As the CEO of a startup and mother of four girls, I am often met with the well-meant and unassuming question -- "How do you do it all?"
Of course, "all" here includes the day-to-day sprint of running a company in a high-growth phase, doing bedtime when your 4- and 3-year-old share a room (and you have two other daughters under 2), trying to fit in exercise, keeping a house in some state of tidy and everything in between.
I will gladly share my secret. I do not "do it all" -- and creating the illusion that I do, I believe, is perpetuating a harmful societal pressure that many women feel every day. I do as much as I can, share childcare and house management responsibilities with my husband (and our nanny, our dog walker... you get the picture) as evenly as possible and, most important, reject the notion that I should feel guilty for not doing more than I'm physically able to.
Though this is the intention, it doesn't always pan out so neatly for us -- and according to the recently published, annual "American Time Use Survey" by the Department of Labor, it doesn't add up so evenly for the rest of America.
Second-shift realities for women.
This year's survey concludes that while employed men worked 34 minutes more per day than employed women in 2018, women spent 130 minutes daily on household chores, compared to men's 82 minutes, and 95 minutes providing physical care (e.g., bathing or feeding) for other family members, including children -- a shocking contrast to men's daily average of 53 minutes.
This number should not surprise us. We've known for a long time that women taking on full-time jobs outside the home does not necessarily mean their partners are picking up the slack at home. As sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild famously pointed out in the late 1980s, a working woman's "second shift" begins once she has clocked out of her day job and returned to the home.
Women drive the majority of purchasing.
As disheartening as this reality is, there's another important finding in this study that we're paying less attention to:
Women, on the daily, spend more time than men making economic decisions for their families -- from consumer goods to services. Women hold crucial purchasing power. In fact, Women drive 70-80 percent of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.
Why then, if women regularly make the bulk of purchasing decisions for their families and control such an enormous portion of the wealth in America, do at most 4 percent of venture capital dollars go toward women-founded businesses? Why, again, is the average loan for women-owned businesses 31 percent less than for male-owned businesses?
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it's no secret products and services will naturally skew to meet the needs of those who create them. And if the business ideas that regularly receive funding are primarily mens', then imagine the market gaps in consumer needs yet to fill -- and the opportunity for profit.
How to meet women's demands.
We need to create products with women in mind, and the best-equipped to do that are women. From venture capital dollars to female-founded companies to gender diversity in boardrooms and leadership -- this is how we create products and services that meet the needs of those actually clicking the purchase button.
So, let's create an economy where suppliers and those making the demands are fair representations of the society they cater to. If you're an investor, I ask you this: how are you diversifying your portfolio to fund women-led ventures? If you're a business owner or hiring manager, are you bringing on a diverse collection of employees to reach a diversity of consumers? If you're a consumer, are you intentional with your dollars and choosing to spend on companies that actually meet your needs?
To reiterate a point I like to make when discussing gender equity in the workplace: it's not just ethical -- it's good for the bottom line.