An issue that I strongly believe must be factored into any conversation about women and work, is recognition of the time and services women devote to caregiving.
At some period during a woman’s lifetime, she will be called upon to help a family member who requires caregiving services. Whether it is in the role of daughter, mother, wife, aunt, or niece – women invariably are there to fill the gap when others are in need of assistance. Regardless of whether they have jobs or professional commitments, the task usually falls to the females in the family circle.
Those in the sandwich generation are doubly hit. When a woman gives up her time and earning power to supply services that others are paid for, she loses the annual revenue that is factored into her Social Security benefits statistics.
At the 2007 Freedom on Our Own Terms conference presented by the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, Gloria Steinem addressed the need for a “redefinition of work.” She stated that caregiving is 30% of productive labor, and emphasized that a monetary value had to be attributed to the unpaid work that women deliver to society. This would make it viable, and thereby recognized via the tax code.
This topic needs to be taken to the legislative level, and women have to advocate for action from their elected officials. It’s not going to get done otherwise.