I spoke with Dr. Stephanie Coontz to hear about what the research is telling us and she shared a number of intriguing findings from the data available. I have enclosed the video interview below and attached a copy of the transcript here.  

I spoke with Dr. Stephanie Coontz to hear about what the research is telling us and she shared a number of intriguing findings from the data available. I have enclosed the video interview here and attached a copy of the transcript here.  

 

What the Research Tells Us

Dr. Coontz lays out the intriguing research succinctly (which you can watch here or read here to get a full picture of what she is showing and recommending). Highlights are below.

ABOUT MEN:

  • Those who were already stepping up to the plate with childcare and housework are stepping up more. Those who are working from home are becoming aware of more of the “invisible work” women often do and they are beginning to participate. 
  • Men, in particular, like the idea of telecommuting/working from home and want to spend more time with family (especially younger men). Those who do, don’t increase their housework and were happier and less anxious when they were working from home.
  • Benefits of paternity leave: years after the leave, men did more housework and childcare. Couples fight less. Girls growing up assigned less housework and fewer chores than in homes where men had not taken paternity leave. 
  • Cons of paternity leave: men penalized much more for taking time off. Same dynamics – or fear of repercussion – might continue in the WFH environment. 
  • Bottom line: When men get accustomed to the kind of work that goes in the home, they begin to step up to the plate with lasting impact and they are happier, though there may be (some) repercussions for taking time off or continuing to WFH.

ABOUT WOMEN:

  • Unconscious Self-Sabotage or “Gatekeeping”: When new tasks come along, women assume they can do it better and think their partner will not be capable of the task. Women have criticisms of how men do things (not always founded), so they end up doing it themselves. This may be based on their own and others’ having higher standards for women than men.
  • Women want to have their cake and eat it too: they want the help and also want the recognition that they are the leaders at home and don’t always accept the help.
  • Impact on Women: They are doing 70% of homeschooling; being home, they increased housework by almost one hour per day and they are interrupted about three times as often by children when working than men are. 
  • Feelings: Women, far happier, far less stressed, far less depressed when they’re working outside the home.
  • Bottom Line: Women are carrying the lion share of tasks at home when they don’t ask for and allow their partner to contribute and because they have trained their children to come to rely on them as #1. This is resulting in increased responsibilities, interruptions as well as increase in stress, depression and anxiety in the WFH environment.

 

Key Takeaways

There are many takeaways from the interview (which you can watch or read here). I would love to hear what else you took away from what you heard or read. There is more to discuss and add to implications for single women, women of color, LGBTQ families, and other critical topics we did not cover in this conversation. Below are a few key highlights:

For Women

  • Become self-aware of (unconscious) standards. Adjust where you allow others to contribute.
  • Tune in to your emotional state. Be real about how you are feeling and where the sources of stress are biggest. Get curious about those and don’t assume “this is just how it is.” 

For Men

  • As Dr. Coontz said: Men should step forward and not be afraid to be allies. You’ll be able to act in a way that acknowledges inequalities but doesn’t have to grovel about them.
  • Become aware of the unconscious ways you “sabotage” women, just as women “sabotage” themselves. This is not a blame game or about guilt. We have all contributed to creating reality as it is today, and we all need to look at our expectations and revisit which ones to keep and which ones to renegotiate.

For Organizations

  • Focus on retention of women leaders. Integrated workforces are more innovative and profitable. You need to have multiple women on teams in order for them to make their real innovative suggestions.  
  • Stop rewarding overwork. Sustainable workforces are places where leaders can integrate work and life and if that’s not happening, high performers will go find somewhere where they can. 
  • Don’t assume women do all the caregiving. Men are doing more than is obvious or that they admit.
  • Recognize that WFH can be a real danger for women. This could set things back in the long run if not changed.
  • Cracks in time like this are challenging AND offer opportunity. They offer an opportunity to rearrange things. 

 

Ask Yourself:

  • What (high) standards are worth maintaining, and which ones can I shift within myself? 
  • What chores do I continue to do myself that I could renegotiate with my family members? (remember – all of them – kids included – are capable of more than you think!)
  • What boundaries do I need to set or renegotiate (at work and/or at home) that would make the biggest impact on my emotional well-being? (Start with one. Baby steps count! It might be renegotiating who is on point to make dinner one night a week, when you work uninterrupted, getting more precise about who is on point for homework and questions, when you exercise by yourself, etc.) Pick one that would make a difference to you. 

Please feel free to reach out to Gisele Garcia Shelley if you’d like to connect about how to apply these learnings, to help members on your team navigate these conversations, or to discuss the biggest current challenge you are facing today.

Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health. 

Remember to watch the 26 minute interview or read the transcript here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours in practice,

Gisele

 

Dr. Stephanie Coontz is the Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families and emeritus faculty of History and Family Studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She currently serves as an advisor to MTV for its anti-bias campaign.

She is the author of five books on gender, family, and history, including Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, which was cited in the US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. She has edited and contributed chapters to more than 25 other books, and her writings have been translated into a dozen languages. See a complete list of her books.

 Remember to watch the :26 interview or read the transcript here.

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