Challenges Working Women Face and How to Overcome Them
Jordan Rome is the Editor-In-Chief of Gaia Goddess who enjoys her carefree life without a zip code. She loves to create worlds that challenge limited perspectives through performance, words, and visual arts!
Challenges Working Women Face and How to Overcome Them
When we look at the trajectory of women in the workforce, the level of success they've been able to rise to is incredible. In fact, this year, women have hit new glass heights making 2023 the first year they have made up 10% of top US corporation CEOs after being stuck at the 8% mark for years. You could probably imagine moving the needle was no easy feat. It makes you wonder what challenges working women face in general, regardless of if you're in a high-level leadership position, spearheading a Fortune 500, or a woman who's starting her own company. But what is the reality of working moms and the struggles they must overcome? Being a mother on top of work requires a different level of support, understanding, and compassion. As we continue to step into a world where women are thriving in the workforce, we can support this expansion by considering these nuances, such as the needs of the working mom.
Eve Rodsky, entrepreneur and the author of Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live), asks: What would happen if we treated our homes as our most important organizations? This question asks readers to delve into the task factors, roles, responsibilities, planning, and overall systems that make an active family household successful. Rodsky argues that there are "invisible hours" that women and mothers are shouldering, where the workload in the home is not divided fairly. The old paradigm of women staying at home to take care of children and household responsibilities no longer makes sense as more and more women are joining the full-time workforce and starting their own businesses.
So, what exactly are these invisible hours? They are hours of labor that go unnoticed that can be physical, emotional, or mental that contribute to an active family household. This could look like getting a call from your child's school in a two-parent home to inform the mother that their sick child needs to be picked up when both parents' contacts are listed. Another example would be managing children's schedules, appointments, and just the seemingly endless list of tasks to do at night to set the family up for smooth sailing tomorrow. All these invisible hours, on top of work hours, can be overwhelming. This also varies depending on the stage of motherhood. For example, expecting mothers and mothers returning to work after having their child will experience different challenges than a mother who already has children in grade school or are at an age where they can be more independent and self-sufficient. Regardless, being an involved and supportive parent is a commitment. When we are also expected to commit fully to our work life, we often pour from a cup half empty and neglect our needs.
Suppose a woman does all these invisible hours, and their partner isn't showing up. In that case, it builds resentment, which can trickle into every other relationship aspect, including a couple's sex life, or result in taking out irritation on other loved ones. This is because you have one partner carrying the burden of parenthood. Exhaustion and burnout are inevitable because, ideally, a two-person plus job is handled solo.
Sisterhood can be a saving grace and the lifeline you didn't know you needed until it's available. It's so helpful to have a network of women sharing the same experience with you so you don't feel isolated and alone in your reality. In parenting, forming a group chat with other women, co-workers, or family members can be a great way to share tips and offer affirmative support regarding work-life balance. These spaces, whether virtual or IRL, can empower you and your community to find solutions you want to introduce to your partner to create equilibrium in domestic responsibilities. In addition, many jobs offer employee resource groups, especially in larger organizations, where you can connect with other mothers, advocate for your needs, and be transparent about your experiences. All working women face similar challenges, and together they can develop solutions. Leaning into relational support and intending to form a community can go a long way.
What can corporations do differently to support working moms? Interestingly, women who are now in leadership and management positions at work are handling things in a more holistic approach that considers employees' overall well-being. When compared to men, female managers are more often providing emotional support, checking in on general well-being, helping ensure the manageability of employee workloads, allowing team members with work-life balance, and taking actions to prevent or manage burnout. When leaders take the initiative to implement these considerations, overall success improves as does employee engagement and retention. In addition, companies benefit by considering factors such as flexibility and remote work, both highly desirable among working mothers.
What would it look like to take it a step further with the infrastructure of our businesses and include daycare, feeding rooms, refrigerators specifically for breast milk, and changing tables in the restrooms of all genders in our work facilities? These monumental changes challenge the roles women have been socialized to take on and normalize a growing demographic of employees with unique needs and desires.
ABCD - Always work toward Boundaries, Communication, and Delegating
Without a doubt, teamwork is essential in any partnership, and co-parenting or parenting is no different. However, women still need more balance in home responsibilities. We are learning that there is no honor in martyrdom, and it's definitely not included in the definition of being a worthy mother. The day of the self-sacrificing maternal figure passed down from generation to generation is unproductive for couples and families, pushing women further into isolation, guilt, shame, and fear. Collectively it is our responsibility to write a new narrative where the default parent isn't based on gender because "that's the way it's always been." To be clear, we can't always control who becomes the default parent; this may change throughout a child's life.
Nonetheless, it's essential that women feel empowered to call their partner's attention to an outdated paradigm that creates resentment, hostility, and possibly the breakdown of a family over time. Women need to initiate communication with their partners because historically, they have the burden of the invisible hours, and most men don't even realize it! Rodsky advises women to establish boundaries, improve communication, and delegate responsibilities. Every relationship is unique, though it always helps to get clear on your limits and how they may change to apply to the role of a mother and wife.
Communication is key, but sometimes it's hard to express to our partner the need for support and have a receptive response. Weekly check-ins are a great way to elevate communication and strengthen a team dynamic. Additionally, these check-ins can help clarify each partner's roles and responsibilities. This is a time to assess fair distribution in the relationship dynamic, which could vary for everyone and look radically different from stereotypical gender roles.
Let go of guilt and the myth that women can and should do it all. When possible, delegate responsibilities so the load of parenting can feel lighter. What can be outsourced? Do you have the means to outsource cleaning, grocery delivery, meal prep, or carpooling? If so, take advantage of what's available, and don't feel guilty for lining up the support. Women were never meant to do it all. In addition, being organized can help streamline your day-to-day tasks with comfort and flow. Not your forté? Look into services and apps that can support you in this area of your life. The return on investment may make all the difference!
Striving for equilibrium and harmony at work, home, and all other parts of our lives takes support and a community of support. We live in a time where both working parents must be perceived and function as contributing players to a household running smoothly. Creating this environment in our personal life spills into our work lives and vice versa. Our collective responsibility is to ensure mothers at work are not being penalized and take on more work at home that isn't seen as valuable. We can slowly empower and dismantle these limiting perceptions and beliefs and create a new model of the working mother that is successful, sustainable, and balanced.