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Exploring the Household Handicap at TEDx

Frank About Women participated in a TEDx Women event addressing the topic of “The Household Handicap.” And the topic is quite timely. In fact, Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter both have been credited with saying that women will never be able to compete equitably if they constantly feel overwhelmed.

Do women feel more overwhelmed than men? In a word, yes. And there’s a reason. Since the beginning of time, women have been thought of as the natural nurturers. Prior to entering the mainstream workforce in the 50s and 60s, women were at the helm of every household: We were the CEOs of the home. What happened when we began working outside the home? Well, besides adding to the family resources, we also added value to the GDP. Hooray for us! But what happened to all of that work women managed in and surrounding the home? Did it magically disappear? Or did the spouses/partners intuitively step up and take on half of the home “production”? We think not. Some men will say it may not have been a part of their nature. OK, maybe. Certain learned domestic behaviors were not typically taught or reinforced with young boys. Family leave for the birth of a child, when offered, is usually only for women, setting the course for inequitable distribution of responsibility. Past generations leveraged the delineation between what was considered women’s work and everything else. But today we know better, right?

For both men and women, stereotypical images of gender-biased roles throughout all forms of media and entertainment have continued to propagate a culture of gender divide. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. And, unfortunately, a recent McKinsey study revealed that the more hours of TV a young girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life. Conversely, the more hours of TV a young boy watches, the more sexist his views become.

We explore the gender gap in household management workload (both physical and mental), corporate biases (overt or latent) regarding hiring and promoting moms versus dads, and the very real impact the biases create for career advancement and compensation. We also challenge the collective conscience (or “unconscious,” as the case may be) to address the power of imagery—imagery that can serve to either support equality or continue the divide. We need to show women in diverse roles, from leadership to physically demanding and everything in between. It’s equally important to create powerful, positive themes regarding men taking on more ownership and success in household duties. We need to champion anyone who creates stability outside of work so that employers can more easily embrace parents versus embracing dads and scrutinizing moms. It’s time we accept responsibility for the fact that content can shape our future rather than merely reflect the present.

Shaun Stripling About the Author
Shaun Stripling Former Global Director, Frank About Women

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