Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it.
The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
• Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
• Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
COVID-19 vs. Caregiver Burnout: Is There a Solution?
I am a mother of two, I work full-time, and I care for my elderly father. Before COVID-19, balancing caretaking responsibilities with my job was difficult. Now it’s almost impossible. How can I tell my supervisor that I need support without putting my professional ambitions (or economic security) on the line?
You’re not alone. The burden of dual-caregiving responsibility—caring for an elderly parent and growing children—has become exceptionally heavy for women. (Here’s a great explainer on the economics of dual-caregiving responsibility.) The pressure is palpable, and you’re not the only one who feels it. Researchers have picked up on it too:
“By most objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men.”
- The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, published by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
So here’s the good news. COVID-19 has done a fabulous job of exposing the realities of being a dual caregiver (caring for an elderly parent plus raising children) and a working parent. It’s also done a fabulous job of accelerating the adoption of flexible work-from-home arrangements.
This delicate moment in history is an opportunity to create groundswell support for gender equity in the workplace. Business leaders, many of them, are listening.
When I fought for equitable pay (twice), I came to my leaders equipped with the data. I recommend you do the same when asking for support. Present the business case for why employers should provide equitable caretaking policies.
Here are some data points to consider using:
• Almost 90% of people are less likely to want to work for a company that treats employees poorly during this crisis.
• 78% of working fathers and mothers said caring for family members during COVID-19 has been “somewhat to extremely difficult.”
• Women are more likely to be caregivers than men (55% of women versus 45% of men) and take on the majority of household caregiving duties (more than 21 hours per week).
• During the Great Recession, the experience of key employee groups such as women and people of color influenced whether an organization "flatlined, merely survived, or thrived." (Positive experience correlated with better company performance.)
Finally, acknowledge that taking a stand for gender equity is the brave choice. And for businesses that embrace gender equity now, they can come out of this crisis faster and stronger.
P.S. You may find the recommendations at the bottom of this resource helpful in shaping equitable caregiver policies.
These Q&A roundups can be delivered directly to you—a week before I publish them here.
(All you need is an email address.)