It has been over thirty years since the sociologist Arlie Hochschild wrote her landmark work, The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. In The Second Shift Hochschild interviewed 50 different couples as they struggled to adapt to the new reality of more women and mothers entering the workforce in the 1980’s. She discovered that many women worked what she termed a “second shift” of unpaid domestic work and childcare, in addition to their paid employment. This additional responsibility was not shared by and large by their male partners. A new article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Gender Equality Starts in the Home” is a reminder that many of the household labor and childcare disparities observed by Hochschild still exist.
The authors, David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson are a sociologist and psychologist, respectively. They describe some eye-opening statistics about how domestic work and childcare are divided into male-female partnerships. For example, they note that “Despite the fact that women outnumber men in the paid workforce, women still do more of the domestic work and childcare — almost twice as much as their male partners.” This disparity takes on greater weight when considering the fact that many are working from home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To address gender inequities in household work, Smith and Johnson provide a roadmap for male partners to follow. Their recommendations include sharing equally in chores and childcare, fully supporting partners’ careers, and setting an example for children to follow concerning the division of labor. Also important is their recommendation to men to “take on the emotional labor of tracking, planning, and organizing family needs, activities, and special occasions.” In so doing, Smith and Johnson observe that equal work at home is not limited to physical activity; mental effort and engagement are also required. This sentiment is echoed in news articles reporting on how families are adjusting during COVID-19, such as this article from the New York Times, entitled: “‘I Feel Like I Have Five Jobs’: Moms Navigate the Pandemic.”
When it comes to the workplace, experts from across the human capital, legal, and compensation industries recommend that businesses conduct a pay equity audit. A pay equity audit is an analytical tool that seeks to explain internal differences in pay across the workforce in terms of justifiable business factors, as well as identify the areas where pay differences may not be defensible. Using Smith and Johnson’s recommendations as a roadmap, an “audit” or self-assessment of the division of labor concerning home and childcare is an effective way to address pay equity outside of the office.