All these facts indicate that equality is all geared to the working environment. At least until recently, when Sue Morphet, Pacific Brands chief executive, stated that a cultural shift needs to occur enabling managers and executives to go home for dinner so both gender can take“accountability for the domestic environment”. So what does currently happen at home?
At a Women on Boards event last year, one of the female participants stated her concern that despite of returning to work she was continuing to carry the load of home duties and child raising. In the workplace I observed many women working full time also having full time care of children, elderly parents, as well as the majority of home duties. The Women’s Forum Australia Survey 2009 confirms this observation. Women have longer activity based hours than men with 94.7 hours versus 91.7 hours, and longer paid/unpaid hours with 78 hours compared to men with 73 hours. Two thirds of the women still undertake the majority of domestic work requiring repeated negotiations for support and having the feeling of being unsupported. Interestingly the Australian Work and Life Index 2010 found that many fathers would like to reduce the hours they work with 71.7 per cent of men working 48 hours plus and 34 per cent working 35 to 47 making this statement. This is showing a willingness of shared work and care responsibilities.
The question arises to what extent do women demand and expect equality at home? And why do men not do anything about it at work? After all, it is still predominantly men in management roles deciding over equality initiatives in the work place. If they are willing to work less and share domestic duties what is hindering the change?
With humans being creatures of habits, men are very likely taking their framework of experience from home to work. Changing this framework is not an easy task; it takes a shift in mindset, of social values and a willingness to break with the conventional. However, it also means women having to support this shift actively and taking responsibility for it. I have observed five areas where women can support this change. We need to 1) communicate our needs to our partners, 2) ask for support and willingly delegate tasks to others, 3) accept that others have a different standard or way of doing things, 4) remove the feeling of guilt from our emotional baggage when we cannot be there for our kids or do everything 100 per cent and 5) ensure we continue to love our men despite their less traditional ‘male’ or manly role. By fostering equality through shared responsibility at home, we may just help
create change at work and in the board room.