Gender balance is a relationship issue first
I have thought for the longest time that gender balance is a relationship issue - here's why.
I recently coached an ambitious woman in an international, Brussels based organisation. She is the main family revenue generator and is enjoying early career success. We talked about freeing up some time to network in the early evening. She told me with a smile, that "she was “lucky” because her partner “helped” her with their baby and household chores." I asked her to consider the question whether gender balance is also a relationship issue, which also affects gender balanced parenting. They split domestic tasks 60% (her) 40% (him.) I know he works from home for most of the day.
Gender balance is a relationship issue before a workplace one
Research from JUMP and Axiom consulting, which bears out my on anecdotal observations, that very often these traditional gender expectations return when men hit their early to mid 30s, when they become openly resistant to gender equality in the workplace. In Belgium women spend 10 hours a week-long than the men on unpaid work of household chores and childcare. That is a whopping 3 weeks a year! In many homes women assume 80% of household responsibilities.
Re-defining parenting expectations
One other major factor is that women have to let go of their role of CDO (Chief Domestic Officer). Many don’t like to relinquish control to someone else - whether a partner, family member or external employee. When it comes to gender balance in relationships and in parenting women can be as responsible for adhering to gender expectations. The other issue is the guilt. This comes from within, but also imposed by other women. This is an experience that men do not go through. If a woman scoots into the school play by the skin of her teeth, she is judged. If the father does it - it’s cute because he made an effort. Until we tackle societies double standard expectations of each parents role, we will see even fewer gender balanced relationships.
Stereotyping habits sets in early. We raise boys to be high energy and bold and girls to be gentle and collaborative. From the earliest age their self-images form differently as they are subliminally encouraged down different paths, culturally and academically. A woman’s career is chosen for her long before she dons her first power suit. This year, happily, super hero Halloween costumes outstripped princess costumes for girls. Maybe female roles in children’s cartoons will eventually have the same amount of speech as a male role. Hopefully our fairy princesses will have physics and chemistry degrees rather than magical powers and cinched waists.
What gender balance means
Women’s issue are a misnomer
If your organisation seeks gender balance contact 3Plus NOW
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Dates for the Diary
November 12th European Commission DG GROW
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How to deal with sexism and harassment in the workplace
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