Quartz shared Unicef data about the difference between the time girls and boys spend on household chores every week. Between ages 5 and 14, this adds up to 160 million hours. This is where the gender gap begins. As it turns out, the answer to “who does the cooking in your household” correlates with the amount of sexism in the household.
In their 2016 annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates shared similar data. And, rather than talk about sexism from a third person’s point of view, I thought I’d share my own experience after coming across this data for the first time in February this year.
I found Melinda Gates’ note to be very powerful. I thought of myself as someone who cared deeply about these matters. However, I hadn’t realized the sheer size of this problem. I had grown up raised by two very strong women. So, I was under no illusions about the strength and capability of women. Yet, I clearly wasn’t doing a good job of contributing toward reducing the inequality of time spent doing unpaid work.
I had been married for two and a half years when I read the letter – a year and a half of which counted as normal since it wasn’t spent “long distance.” And, while I helped out in the household by cleaning the dishes, doing the laundry and vacuuming, my share of household chores was still likely around 25%. After all, cooking was the single biggest household task and I didn’t do any of it. After four years largely traveling as a consultant, I was very grateful for the home cooked food. Also, I had promised my wife that I’d learn to cook right after graduate school. But, what good were promises if my track record hadn’t shown any action?
I believe that what we do defines who we are. So, I didn’t think the promises were any good. I was contributing to the sexism I considered abhorrent.
Anyway, a few months down the line, I’ve learnt to cook and do my best to contribute to our cooking for the week. I’d say there have been a few times in the past couple of months when my share of household chores were well above 50%. But, I’m painfully aware of all the behavioral economics research that points to us over-estimating our own contribution. :) So, I reckon we’re probably closer to 50% on average.
I’ll take that as strong improvement 8 months since reading Melinda Gates’ note. However, after not contributing enough for nearly two years of married life, I still have a long way to go. But, I guess the first step is being aware of that.
And, here’s to first steps.