“Why are there hardly any women CEOs?” is the bewildered cry. “What on earth are we doing wrong? Do we need more mentors? Do we need more management quotas? Do we need gender-biased recruitment processes?”
No. No we don’t.
If you ask me, these things are missing the heart of the matter. And that heart of the matter is housework. Yep, you read me right. Housework. And a range of other mundane domestic and family related duties.
There are hardly any women CEOs because:
• somebody has to do the washing
• somebody has to hang out the washing
• somebody has to make the school lunches
• somebody has to take the kids to school
• somebody has to vacuum the floors
• somebody has go grocery shopping
• somebody has to fill the fridge
• somebody has to volunteer for tuckshop
• somebody has to call the electrician
• somebody has to be at school by 3pm to pick up the kids
• somebody has to ferry the kids to soccer training/swimming lessons/ballet class
• somebody has to help with homework
• somebody has to bring in the washing
• somebody has fold the washing
• somebody has to cook dinner
• somebody has to sign the school forms
• somebody has to bath the kids (or scream at the older kids to get in the shower)
• somebody has to put the kids to bed (or scream at the older kids to go to bed)
• somebody has to clean up the carnage of yet another day
And that somebody is typically a woman.
Before you shout at me, yes there are men who do these things too. But just ask your mum and I’m sure she’ll confirm that domesticated stay-at-home dads are a relatively new phenomenon. The truth is, in the decades before us, this to-do-list (which is in no way complete by the way) has usually been that of a woman’s.
Which is why today woman are so far behind when it comes to their careers.
The washing. The ironing. The folding. The school lunches. The homework. The ferrying between the endless activities. These are just some of the reasons I keep knocking back the offers of full time roles. Full time roles that could see me scale the lofty heights of the corporate ladder.
Not because I don’t have the experience. Not because I don’t have the skills. Not because I don’t have the right attitude. But because somebody has to hang out the washing. And because my husband is paid more than me, well, it makes sense that it’s me.
Yes, I know I can outsource the washing, but let’s not forget how much outsourcing costs. Housekeepers costs money. Nannies cost money. Dumping my laundry at the local laundromat costs money. Extra expenses that chip into a weekly wage leaving you wondering if it’s worthwhile.
At this point I must also look deep into my heart and be honest about the urge I have to be with my kids. I don’t want to outsource the hugs I get from my kids when they run up to me in the playground at the end of the school day. I don’t want to outsource the magic of hearing my daughter read for the first time. I don’t want to outsource delicate conversations with my son when he tells to me he is being teased in the playground.
This urge to be with our kids is something else we don’t talk about when we wonder where all the women CEOs are. As I’ve written before, parenthood is often a self-imposed banned topic of conversation for women – and men for that matter – who fear they will be labeled ‘less serious’ about their career.
And so the quandary continues and we will continue to wonder “where are all the women CEOs?”
But until we start to have real conversations about what I call the ‘the gritty nuts and bolts of parenting’ I don’t think we will never truly find the answer.