Acknowledging the value of women’s unpaid emotional and physical labor at home

acknowledging the value of womens unpaid emotional and physical labor at home - Acknowledging the value of women’s unpaid emotional and physical labor at home

By Patricia B. Mirasol 

“Many companies hire and manage their workforce with the assumption that someone is taking care of the family and home,” said Doris Magsaysay-Ho, president and chief executive officer of The Magsaysay Group of Companies, who had an a-ha moment while observing her daughter, Alex, juggle the demands of career and motherhood. 

“I witnessed her working hard to make meaningful contributions to the company and trying to merit her position while keeping one eye on the videocam to make sure her children were safe. I could feel the frustration she went through when she missed her son’s baseball home run or was home late for dinner,” she said during a recent webinar. And then Ms. Magsaysay-Ho realized all her colleagues shared the same struggle. 

Employers must realize, Ms. Magsaysay-Ho said, that members of the workforce have concerns—such as guiding children with remote learning, or finding new caregivers for grandparents—unrelated to their jobs. Employers also need to have an idea of how much support employees need since unaddressed concerns can lead to lower productivity.

Ms. Magsaysay-Ho observed that many of us receive management and leadership skills at work but have not been trained to leaders at home. “We all know how to conduct a company meeting. Do we know how to do a family meeting?,” she said. 

MULTIPLE-BURDENED FILIPINAS
In the Philippines, concepts such as “Ilaw ng tahanan” (referring to a mother’s role as the proverbial light of every family) weigh heavily on Filipinas, who have to pull double shifts as they work from home on top of doing the housework. 

Filipino working women are multiple-burdened, consultant and program content developer Maricel Pangilinan-Arenas said in the event titled “Empowering the Family: Leadership Principles from Business to Home,” organized by the workplace gender equality group Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE)

Apart from the aforementioned “double shift,” there’s also the necessity of commuting daily, helping children with homework, fulfilling partner expectations, supporting poor relatives, and paying bills to make ends meet. This is not exclusive to the Philippines.  

To champion a positive shift towards women at work, the value of unpaid emotional and physical labor must be appreciated. It is estimated that if women’s unpaid work were assigned a monetary value, it would constitute between 10% and 39%of GDP. Ms. Magsaysay-Ho voiced the notion of homemakers getting a tax-free salary. 

“Let’s get out of saying, ‘I only work at home.’” Ms. Pangilinan-Arenas added, “People don’t realize how much work gets into it. You suddenly realize, ‘I should be helping.’”

DIVIDING THE WORKLOAD
One way to make work-from-home arrangements succeed is accepting that no one can do it all. “You cannot be Darna all your life. Let us acknowledge that even Darna gets her rest,” said Sarah Lausa-Niguas, research head of People Management Association of the Philippines. 

She advised thinking clearly about the situation to determine which aspects of home life need support, and then dividing the workload among family members, each according to their own capacity. In her own family, for instance, her seven-year-old daughter gets up early every day in anticipation of doing the chore she chose: cooking rice. 

She also encouraged bayanihan (a term referring to the spirit of communal unity) in one’s neighborhood. Practicing bayanihan can be as simple as asking next-door neighbors if they need anything before doing a personal grocery run and offering to get them yourself. 

FAMILY DYNAMICS
To further its vision of women and men growing within organizations and championing culture change at work and at home, PBCWE co-developed a Family Leadership Program Module with the Magsaysay Group of Companies. 

It employs gender equality concepts and comes in three parts: personal vision; self care and energy management; and family vision. Among the activities are writing a personal vision statement, answering an energy management and self-care checklist, and participating in family exercises that expound on purpose and values. The objective is to help employees translate their personal visions into collective family strategies and create supportive and organized “home teams.” 

The module helps families learn how to divide tasks equitably, diminish harmful gender stereotypes, communicate effectively, and be each other’s best cheerleaders. “The work begins at home,” Ms. Pangilinan-Arcenas noted.

Companies and organizations interested in the module may send their inquiries to communications@pbcwe.com.

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