The double standard for women and men on gender equality

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I am currently reading the Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb…and although I am only a third of the way in I feel I have to share my reflections on this book as it has already made a big impact on me.

For starters this is not a book that gives women guilt for not being the perfect wives (whatever that may be) nor is it a ”all men are evil” type book that are stopping women from succeeding at work…it is an intelligent analysis on how skewed life is for both women AND men. I am all for true gender equality which means that there is true equality for both men and women. This is not a “women’s” issue but a human issue.

After years of working with organisations to bring gender equality to the workplace, sat on countless diversity councils, changed policies, worked with Government agencies, lobbied left, right and centre I have tried various policies and strategies that have had made an inkling of a difference but none have been roaring successes. And now I know why.

The issue of why there aren’t enough female CEOs or women or boards is not because of work policies (though that is still part of equation) but Annabel Crabb has very poignantly and correctly pointed out with incredible aptness (and supported by a ton of research) that the other part of the equation is the home. Meaning in order for women to increase involvement at higher levels of business they need the same support that men get in those roles. In essence, they need a wife, or what a wife stands for – support – to help out with housework shopping, cooking, cleaning and children (in no order of course).

When I became pregnant with my first child every one congratulated my husband and I however I had an add on question to me which was “and what are you going to do about work?”

These assumptions are as detrimental to women as it is to men. It presumes that women will be the main care-giver as they juggle career, children and home whilst men get added pressure of being the main breadwinner. I am ashamed to say that as progressive as I am, I never sat down with my husband pre-children to talk about what are our expectations of each other with having children and our careers. We assumed, followed roles but we also challenged them too. Everyone finds their own balance. It is uncommon for a man (unless they are in one of the Nordic countries) to a) feel comfortable about asking for more than 2 weeks off after a baby is born or flexible work arrangements to assist caring for kids, doing regular school drop offs/ picks ups etc. b) to actually asking for the above mentioned. It is perceived that they lack ambition or worse, they are not perpetuating a ‘manly’ role.

Somehow the current state of play is not working out for anyone. Women feel exhausted, short changed (emotionally as well as financially when you look at how much less super women get at the end of their careers – pay equity and negotiation is part of that conversation too) but men feel pressured to fulfil roles that are enforced on them…they miss out on being with their kids and participating in their development. Everyone is feeling pressure, stress and unable to figure it all out.

Do we live to work or work to live?

Many women have addressed this situation by finding much flexibility in the world of entrepreneurship…it doesn’t address the home front however it does assist creating your own future based on your needs.

So it is time for women to lean in, but for men to lean out of work to be more present in their lives…and as Dr Michael Kimmel says in his TED Talk (who is a leading thought leader and academic on gender studies – just amazing, you must watch) women and men need to lean on each other…gender equality benefits all – when will we realise this? When will the change come?

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