Gender Inequality at Work and Home Is Costing Women’s Mental Health
Somehow, even though many women work full-time just like men, women are still doing way more than their share of unpaid labor. American women spend four hours every day on unpaid work like cleaning and taking care of children, while men spend less than half that time.
This disparity means women end up doing four more years of unpaid work than men. If you’re thinking there must be some serious consequences for women working full-time hours and doing all that unpaid work, new research suggests you’re right.
A study from the Australian National University suggests that the healthy work limit for women is 34 hours a week compared to 47 hours per week for men, due to the extra time women spend on domestic duties. Most women working full-time fly right past that suggestion, though. In Australia, two-thirds of full time employees work more than 40 hours. In the U.S., the average full-time employee works 47 hours per week.
“Long work hours erode people’s mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly,” writes Dr. Huong Dinh, the study’s lead researcher. “Given the extra demands placed on women, it’s impossible for women to work the long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health.”
Men are still not expected to tackle the same duties at home that women are, which gives them a “time advantage in the labor market,” according to co-researcher Professor Lyndall Strazdins.
According to the data, men work an average of 41 hours a week (full-time) and women work 36 hours a week (full time). This gave the men in the study an extra 100 hours every year, a “significant head start in their career.”
Many people who don’t believe in the fact of the gender pay gap claim that women are paid less because they work part-time more often or take lower paying jobs. The reality is, in addition to the effect of gender bias on salary, women’s careers and incomes suffer because men have the ability to work longer hours that women cannot compete with unless they sacrifice their mental health.
The researchers found a “tipping point” at 39 hours per week. Women who worked more than 39 hours a week had an increased risk of mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Not to mention lack of sleep and simply time to relax and do whatever you want with your free time.
Although the researchers recommended a lower cap on the number of hours women work a week, this suggestion seems counterproductive. Further limiting women’s ability to contribute equally in the workplace will only serve to make employers see them as less valuable than male employees (more so than they already do). Women shouldn’t have to work 47 hours a week and fulfill more than their share of work at home in order to receive equal treatment and pay at work. No one should. But the solution isn’t to reduce their capacity to contribute at work either.
Instead, the burden is on men to fix this problem. Men have to be the ones to limit their hours at work so they can contribute equally at home. If both men and women share the same amount of domestic duties, they’ll have equal time to spend at work and neither will be over-burdened by their responsibilities between work and home, at least not disproportionately. Men need to be doing their fair share at home to reduce the undue strain on women’s mental health that this inequality is causing.
Men must contribute at home equally to women so women will be able to advance with equal speed in their careers. Women can’t have it all if we’re stuck doing it all.
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