Women still earn less money than men, in part, because they’re more likely to seek out flexible schedules that allow them to combine work and household responsibilities. But, that doesn’t mean that men are necessarily psyched to burn the midnight oil – at least, not every midnight. Perhaps the best way to tackle the gender wage gap and the work-life balance problem is to examine why our culture of work demands such round-the-clock devotion from everyone, both male and female.
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“By focusing on ‘women’s issues,’ professional firms are in denial about their real problem: a culture of unnecessary, 24/7 work that makes everyone miserable,” writes Emily Peck at The Huffington Post.
Peck examined soon-to-be-released research by Harvard’s Gender Initiative program, which showed that far from conforming to the gender stereotypes – women longing to be at home, men craving the adrenaline of all-night working sessions – both genders found it hard to balance work and home life.
Among the research’s findings:
It’s wrong (not just sexist) to believe that only women long for better work-life balance. The stereotype seeks to detach men from their need for balance and family time while simultaneously disallowing women the right to feel good about their career ambitions. Both genders want balance, and study after study reminds us of this. The truth is, men and women approach the struggle differently, largely because of societal stereotypes, but everyone wants balance in their lives.
2. We are all overworked.
The researchers interviewed 100 consultants and five human resource staffers at a firm, and discovered that everyone was suffering under the current expectation to work long hours.
“People here are probably doing 14, 15 hours of work a day,” one consultant said. “Your ability to get by on little sleep is a necessary skill.”
When getting five hours of sleep a night becomes the low bar set for personal care, it’s pretty clear to see that we have a problem. Many people work 70 hours or more for their companies. No matter how much folks enjoy their jobs, these kinds of hours come with a high price. Personal lives are almost impossible to maintain, and one’s physical health could even be impacted.
3. Tackling the long-hours problem first, improves gender inequality issues.
The research suggests that by attacking the problem of our long hours, other issues will also be improved. Women would be able to advance their careers without feeling the need to give up family time, and so would men! Understanding that the desire to have both a life and a successful career is the dream of both men and women would shake up the way we define success. It would change the way we work. But, this likely isn’t news to the overworked. Hopefully, this research will help employers get on board in terms of these long-held goals.
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