January 7, 2014 — When I was in my twenties, people laughed when I told them that my husband would split everything with me 50-50, including housework. I saw judgment in their eyes when I said that I wasn’t going to stay home after having children—and even more judgment when I said that I wasn’t going to have children at all. However far we’ve come, many still measure a woman’s worth by her ability and willingness to be a good mother/housekeeper.
Women still shoulder the majority of domestic responsibilities in most households, and that leaves many working women doing double duty. According to a recent Catalyst study, 22% of high-potential women employees reported having either been stay-at-home spouses or having scaled back their careers to support their spouse’s career—as compared to only 4% of high-potential men.
Women’s added domestic burdens have repercussions beyond the daily grind. Among those who work at companies that do not offer flexible work arrangements (FWAs), which include options such as a compressed work week and telecommuting, twice as many women (57%) as men (28%) have downsized their career aspirations. Without access to FWAs, over half of women who began their careers dreaming big have cut back on those dreams.
But this is not just a women’s issue—it’s a family issue, and it’s just as important to families of two as it is to families of five. When men don’t take equal responsibility at home, they harm themselves as well as their partners. Most modern households are dual income, and when a woman’s career is inhibited, it decreases her entire household’s spending power.
Men: think about what you could do with the extra money a happy, ambitious, professionally fulfilled partner could bring in. Could you buy that new bike your child wants? Go on that dream vacation you can’t yet afford? Finally pay off your student loan debt? Whatever it is, it’s within reach for a couple that doesn’t have to rein in either partner’s ambitions.
How can men stay productive at their jobs and also take up more work on the home front? The same way women do: by making using of FWAs. FWAs don’t only help women with domestic responsibilities; they also help fathers, not to mention those who are not married and/or do not have children. With FWAs, fathers never have to miss a soccer game or a recital, and all men are able to invest more time in their outside interests and hobbies, as well as spend time with friends and family, without sacrificing their productivity at work.
When companies learn to be more flexible and guys start pitching in more at home, women dream big—and men will be able to dream bigger, too.