Claire Cain Miller’s recent viral article about “greedy work” and its effect on women’s careers put into words what many women already know from disheartening experience. The NY Times reporter showed in “Women Did Everything Right: Then Work got Greedy” how jobs have morphed into a monstrous octopus, squeezing the life out of family and leisure time. As parenting became more demanding (see my earlier article about this phenomenon), something had to give. For reasons that we’ll be arguing about till kingdom come, that something has generally been women’s work hours.
Work has become something far more than a job for the educated class.
Clearly, globalization is a major culprit in work’s inflationary spiral. Lawyers working on multi-million-dollar deals need to respond to emails from German clients at 6:00 AM; traders have to be available to watch Japanese markets as midnight comes and goes. Technology is the other obvious villain: emails, texting, and slack have taken on the role of a worker’s digital ball and chain.
There is a major upside to all this—the more you work, the fatter the paycheck. Miller points out that the most work-intensive jobs, those in finance, law, and consulting, are also the ones that pay the most. But having two parents, both in greedy jobs, is more than many families can stand. If one parent in a highly-educated couple might have to review a contract last minute before a fast-approaching deadline, it makes sense to have the other at home to put ketchup on the chicken fingers. The former is usually Dad, the latter Mom. In other words, Miller concludes, greedy work pushes men and women into reverting to traditional gender roles.
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