Kaammini Chanrai, Gender Research and Policy Manager at Business in the Community takes an insightful look into the objectives of the Equal Lives project in partnership with Santander UK and shares a call to action to complete the survey.
Last week, on International Women’s Day, we were encouraged to #PressforProgress to achieve gender equality. At the current rate of change, gender parity is over 200 years away, making this something which is undoubtedly worth caring about. Gender pay gap reporting and the #MeToo campaign are certainly steps in the right direction to achieve this, but to truly combat these structural issues, we need to think about caring in a different way.
When we care, we invest our time, our energy, or our finances, but caring shows that we believe the person or thing we care for is important or necessary. Caring has many different forms, from volunteering in the local community, marching in solidarity with others or spending time with someone we care about.
Caring is the opposite of indifference but remains undervalued and underrated. It is taken for granted and the responsibility of care persistently falls on women. It is estimated that the economic value of unpaid care provided by women every year in the UK is £77 billion1 and, women carry out 60% more unpaid work (domestic labour) than men, with mothers providing 74% of total childcare time.2
To truly address gender inequality in the workplace, we must address gender inequality in society. That means looking at who caring responsibilities fall on and why. In short, we need to care about care.
This is why Business in the Community’s new Equal Lives project, in partnership with Santander UK, is so relevant. Most people's lives will include at least one episode of caring. In fact, one in nine employees are currently caring for someone who is older, disabled or seriously ill3, and 42% of carers are male. The number of carers is likely to increase by 3 million over the next 30 years, and the proportion of carers in the workforce is also likely to increase significantly. 4
Equal Lives aims to explore how men and women balance work and caring responsibilities by asking about the key barriers preventing men from taking on more caring responsibilities and the enablers which may support them. Through both qualitative and quantitative research, we are asking men and women about the values which drive and influence them at home and at work, which organisational policies and culture are effective in supporting them in successfully combining paid work and caring responsibilities, and what organisations need to do to show that they care.
Equal Lives will also look at the expectations of modern families. The heterosexual-nuclear-family-with-male-breadwinner model is increasingly becoming a minority: single parents, same-sex parents, adoptive parents, extended families, grandparent families, stepfamilies, and childless families are just some of the family structures that are now possible and indeed common in society.
You can show that you care by filling in our survey. We aim to reach over 10,000 men and women, which will help us highlight existing gaps in policy and practice and showcase successful policies and initiatives, in a report published in September 2018.
So, why should you care?
We know that sharing caring responsibilities benefits everyone. In a study conducted on Flexible Fathers, it was found that if men played an equal or main caregiver role in childcare, 47% of female partners had progressed their career since having had children.5Women are more likely to progress in the workplace, they are likely to earn more, and they are more likely be in leadership positions if men take on more caring responsibilities. When 49% of parents agree that their work-life balance is increasingly a source of stress,6 having more Equal Lives is likely to benefit everyone’s physical and mental health. And there are benefits for business too; whereas the current model risks both men and women leaving the workforce due to struggling to balance work and caring responsibilities, enabling men and women to have Equal Lives will mitigate this.
As a child, we are often told that sharing is caring, but perhaps we should have been taught about the impacts of sharing the caring too. That’s why the Equal Lives project is so important. The domino effect on society could be huge: from a more engaged and diverse workforce to a decrease in workplace discrimination, the potential impacts of having more equal lives are staggering. But we can’t find out what those effects could be without your help – so please share your story and complete the survey today.
 ‘Women Shoulder the Responsibility of ‘unpaid Work’ | Visual.ONS, accessed May 24, 2017, http://visual.ons.gov.uk/the-value-of-your-unpaid-work/
 Nadia Nagamootoo, “Flexible Fathers Research” (30% Club and Henley Business School, 2016), https://30percentclub.org/assets/uploads/UK/Third_Party_Reports/Avenir_F...(2).pdf.
 Working Families, “The Modern Families Index 2017.