Why Do Women Make Less Than Men?
The Lily published a story exhibiting the experiences of mothers in quarantine, who have been forced to prioritize childcare over their careers in recent months. The article began with an anecdote about a CEO who dissolved her company because her [unemployed] husband could not handle sole responsibility over their toddler.
Twitter blew up. A few responses came from particularly aghast men, vocalizing clear male ally-ship. However, this story reflects not only the division of caregiving along gender lines, but also the overarching state of inequality at home.
The Lily presented a story that reflects stark inequalities in domestic labor. Perhaps this article is extreme, though it reflects many domestic situations, both within and preceding the pandemic.
With families staying home in lockdown, men acknowledge the increase in domestic labor. Although male partners say they are “helping,” most of the work has “fallen” to their wives, even when the female partner has an equally demanding job. In quarantine, all parties agree that there is more work to be done in the home, and wives tend to take on more of it.
There is a long history of women taking on the larger domestic burden, and sacrificing career aspirations as a result. Even supposedly egalitarian couples tend to fall into gendered patterns when they have children. The extremity of the COVID-19 crisis amplifies this inequity along gender lines, increasing female-assigned labor to an unbearable load.
Domestic labor often gets split based on her current earnings and on his potential earnings. With the gender wage gap, the male partner typically makes more money at any given moment. Additionally, in the workplace, men are more likely to be promoted based on their potential, whereas women must repeatedly prove that they are ‘ready’ for the job. Because of a man’s potential to earn even more in the future, many couples prioritize his career.
The decision to divide financial and domestic burdens along gender lines ultimately constrains women’s earning potential. Experts point to this vicious cycle as a leading factor to maintain the wage gap.
The female CEO who quit to care for her child reflects the pattern of attitudes exhibited in our society. Men and women both reify this norm with the basic premise that caregiver is a woman’s work. New fathers decide not to take paid family leave, whereas women rarely forego that benefit. Mothers typically leave work early for a sick child, snow day, or school holidays. Assigning caregiving to women is what costs women their equality in the workplace.