Despite our best efforts, there are moments in life where business goes on pause, because other priorities are calling in a voice that can’t be ignored.
It might be a rope-jump tournament, or a whole school assembly in which a young person has a speaking role. Or a five-a-side match where there’s just a chance of the ball making contact with our child’s foot. And sometimes it really does seem as if the house will fall down if we don’t bear presence to an essential piece of maintenance.
Just secretly, we might enjoy going to the Easter parade. We might treasure the paper bunny ears our four year old has made. And we’re right to. Because this is what we’re working for.
But we worry. We worry that our professional credibility appears compromised. We worry that our little people suffer our absence too often. We worry that our own health and wellbeing is copping a hit – from the hectic pace, from trying to fit everything in, and not least from all the worry.
The juggling and the worrying is very real.
Those of us who work and parent, whatever our gender, are used to the tradeoffs we make in order to get things done and still be present for our loved ones. And it seems that women are still likely to be more used to it than men.
You only have to look at the research on housework and how it fits with all this shuffling and compromising, to see that there’s progress to be made. Science Daily states that ‘Women of all ages tend to do more household chores than their male partners, no matter how much they work or earn in a job outside the home. New findings demonstrate the persistent gendered nature of how housework is divided.’
Bear with us, you blokes! We’re in the business of equaling things up and engaging in the debate here. You’ll be hearing everybody’s version of reality – and yours is a key role.
If women are the gender statistically shown to carry the biggest burden, the question then becomes what are we all doing to change that?
THE SECOND SHIFT
This ‘tradeoff’ isn’t a modern day complexity. In 1989, Arlie Hochschild wrote the ‘second shift’, in her seminal book, ‘Working Parents and the Revolution at Home’. The ‘second shift’ is a term borrowed from industrial life. ‘You’re on duty at work. You come home, and you’re on duty. Then you go back to work and you’re on duty.’
Our gender behaviours are not the result of some deliberate or cunning plot. They have resulted from centuries of unspoken assumptions about what relative roles that men and women should occupy in society, and what we are each supposed to be like.
In contemporary times, when we all understand in theory that whether we are naturally ambitious and creative, or naturally domestic and nurturing is not something necessarily decided by gender, we can all finally move on - right?
If only it were so easy.
LEVELLING THE PLAYING FIELD
The data says that some of the compromises we make stems from the lack of flexible options available to women, once they are back in the workforce after having children. It also indicates that although men and women might both say they’re willing to make career sacrifices to support their spouse or raise a family, women are still much more likely to do so.
A 2016 report conducted by Bain & Company, ‘Level the playing field: A call for action on gender parity in Australia', highlights that while ’76 percent of male respondents said they have spouses who would make sacrifices for them, only 48 percent of women felt similarly.’
So, although the assumptions of the past have changed and we agree collectively that managing tradeoffs and life-work balance should be shared equally, the playing field remains lopsided. Overall, only minor changes have occurred within our workplaces and the family units.
In 2013, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, and writer Nell Scovell wrote, ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’. The term ‘lean in’ quickly gained momentum and fired discussion. Sandberg believed that women should be the prime instigators of making changes - projecting confidence, taking a seat at the board table, and physically leaning forwards to make themselves heard.
There has been much contention over these ideas, and Sandberg herself has made some adjustments to her original thinking – one of these being to recognise that men too should be ‘leaning in’.
‘Two years ago, I wrote a book that encouraged women to lean in. Maybe you've heard the phrase. Maybe you had no idea what it meant. Or maybe you steered clear of the whole concept because you didn't think it applied to men. Actually, it does. You — a man — can lean in, too. You can lean in to your family. You can lean in to supporting women in the workplace. And here's the best part: You will benefit when you do.’ - Sheryl Sandberg, Esquire Magazine, 12 March 2015
Here at #HR we believe, know and sense in our bones that Sandberg is onto something, as are many other contemporary thought leaders. Stick with us over the coming months as we bring you their ideas – and yours too. How do regular people in small business ‘lean in’ and cope with the demands upon them – in business, family, and all those unspoken assumptions.
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