Opinion: Becoming the Housewife in the Workplace

Picture someone diligently taking notes in meetings, answering phone calls, staying late to finish up a project and helping a fellow colleague finish theirs, and even bringing in cupcakes the next day for the office Valentine’s Day party. More often than not this character is a woman, going above the call of duty to do all this behind-the-scenes work to make the office function properly. Yet women receive little to no recognition or reward. But it’s fine because women are naturally nurturing and communal anyway, right?

The answer is no. This stereotype is a lot more damaging than most would think. In a study led by New York University and published in The New York Times, participants evaluated both male and female employees who did or did not stay late to help prepare for a big meeting. Men who helped were rated 14% higher than women who helped, and women who didn’t help were rated 12% lower than men who didn’t help. The discrepancy is a result of societal gender constructs. Men were again proven to have a significantly better chance at receiving promotions, new projects, or raises, for doing equal work.

This type of gender stereotyping is damaging to women. Women have the same abilities as men and can provide the same help, yet because most people view women as caretakers, they are less likely to get promoted. The housewife stigma doesn’t disappear with the acquisition of a steady job, but rather it is an assumed position for which female workers didn’t apply.

One solution is to make men do some of the handiwork. Women are not the only ones who can take notes or answer phone calls, and it should be equally distributed throughout the office. Once businesses begin to show that men can also take care of the “housewife duties,” the stereotype will slowly drift away.

Another study showed that while in meetings, men usually take a more dominant role and even interrupt the women. By channeling that dominant spirit into something productive, such as acknowledging women’s roles in a project, they can help fix the problem.

This problem does not exist solely because of the men. Women need to know that they are not responsible for the housework of the workplace. They are there because they are just as qualified as everyone else and are just as capable to make those dominant speeches during meetings. By putting their priorities above those of the workplace, they will feel relief from the all the little duties that are consuming them and begin to feel more confident.

This is a stereotype that needs to be stopped in order for women to be treated equally in the workplace. Equal pay is not enough. A law does not determine true equality—if you want to create equality, you have to change the law and people’s minds.

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