122 PROFESSIONAL WOMANS MULTICULTURAL MAGAZINE WWW.PROFESSIONALWOMANMAG.COM
ts no surprise that in the midst of COVID-19, parents have tremendous pressure to do it all - teach and care for their children, attend to household needs and of course, do their jobs. In a series of small decisions all day long, each of these families, whether consciously or not, will likely begin to favor one parents profession over the other. This experience has arguably been different for working mothers than working fathers. Media stories abound voicing the many challenges faced by work- ing mothers - including a backslide in workplace gender equality, the heavier domestic burden borne by women and the continuing unequitable division of labor and caretaking in most households. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes a specific section on the vulnerabilities women face as caretakers in COVID-19. This challenging time is complicated by a deep- ly-rooted stereotype in our culture when it comes to gender roles - which assume that men work and women take care of kids. Gender stereotypes affect many workplace norms, such as how women are given performance feedback and how they are paid. These stereotypes also affect home life, where wom- en are more likely to take on additional household re- sponsibilities, resulting in more unpaid work at home during their second shift. Given this information, how do parents these days decide who picks up the household chores, and who
As of 2019, there are nearly
working parents in the U.S. and nearly
In a Dual Career Household During COVID, Whose Job Wins?
gets to focus on their career - in a 21st century dual household, whose jobs wins? From a study my colleague, Mona Zanhour, and I conducted this summer among 54 working mothers, we learned how working parents are making these complicated decisions. Located across ten states and working in different industries, these women all worked from home and had male partners. We asked how they navigated their work and family choices be- fore and during COVID-19, and how they negotiated family responsibilities with their partners. For working mothers who want to negotiate more time and space to do their job, we identified a few steps they can take to help regain control: First, women should have a frank discussion de- tailing their immediate job needs and how partners can help. One of the participants in our study worked out shifts with her partner - she took the kids each morning, the entire family had lunch together, and then dad took the kids each afternoon. That way, each partner had designated hours each day for scheduled calls and uninterrupted work. Perhaps just as import- ant, this arrangement allowed both to be involved in the heavy lifting of managing their kids schedules on top of their own professional work loads. Through these discussions, partners can determine whether family and childcare responsibilities are divided, and
Different families will make different arrangements; the point is, mom's career goals should factor into those decisions.
if not, what the reason for that is. Second, working parents should be vocal about their long-term career and personal goals. If the cur- rent employer is revealing themselves as insufficient- ly supportive, now may be the time to make a move or pursue a new opportunity. Some of our research participants did just that. One woman saw her jobs intensity increase as her young childrens childcare centers closed. She took a leave of absence and is now upskilling to pursue a new career path. Another coordinated with her partner to have him take on their childrens homeschooling, so that she could focus on her expanded job. Different families will make dif- ferent arrangements; the point is, moms career goals should factor into those decisions. Third, women can proactively seek the flexibili- ty they need in their jobs. This may be as simple as asking for a schedule adjustment, attending webinar calls using audio only, or limiting availability to cer- tain hours. One participant shared how she saved her sanity by getting her boss and coworkers to agree to not set meetings before 10am, so that she could attend to her three school age kids during frantic mornings. Enlisting support from other parenting colleagues can elevate a collective voice on supportive workplace policies. Some of the most challenging stories our participants shared were from women who had bosses or coworkers that did not have children themselves. These can be opportunities to check in with each other and share challenges that may be unfamiliar. Framing the conversation around how flexibility can benefit job productivity, without burdening cowork- ers, can help sway childless colleagues who feel they have to pick up the slack. As parents struggle to find a balance, it should not be the sole burden of working moms to self-advocate. Employers should be asking themselves - what steps can they take to be more flexible to help em- ployees remain productive in uncertain times? Male partners can ask themselves - is there equitable di- vision of our household responsibilities? Work and home arrangements have changed dramatically over the past several months. By recognizing where even small daily decisions can be made differently, house- holds and employers can take steps to ensure the onus isnt on mothers alone.
Dana Sumpter, PhD, associate professor of organization theory and management at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, and Mona Zanhour, assistant professor of manage- ment at California State University -- Long Beach. Source: Dana Sumpter and Mona Zanhour