Shaw: Women’s growth in the workforce is unfairly stunted

The impact of working around the clock after the normal hours of work are detrimental to all genders, but particularly to women who are put at a higher risk for diseases like cancer, as well as less monetary success and achievements of goals.


Anthony Vazquez

Protestors chant and direct fellow protestors during the Women’s March and Protest, in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

Nichole Shaw, Opinions Columnist

Industries and greedy professions — ones that deal with numbers and money, such as finance, law, and consulting — are stunting the growth of college-educated women in the workforce, according to a New York Times article. Despite their have ample experience and expertise, women’s promotion on the job continues to be unfairly curtailed by the demanding and exhaustive round-the-clock availability employees are expected to have now. Not only is shift work — working after the normal work hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — detrimental to women’s growth in the workforce, it also puts them at risk for breast cancer and is detrimental to the overall productivity of employees.

“Sleep deprivation is associated with a higher mortality risk and productivity losses at work,” according to a 2016 report by the Rand Corp., a nonprofit research organization funded by various government agencies and other foundations. Economic modeling of data from five countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental organization, “found that individuals who sleep fewer than six hours a night on average have a 13 percent higher mortality risk than people who sleep at least seven hours.”

Think about that for a minute. The increasing availability of workers to continue working after hours via technology and pressure to rise in the industry increases the chance that they will die earlier in life.

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On some level, I get it. I work in the journalism industry — I have no choice but to continuously stay updated in the 24-hour news cycle to accurately write my columns with a well-informed understanding of the very things I comment on. However, it shouldn’t come at the cost of insufficient sleep as a “public-health problem,” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, with more than one-third of American adults not getting enough sleep on a regular basis to properly function.

For women in particular, shift work plays a detrimental role in their lives. Not only is it classified as a carcinogen and increases the risk of breast cancer, according to the World Health Organization, but it unfairly forces women in traditional households to take a step back to ensure things run smoothly at home for children. Couples with children often grant men the privilege to continue the growth of their career, while women are coerced into flatlining their careers to meet their children’s needs.

Despite women having similar or better educational backgrounds, studies of women compared with men in the same industry show men excel monetarily later in their careers simply because of the toxic expectation that people work around the clock in this age of modernity and technological advancement.

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“There has always been a pay gap between mothers and fathers, but it would be 15 percent smaller today if the financial returns to long hours hadn’t increased,” according to the Times article. “Younger men say they want more equal partnerships and more involvement in family life, research shows. Women are outperforming men in school, but employers are losing out on their talents. And people increasingly say they are fed up with working so much.”

The workforce is not only sexist, it doesn’t allow women to progress in their careers even though they’re the most prepared coming out of college. The workforce needs to stop demanding that people of any gender work around the clock. The trend is unhealthy and disrupts any sort of personal or familial life a person can have.

“Women don’t step back from work because they have rich husbands,” Harvard economist Claudia Goldin said in an interview with the Times. “They have rich husbands because they step back from work.”

She couldn’t be more right.