By Powerbitches founder & CEO, Rachel Hills
Today’s blog post feel dangerously off-brand. As we say on our homepage (and everywhere else), “we believe that work matters,” after all.
But I’ve been thinking about an article I read in last weekend’s New York Times, about how increasingly long hours in professions like finance, law, and consulting have impacted women’s ability to advance at work.
The crux of the article is that as more women have earned degrees, the demands of the jobs that require those degrees have grown, stretching from 40 to 60 hours a week or more. The result is that, intentionally or not, when high-earning professional couples have kids one person will take the 60-hour a week, multi-hundred-thousand-dollar-a-year job, and the other will take a 20-, 30- or 40-hour a week, moderately paying job.
Because it’s close to impossible for one person to work more than 60 or 80 hours a week and maintain a life outside of work, let alone two. And in heterosexual couples, surprise surprise, this often ends up arranging itself as the man working the 60-hour a week job and the woman working the more reasonable job that allows her to hold the front at home.
I found the article fascinating: not just from a “women’s” perspective, but from an all people perspective.
There are some jobs that require you to work around the clock. Running a country. Working on a campaign to help someone get elected to run a country. Putting the final touches on your book or film before you send it out into the world. Launching a start-up. (Although maybe we even need to rethink that last one. I run two businesses, and while I’m sure I’d get more done if I dedicated 80 hours a week to the task, I’m also pretty fucking productive with 30. More productive than I was when I worked 50 hours a week, even.)
But there is something wrong with a work culture that demands this kind of total dedication as a default. It doesn’t just make it difficult to raise a family. It makes it difficult to have friends, or maintain relationships of any kind. It makes it difficult to look after your health, to make time to go to the post office, or do anything in life outside of work that brings you joy.
It’s not a stretch to link this conversation to our upcoming Feminist Entrepreneurs roundtable on May 13, which is not just about connecting people bringing to life powerful products, ideas, and organizations that make the world a more gender-equitable place, but about incorporating feminist ideas and values into the way we run those businesses and organizations. Designing jobs so that the people we work with can have lives outside of work - and paying them accordingly - is an integral part of that.
And for those of us who are deeply in love with our work, it’s worth reflecting on how these trends play out in our own lives.
There will be seasons when whatever we’re working to bring in the world demands our total focus and dedication. But are we allowing that to become all the time? And when we do, what is the cost?