Women in leadership often feel like they are walking a tightrope between the demands of work and home. Add in the reality that you will be taking on the role of caregiver.
There is one very important thing to understand. If work doesn’t fit your life, you’ll be told there’s too much or not enough, you’ll doubt yourself, and you’ll ask yourself, “Am I the only one?”
Let me say it again. You live in a world that wasn’t built by or for you.
The workplace was created by men, for men. Women have always worked since the beginning, and that doesn’t matter. The problem was that women’s work didn’t count. Domestic work, caregiving, food service and other traditional jobs that women have done and will continue to do remain largely unpaid and even excluded from the current economic model. Workplaces were created for men, especially those who have a wife, mother, sister or housekeeper at home and handle everything but their daily chores.
Times have changed, and with women now making up 48% of the workforce, the workplace is no longer the domain of men. But most of the workplace systems and structures haven’t changed. We know that women’s lives, and many men’s lives these days, look very different, but work is still done much the same. To maintain a home and feed a family. of stay-at-home moms no longer exist. In most households, both adults work full-time. That means her other full-time job, housework, is done in her second shift and her third shift, most of which is still done by women. A Canadian woman does 50% more housework than her male partner does. Globally, women work 2.5 times more than they do.
Given that the world of work is generally not made for women or for women leaders, how do we not only weather it but work against us in many ways? Can we change the very system in which we work? Because if we don’t change the system, women will continue to face the same challenges over and over again.
Well, equality starts at home. Coming home from work, he’s exhausted by his second or third shift of housework or care work, making it harder to find the energy for system change work. There are two things we can do to make a difference in equality in our homes. The first is to make the invisible visible. Women’s work is often called invisible labor. Only we know how much we do. Dinners are arranged, social events are planned, and toilet paper magically appears. But someone is doing it all. And if you’re a woman, statistics say someone is you, regardless of your role in your career. It’s exhausting for us and gives everyone else the false impression that it’s no big deal.
Visualize all your work. Create a list and share it with your family. If the very thought of making a list is too exhausting for you, good luck! Eve Lodsky already did it for you. You can find it in her book Fair Play or her Card Deck. Then start sharing the load more fairly. Divide it differently, more equitably, including children. Basically, tidy up your home and get the support and energy to change the world. Will it be painful, or will it be accompanied by whining and repulsion? Change is hard. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
You’re building a more equitable home for yourself and future generations (well done!), but you’re still working in this workplace that wasn’t made for you. How to manage it? I wish I could say that that alone would change everything, but it doesn’t. I’ve been working on this for a while, and I can say that the old ways aren’t going quietly.
The more we educate ourselves about the history of work, women in the workforce and, most importantly, the advantages of women in the workforce, especially in leadership roles, the more about the inequalities and inequalities we see. Much can be said. The greatest enemy of progress is the status quo. People will say it works fine as-is. We need to be armed with education and information to clearly show otherwise.
When someone tells me there are no women in leadership matters, you can ask why they think we’ve finally hit the 10% mark of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2023. When I say there is equality in the workplace, I can ask why women are only paid $0.82 for every dollar men earn in the U.S. Way to go.
Armed with information, choose battle. The more injustice we see, the more we see it everywhere. It may be difficult, but each of us can do something. It doesn’t have to be “big”. Pick a small corner of the world you want to make better, more equal, and more just, and get to work. You may need to challenge people. You will probably break new ground. Not easy, but incredibly rewarding. The truth is that those who feel inequality most acutely are the most motivated to do work to change it. Find that motivation in yourself and consider it your contribution to all the women who come with you and after you.
And finally, don’t go alone. Find your allies, women and men. You need someone to catch you, support you, report you, laugh, cry, open your wine. One of the most important things we create in the women’s leadership space is community. Leadership can be difficult and lonely at times. But I think that’s true leadership when you’re trying to change a system that so many people have trusted and benefited from. It becomes something of a personal mission, a sense of purpose. Sure, it’s easier to get along in the short term, but I don’t know many women who work hard to achieve leadership roles but don’t want real impact. If you want to change the world, it has to be you and me. Incomplete, but step by step.