Wage Gaps and Work Gaps: Implications for Women’s Lives

Recently, during a women’s leadership program I was facilitating, a participant, Amy, had an insight. She had been complaining about being exhausted and stressed all the time while trying to juggle a full-time job and family life—she loved her demanding job and her family, but she had no time for herself and was tired all the time. What was her insight? She realized that her husband expected her to do almost all the work of maintaining their home and family and did not really do much to share this load. She had never seen so clearly that she was carrying an unfair share of the burden, and she had also taken it for granted that this was her role. She now began to question these assumptions. In a previous blog, I wrote about the costs to relationships and women’s careers when both partners do not share the responsibilities for family and home care equally. I also wrote about the ways that we, as women, collude in keeping this imbalance in place as Amy was doing as well as the ways we can reverse this imbalance. Tyler Cowen of the New York Times writes that in several ways, women are in fact working more while men are working less. He explains that the Great Recession had a major impact on labor supply numbers:

  • In 2014, about 12 percent of American men ages twenty-five to fifty-four neither had jobs nor were looking for them, compared to 8 percent in 1994.
  • Fewer than 20 percent of men over the age of sixty-five are in the workforce.
  • Fewer teenagers have jobs—35 percent, compared to 55 percent several decades ago.
Cowen points out that women’s increased participation in the workforce has supported American economic growth. The unfair part is that women continue to carry a bigger share of the household chores and childrearing while also working full-time. The distribution of stress is uneven, and Cowen notes that while barriers are falling for women in the workplace, the distribution of work in the home is uneven and results in another type of inequality. No wonder Amy is so tired! But while women are working more, the gender wage gap continues, and women are still paid less than men who do the same work. Suzanne Woolley of Bloomberg News reports on new studies showing that one of the implications of the wage gap for women is a sleep gap. The author explains that people tend to lose sleep over things they feel are not in their control. In a poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, the sleep gap for women has increased by 8 percentage points over the past year. The survey found that the biggest cause of sleep loss is fear of not having saved enough for retirement—56 percent of men reported losing sleep over money compared with 70 percent of women, for good reason:
  • Lower earnings from the gender wage gap mean less savings and social security for women.
  • In 2010, women received one-third less than a man’s average benefit for social security.
  • At age sixty-five and older, women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished.
Yes, the wage gap is important, but it is not the only gap that needs attending to. We also need to pay attention to the inequality of work itself. The implications for our health and our security in our later years are serious. If you and your partner have successfully addressed an imbalance in household responsibilities, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. Tell us what has worked for you!   The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Public Domain Pictures. ]]>

Leave a Comment