As equality in the workplace becomes less elusive for women, inequalities in home life still threaten to hold them back.
Reports from Statistics Canada show that while men are doing more household chores and women are doing more paid work, men still spend only 1.4 hours per day on housework compared to the 2.4 hours on average done by women.
The result is that while women have continued to break down barriers in the workplace, they still face the challenge of having to do more work at home than men as well as a double-standard of being seen as innately overstretched by their responsibilities.
When Ontario Superior Court judge Douglas Cunningham told a courtroom in August that he felt Ontario MPP Lisa MacLeod’s testimony in the corruption trial of Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien was unreliable because she had “a number of rather significant things going on in her life,” including taking care of her kids, many in the public and the media took that to mean he didn’t think a busy woman could give reliable testimony.
Carissa Reiniger, president of Women Entrepreneurs of Canada, says while the context of the judge’s comments is still up to debate, the perception of working women as less competent at juggling complex lives than men is a common one that boils down mostly to changing gender roles, primarily being changed by women.
“If you look at what’s happened in the last 60 years, women have put a lot of time and effort into adjusting their role, to entrench themselves into what have traditionally been masculine roles but often they still have to take care of the family,” Reiniger said.
Reiniger says most of the tension comes from the fact that while women have made inroads into the previously male-dominated world of business, men have not made as big of an encroachment into traditionally female roles.
“Many men are quite supportive of women in the workforce but they generally have not, with the same level of tenacity, said ‘I want to be a part of the home life.’ They’ve been bombarded by the shift in women’s roles but their own role hasn’t shifted much,” Reiniger said.
Reiniger hopes attitudes will change as people realize that business and familial traits are not gender related at all.
“It’s not a sob story to say that women do often have to make a tough choice between working hard and trying to raise a family, though many do so extremely effectively. Unfortunately for a long time the stereotype has been that you’ve got to be a horrible person as a woman to succeed like a man. That’s not true,” Reiniger said.