Now Is a Great Time to Check Your Gender Biases at Home
How to make smarter, fairer choices about who does what
Around the world, dual-career families (which make up the majority of U.S. households today) are making hard choices about how to allocate their limited attention to work, childcare, housework, and other responsibilities. For those parents who have the privilege of remote or flexible work, getting to choose how to divide household labor may also allow biases to undermine smart, fair decision-making. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
This time gives us an opportunity to reframe the way we view gender and labor, and to make smarter choices about our routines. Drawing on our work as professors of management at, respectively, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University, we’re convinced that an effective and happy home demands that parents unpack the gender biases that may be setting them back.
Here’s how to begin:
Redefine what matters
In our society, we tend to value highly compensated corporate leadership roles. These roles tend to be disproportionately held by men. Our rearranged world order, however, is highlighting the fact that these are not the only jobs that matter. We’re facing the reality that delivery, grocery store, pharmacy, janitorial, and other frequently overlooked employees are, in the parlance of our times, “essential workers.”
Yet, within our own homes, we often protect the work hours of the parent with the higher earning, higher status role. This frequently means the other partner’s career is sidelined and they are expected to bear the main responsibility for childcare and housework.
The pandemic has provided an opportunity to reframe how we value the careers in dual-career partnerships. For example, women constitute a majority of teachers, who are notoriously undercompensated and underrecognized. Teachers are being asked to quickly and competently transition to a fully online curriculum in order to support our nation’s children. Honoring and protecting their work time, even when it may be at the sake of the partner’s work time, requires rethinking what work matters most.