We all know that the workday doesn’t end when you leave your job: there are children (and perhaps even parents) to care for, chores to do, doctors to visit, teachers to meet, cars to service, groceries to buy and pets to feed.
It’s all in a day’s work. But while you know exactly how much work you do, it can often seem like even your immediate family just don’t get it. And according to a recent study you’re not alone – apparently, few people out there have been paying enough attention to the contribution that women make.
“Scarily enough, the current practices used in compiling labour surveys have no way of accounting for the work women do once they leave the workplace,” says Executive Head of 1st for Women Insurance, Robyn Farrell. “The infrastructure to track it hasn’t been developed.”
Papa Seck, UN Women’s Chief Statistician, explains that surveys just aren’t orientated to account for work that doesn’t earn a wage. It’s not just about housework, but work women do in family businesses they don’t own, as well as on the side to help support their families and friends.
What we do know about the unpaid work that women do is bad enough: in the developed world, women are averaging 4.5 hours a day of labour for no reward. In less developed areas, this can rise to staggering levels: in some places women are doing 10 times as much work as men.
Seck explains, studies fail to appreciate the economic role women play and wrongly pigeonhole them as unproductive and dependant.
It’s important that you don’t fall into that trap yourself. There are plenty of reasons to give yourself credit for the work you do: $10 trillion-worth, in fact. That’s the estimated cost if we paid women just the minimum wage for all the work they’re currently doing without credit or reward – more than China’s entire economy generates in a year!
So know your worth: for just one week, try adding up the total amount of hours of work you actually do, and give yourself the credit for it. When you have an idea of the actual value you’re contributing, consider making the most of your efforts by:
- Using your talent to open a small side business. It’s great to do favours for friends, but why should you work for free?
- Build time to rest and regenerate into your schedule. Actual rest, not babysitting or catching up on the family’s laundry.
- You’re ‘helping’ younger staff at the office is actually ‘mentoring’, and you should be professionally recognised for it. Collect some references from the employees you’ve aided and take them into your next performance review.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ sometimes. It’s not selfish or lazy to prioritise your own needs. You can’t help others when you’re feeling depleted.
- Put a time limit on your extra activities. The next time a friend or family member needs help setting up their internet connection, or making muffins for a bake sale, give them a definite window of time that you can assist for, and keep to your boundaries.
In the meantime, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is stepping up with an $80 million donation that will help bridge the data gap and help accelerate progress for women and girls around the world. Through reliable data, we’ll be able to fill critical gender data gaps, including knowing how much time women and girls spend on unpaid work around the world, and what implications this has on their life chances and choices, such as completing education, getting jobs or starting businesses.
The goal is not small: increasing women’s economic participation could boost the world economy by a staggering $12 trillion by 2025. If full gender equality were to be achieved, that number might reach as high as $28 trillion.
“The increase in living standards worldwide would be almost inconceivable,” Farrell points out.
And after all, the work is already getting done: we just need to give women credit for doing it.