Our society in general places too much value on public work, i.e. being employed, contributing to the economy, etc., and little value on private work, which is being the main caregiver of kids and homemaking. Women historically have been kept to the private sphere of life, while men have dominated the public field. While private work is just as much valuable to the society, we don’t see men get involved into it without facing the ‘stigma’. Now, wouldn’t it be great if women got more options in life to balance both the spheres of life?
The real answer is: No. Women do not tend to negotiate their contracts, and that’s the ugly truth. This means, even if they go out to work at top level companies after having children, they’re unable to negotiate for flexibility.
An analysis of reasons for the disparity in wages between men and women by the Department of Labor comes to the unambiguous conclusion that:
The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.
For example, a woman takes a couple of years off to raise a child, then for every year off on average expected salary when she rejoins the workplace will be 1 – 5 % lower than her starting salary when she left. In contrast, the male partner who continues to work, then his salary is likely to rise by 1 – 5% per year.
Bending over backwards to balance a ‘dual career’ is why so many women let their career take a backseat. In many families, life works better if one person is raising the kids. This means there’s someone available to take the dog to the vet, or chauffeur the kids, or let the cable guy in. More often than not, it’s women who take a supportive position in a heterosexual marriage and chose to stay at home.
This is one of those problems where we might look at one of the Scandinavian nations for a solution. Countries like Sweden and The Netherlands offer social services and more generous parental leave, so there’s a less need for anyone of the parent to take a backseat. More social services likely employ more caregivers, a female-heavy profession, creating more jobs.
Today, the top of the corporate is still full of males. As a matter of fact, only 4 percent of women comprise of chief executives in S&P 500 companies. There are a few other causes of the wide gap: differences in job position, wage, hours worked, education, and experience. In other words, the wage gap is not a myth and we need a greater force to navigate through the wide array of factors to overcome this issue.
While there isn’t a quick-fix solution, we at least have two powerful women uprooting the gender identity driven flexibility stigma. Annie Dean and Anna Auerbach are the co-founders behind Werk, a job search company, which is making working women realize that feminism is all about choices.
Choices for whom, you ask? A lot of people in the workforce still remain at the mercy of their managers. If your supervisors are sympathetic, you may have a chance at workplace flexibility.
Job search company Werk is trying to address this issue by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs. Some of the highly skilled job postings listed on the site come from Facebook, Samsung, and Uber that offer greater flexibility regarding the time and place of work.
People from dual career families can apply to jobs that let them telecommute, work at hours other than 9-to-5, part-time or with minimal travel. The job search company also provides another option where workers can adjust their schedules, no questions asked. For example, you have a trip to the A&E, or a sleepless night with a toddler, and there’s no possible way you could work according to the company hours.
Werk is a limited experiment. A majority of the employers are from small companies aiming to hire highly educated women for leadership roles. As it stands now, we need a force like Werk that encourages a greater share of parenting through a cultural attitude change as well as adjustments to maternity and paternity leave laws that could help close the pay disparity.