On October 12, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts are partnering to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers–including artists, critics, writers, and curators–to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph on a keyword associated with one of the summit themes: Inequities, Occupations, Making, or Tactics. This posting is by Nicholas McCutcheon, American Cyberculture student at UC Berkeley.
Gender inequality still exists because society conditions women to believe that “having it all” requires complete success in their professional and personal lives. “Having it all” refers to women’s ability to attain an interpersonal relationship, raise children, and have a successful career. However, “having it all” is currently out of reach because women are disadvantaged by the ideal-worker norm, the stresses of having to choose between having a career or family, and the unequal distribution of housework and childcare. These restrictions affect women of all income levels, albeit differently for each; professional women often sacrifice their careers, opting to take care of their families if they have enough financial stability to do so. However, middle and lower income women do not have the same choices, and must often sacrifice taking care of their children in order to work and support their families. The majority of women must split their energies unequally; devoting more time to either their career or their families, proving that “having it all” remains a difficult goal to achieve.
The “ideal-worker norm” dictates that an employee be supported by a spouse who takes care of the house and children, a situation that prevents women from “having it all.” This set up invariably benefits men at the expense of women, as the latter are expected to be the stay-at-home spouse and receive no such support if they are in the workforce. Thus, women are prevented from achieving complete gender equality in the workplace because of the “ideal-worker norm,” which “defines the committed worker as someone who works full time and full force for forty years straight,” a situation designed for the male sex (Williams 100). Women, in contrast, are still expected to fulfill the caretaker role and take time off for domestic needs such as pregnancy and ill family members, preventing them from conforming to the “ideal-worker norm.” With the current norm in place, women are forced to juggle full-time jobs and family care at home.
Due to the current definition of the “ideal-worker norm,” people who have care-giving responsibilities, especially women, find it difficult to “have it all.” As a result of those responsibilities, which include child-care, domestic chores, etc., more women choose careers that do not conflict with family needs. More women choose to be nurses than doctors, teachers and social workers, opposed to scientists and engineers. These types of careers are less time-consuming and more flexible, allowing women to instead spend their time doing housework and caring for their children. Having it all is often out of reach because the more they work, the less time they have to spend with their children, and more often than not, women will put their children first. Therefore, women, who tend to be responsible for the majority of childcare, cannot conform to the “ideal-worker norm,” and many will either completely sacrifice their careers or put career ambitions on hold.
Enacting policies that benefit women of every income level and changing the ideal-worker norm will prevent gender inequality.