The Second Shift: Leveling the Playing Field at Work and Home


Stressed working mom

Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine
May 25, 2024 at 8:54AM UTC
The term "the second shift" originates from the book, The Second Shift, originally published in 1989 and rereleased in 2012, written by Arlie Russell Hochschild with Anne Machung. In it, Hochschild describes three different marital roles women assume: transitional, traditional, and egalitarian. The traditional woman, she wrote, identifies most with the activities she does at home and sees herself primarily as a wife, a mother, and a neighborhood mom. An egalitarian woman, in contrast, wants her role to be equal to that of her husband's, with both partners balancing their careers and sharing responsibilities at home. Transitional women fall somewhere in between the eqalitarian and traditional.
The second shift has come to describe the idea that women still assume the burden of household and family responsibilities after work hours; the first shift, then, is their career, while the second shift is their home life and responsibilities.
It's still the case that many women must balance their careers with covering a larger part of home responsibilities, such as child care and household tasks, than their male counterparts do. This, combined with other challenges women face in the workplace, may be holding them back in their careers.
According to Women in the Workplace 2017, a survey of close to 200,000 employees from more than 305 companies, conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, women are underrepresented in every level of the corporate world. This discrepancy occurs despite women earning more higher education degrees than men, and women and men leaving their organizations at roughly the same rate. Here are some other notable findings from the survey:
• Female senior-level workers express just as much desire to advance in their professions as male workers do, and ask their supervisors for promotions more frequently than men do.
• Women of color face even greater challenges than other women in the workplace. Just one in five C-suite executives is a women, while only one in thirty C-suite executives is a woman of color.
• Just 2% of women surveyed say they want to leave the workforce to focus on family. Just as many men plan to leave for the same reason.
• Fifty-four percent of women continue to assume all or most of the housework in their homes, compared with just 22% of men. If they have children, they are 5.5 times more likely than men to take on this role. Even women who bring in a majority of the income are 3.5 times more likely to perform all or most of the household tasks than their male counterparts.
• Many men aren't noticing this pattern. Fifty percent of men think women are well represented in leadership postitions at companies in which only one in 10 senior leaders is a woman. Furthermore, men are more likely to assume the playing field is already leveled or leveling; more than 60 percent of men claim their companies are making strides to improve gender diversity, while only 49 percent of women agree.
So what can we do to improve conditions for female employees in the workforce and achieve a work-life balance while still advancing in our professions?
Of course, we can't do it alone. Companies and organizations must share the responsibility in helping women advance at a similar rate to that of men and achieve a work-life balance that doesn't compromise career sucess.
Here are three steps women can take to improve their roles in the workplace:
• Ask for what you deserve.
Depending on your organization, you may be unlikely to get that raise or promotion if you don't ask for it. And when you do ask, specify an amount, since you'll be more likely to receive a larger amount that way than if you don't specify. This is true for both men and women.
• Ask for your supervisor's support.
Come in for your discussion prepared with a list of responsibilities you've assumed, any overtime you may have performed, and tasks you've done outside of your job description. If you know the salaries of people in comparable positions at your company, bring that information as well. That way, you'll be able to back up your request with evidence of why you deserve it. Managers may be more willing and able to lend support if you have documentation demonstrating your value as an employee.
• Lead equality efforts at your company.
If you don't feel like the people at your office are taking gender diversity seriously, there's no reason why you can't be the one to champion the cause. Suggest that your company create a gender diversity taskforce, or develop specific initiatives, such as brown bag lunches about gender in the workplace.
Here are three steps companies can take to promote gender diversity:
• Understand where you are in terms of diversity.
If you don't know your starting point, you have no way of measuring the success of any gender diversity strategies you implement. Gather data on your company's gender diversity and distribute surveys to gauge how employees feel in terms of representation and treatment at the company. Review your policies to ensure fair hiring and treatment of workers.
• Invest in employee training.
All employees need to understand the importance of diversity, including gender, in the workplace. Hold training sessions to explore and identify the issue of unconscious bias, and create forums for onging discussion about the issue of equality and to address problems that arise.
Hold your company accountable.
Start tracking the results of the programs and tools you implement to improve practices in the workplace. Track existing gender representation as well, so you know what's going well, and what areas need improvement.

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