Women & their Juggling Act

There is lots of talk about the pay gap and women working full-time vs part-time, etc. There is less talk about the fact that women’s careers are impacted by the maternal juggling act and the second shift.

55% of women with children under the age of 18 work full-time and 72% are employed full or part-time.  For these women, juggling work and child-care responsibilities with managing a home…amounts to just that…a juggling act.  50% of women who worked outside the home said being a working mom made it harder to advance in their careers.

The ‘second shift’ (coined by Arlie Hochschild) adds to the juggling act for women. It refers to the second job that women have after they leave their paid job. The second shift is the work that women do in their homes after completing a full day at work. It includes housework, childcare, grocery shopping, and the myriad of other tasks that women perform every day in addition to their work responsibilities.

We have seen this magnified during the recent pandemic with women disproportionately dropping out of the workforce or having to significantly scale back their hours due to increased school and childcare responsibilities.

Why is this “women’s work”? Is there something biologically that prevents men from grocery shopping? No. There is no household responsibility or childcare responsibility that only a woman can do. Buying groceries, cooking, dishes, laundry, childcare, etc. can be done by women and men.  

It is all based on gender role expectations. Expectations that are set by society based on culture and traditions. But expectations can change as our society changes. And as we all push for change.

So, what needs to happen for women to participate fully in the workplace?

Research has shown that having the full support of their partners does make the juggling act easier. It gives women a greater ability to fully participate in the working environment as their responsibilities at home are shared equally and their career choices are fully supported. What does this look like? It can be support at home to travel if needed for work. It can be alternating who stays home with a sick child. It can be equal household responsibilities as the norm with the understanding that both partners will step in to do more when needed to support the increased workload of the other partner.

The bottom line is that both partners work together to ensure that they each have the ability to succeed in their chosen professions. That one is not held back while the other’s career is fully supported. For women to fully participate at work, our partners have to be full partners at home.

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