts who have completed comparatively less education; and, in fact, the pay gap increases as women’s educational levels increase. For example, a woman with a graduate degree earns only $0.69 to the man’s dollar. We men need to demand better for our female colleagues, our partners, our daughters.

Women of color are even more disproportionately affected as they are far more likely to be the primary caregivers for extended family – from their parents, grandparents, or other family members. People of color are also historically more likely to lack access to good healthcare which only adds to the burden of those caring for their families.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? The simple answer is to raise awareness with respect to the experiences of women in both our personal and professional lives. For many of us men, over many generations, putting all domestic needs on the shoulders of women was acceptable as a societal norm. Speaking for myself, as a man who benefitted from having someone else take care of all things domestic, I was doing just fine! But now that I am aware of the way things are, I know it is not OK and I seek to make improvements. Allies have the ability to empathize and to act responsibly to take actions to support those who come from historically marginalized groups and this is no exception.

So what can you do?

  • Be curious about the day-to-day responsibilities in your household. Ask your partner how you can better share responsibilities.
  • Be curious about other women in your life – sisters, mothers – and see how you might alleviate some of their duties.
    Challenge your assumptions around “gendered” responsibilities around the office – is it usually the females who are asked to take notes? Females who do the housekeeping? event planning? Take a turn at doing these things yourself and asking other males to get involved, too.

This Labor Day, I am reflecting on and underscoring the fact that women are in a seemingly constant state of labor. This Labor Day, I am committing to better share that labor and, as a leader, to reallocate labor in a more equitable way.

Today – and everyday – I urge you to think about the women in your life, both personal and professional, and the disproportionate share of labor they do outside the workplace. I encourage you to acknowledge the women in your life and all they do. Ask how you can help – and then do it.

Women can also join us at the #2022BetterManConference and are encouraged to do so.

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Written by Ray Arata

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