One way that Samara Bay, speech coach and host of the podcast Permission to Speak
, addressed this issue was to have a clear discussion with her husband. When breastfeeding her baby, Bay was physically tethered to more of the childcare. Breastfeeding is an aspect of caregiving that falls to women, and it’s a time-consuming endeavor. Feeding a child frequently throughout the day (or pumping) is time away from work. But when their son weaned, Bay and her husband had a renegotiation about assumptions around all aspects of childcare.
“Starting from the baseline that there were no longer any biological imperatives freed us to talk about our actual strengths and our current logistics and loosely map out how we could share parenting in a way that felt fair,” Bay explained. “Permission to Speak is all about how we stand up for ourselves in the moments that matter—and we did it!”
“My husband's work has often had to take priority because he makes more money and our health insurance is dependent upon him booking a certain amount of acting jobs,” said Beth Newell, author of
pregnancy guide There’s No Manual
and host of We Knows Parenting
podcast. “When both of us work from home the kids are much more likely to come interrupt my work and leave him alone.”
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This scenario is common in many households, leading to less time for women to focus on their careers. And the current COVID-19 crisis is magnifying existing inequalities. As Helen Lewis recently wrote in The Atlantic, “All this looking after—this unpaid caring labor—will fall more heavily on women, because of the existing structure of the workforce.”
Newell adds, “My husband is a really active parent but sometimes men don't know what they don't know, and the emotional labor of making sure we have groceries and toilet paper can take a toll, especially because that work often feels unseen and unappreciated.”
There’s a second shift at home, and there’s often a second shift at work too, said CEO of WOMEN Unlimited
Rosina Racioppi, noting that, when women take on extra responsibilities at work without extra compensation, it fuels the wage gap.
“We often see women taking on a large role at work, without recognition or promotion. It is critical for women to understand how they add value to their organization,” she said. With this knowledge, “women can more effectively articulate their value in the workplace, demonstrate their impact and ask for the compensation they deserve.”