More Women Are In the Workforce — So Why Are They Still Doing So Many Chores?

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With all the time dedicated to getting women into the executive suite, it seems a bit silly to talk about who’s buying the groceries. But new data suggests that women in heterosexual partnerships may be just as burdened with household chores as ever — despite the strides we’ve made to improve our lot around the office.

As I’ve written before, the biggest complaint I hear when it comes to feminism is that we ignore the guys. Men, like women, are subjected to stereotyping, unfair social constructs and cookie-cutter gender standards all the time. We’d probably all be better off if we stopped levying an iron-clad set of expectations on people just because they’re guys or just because they’re gals.

For example, the dearth of paternity leave options for men in the U.S. — and the rarity with which men take the childcare leave that is available to them — is staggering. Yes, men and women have the same (abysmal) set of childcare leave options under federal law. But generally speaking men are less likely to ditch work for a few weeks for childcare duties. If men were more likely to take paternity leave, the logic is, women would have less of the burden.

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And by extension, if women were more likely to be breadwinners, they’d have less to do around the house. Right? Well, maybe not.

The number of hours men and women commit to housework has remained roughly the same over the last several years, according to a new American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statics. This, even while women continue to take on a bigger role in the workforce. Let’s look at the numbers:

In 2011, 83% of women and 65% of men “spent some time doing household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care or financial and other household management,” according to the report (which you can find here). The year earlier, the spread was 84% to 67%, respectively. Flash back to 2003 and the numbers were at 84% and 63%. So, sure, we’re seeing some change but none that I’d classify as particularly profound — especially when you look at how the workforce is divided today.

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Fewer than one in three children live in a home with a stay-at-home parent, according to a recent report from the Center For American Progress. And while the definition of “breadwinner” is up to liberal interpretation, 2010 data show that 60% of women in the U.S. are either the sole income-earner in their household — or they’re bringing in as much or more than their partners. When you factor in our “worth” financially, it’s a wonder that husband-and-wife pairs don’t have a stricter divvying up of household chores.

The BLS report doesn’t break down the division of married and single respondents — or the statistics on who has kids, and so on. But as the folks over at Feministing pointed out, it’s unlikely that ultra-clean single ladies tipped the scales on their own. There’s something going on here.

The breakdown of housework hours between men and women says something undeniable about heterosexual two-partner households: Women are still doing the bulk of the housework. Women may be breaking the glass ceiling at work but we haven’t “made it” at home.

Amy Tennery is the managing editor of The Jane Dough, which provides news and insight on women in the business world and political arena.

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