America’s work-first culture, while damaging to all who endure it, is particularly harmful to women.
Women are notably penalized for having children during their career, and are often taken out of the running for promotions or raises due to the time missed from work.
“Mothers in the workforce experience additional disadvantage compared to women who are not mothers, including a per-child wage penalty. The ‘motherhood penalty’ may account for a significant proportion of the gender gap in pay, as the pay gap between mothers and non-mothers could in fact be larger than the pay gap between men and women,” according to Harvard’s Gender Action Portal.
What does that have to do with work-life balance?
Well, as they say, it takes two to tango — in many cases, a child has two parents, so why are mothers the primary workplace victims of child rearing? It is because stereotypical gender roles dictate that fathers do not leave their jobs in the wake of having a child.
The reasons that fathers remain at their companies after having a child are diverse, and not all of them are true in every case. A big part of it is the aforementioned work-life balance, with some men not knowing when to take their foot off the pedal. Surely a portion of it is systematic, patriarchal sexism combined with heteronormativity which dictates the man should be the breadwinner and the woman the child-raiser.
But, the main cause is financial. Most households can not afford to lose one of their incomes, let alone both.
Due to America’s hyper-capitalist, work-obsessed narrative of the American spirit, individualism has been conflated with an every-person-for-themselves philosophy that provides no help. And women are harmed the most as, coupled with sexist gender roles, America’s infatuation with work placates new fathers back in the office and new mothers at home.
Resultantly, men, who seldom take time off from work for their children, rise faster in the workplace, earning promotions and raises while women are raising children — a burden of a job itself.
American values are contradictory in that sense. The nation's core principles include espousing the importance of family, individualism, patriotism and equality.
How can America say it values the family while being one of the only developed countries to not provide paid family leave? (We have discussed this issue in editorials prior). How can America say it values equality while the lack of a paid family leave policy leaves women unequal in the workplace, which further creates inequality for minority and low-income women?
How can America claim to place importance on individualism, while it trails other developed nations in mobility? How can it look itself in the mirror, knowing that many individuals are fiscally handicapped, and continue to claim that each separate person can rise with hard work? Again, how can it claim equality while its individualism simultaneously harms women via a male-obsession with hard work? This same lack of mobility forces men back into the workplace after childbirth, and causes all of the inequities outlined earlier in this article.
Is it patriotic to leave your fellow American in the dust of sexism and poverty because you buy into a false, predatory American ideal of hard work? It is this same propagandized narrative that tricks people into believing that low taxes and a lack of social programs will somehow cradle them to the top, when in reality, it merely helps corporations and the uber-rich, who are always looking to take advantage.
With the absolute lack of help provided by the American government, which toys around with more than $1 trillion annually on useless expenditures designed to help corporate interests, people cannot afford to tip their work-life balance — a term that pathetically exists — toward life.
What happens, for example, if a relative is seriously ill? Naturally, you want to take time off to care for them. You cannot. You have no choice but to continue working. If you leave work, you cannot pay your bills.
And, to no surprise, caregiving is a burden that also tends to fall on women. Once again, women are victims of America's untamed, capitalistic, incredibly poor work-life balance.
The solution to this is to vote in politicians that will curb the power of big corporations and put tax dollars back into the pockets of the lower and working classes, as well as programs that support families.
Policies such as paid family leave, universal healthcare, paid caregiving and cheaper college would all contribute to easing the burden of work off of American shoulders.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.