So much of the work a person does every day falls outside the scope of a job description, and that work can take a major toll on one’s well-being. How do we ensure that all labor is accounted for?

GHJ’s Women’s Empowerment Cohort hosted a discussion about emotional labor with guest speaker Regina Lark, Ph.D. CPO, an author, business owner and board-certified professional organizer. This discussion covered how household labor became known as “women’s work” and the pervasive ways that gender roles continue to shape the division of labor in many households.

Before joining GHJ, I worked in the trucking industry. In this male-dominated industry, those unspoken lines between gender were more visible. Even though women were outnumbered in the office, they were often the first to volunteer to plan office parties, take notes during a team meeting or send around a card for everyone to sign when a birthday came up. These tasks were rarely associated with a job description and were often unappreciated.

So many tasks go unnoticed in one’s daily life, whether in the office or at home. In order to achieve greater understanding of coworkers, loved ones and ourselves, the first step is to put labor in the correct context.


When talking about work-life balance, the “life” part of the equation often conjures the image of rest and relaxation. But often, especially for women, the time spent outside of the office is still work.

Whether it is taking care of family, buying groceries for the week or simply completing chores required to keep a household running, this invisible labor exists and often goes unacknowledged. During COVID-related lockdowns, many parents even took on the role of teacher while their children attended school virtually.

Despite their growing workload, many women tend to downplay the work, especially invisible labor, they do. This may stem from not wanting to appear difficult. However, in doing so, their work goes unnoticed and undervalued. At the same time, studies show that men tend to overvalue the work they do.

In her own experience, Regina has spoken to men who believe the work done at home is equally divided. However, when tasked to write down the work they do and compare it with their partners, a major disparity exists.

“When we make a bed or do the dishes, there is an immediate visual impact, and it is easier to notice and appreciate these contributions to the household chores,” noted Christina Fung, a member of GHJ’s Women’s Empowerment Cohort. “But many tasks — such as paying the bills, making doctor’s appointments and sending birthday cards — have no immediate observable impact. Each of these tasks is important, but we do not necessarily notice and acknowledge them equally.”

The first step to addressing this inequity is to acknowledge it exists. It is important to account for the work that is done in order to identify any inequity.


One way to ensure that work is fairly valued is to reframe it. Managing a successful household requires time management, organization, budgeting, emotional management and the ability to prioritize tasks. These same skills are highly valued in business leaders.

“During Regina’s presentation, she pointed out how housework is normally not seen as work by most people,” added GHJ’s Women’s Empowerment Cohort Leader Lizbeth Nevarez. She noted that renaming housework to home management is a simple change that makes a big impact. “In reality, home management is a dedicated full-time job. If you were to replace someone to do that similar job it would be at least $100K a year to pay someone. It is up to us all to continue to change the narrative of home management and the emotional burden that most women take on.”


Once the work is recognized and properly valued, the next step is finding a division of labor that works for all members of the household. In order to achieve equity, people must be honest and transparent about the work that needs to get done and work together to ensure that work is fairly divided.

“If you feel frustrated about unbalanced responsibilities in the household, or underappreciated for your contributions, open a dialogue with your partner,” Christina said. “Suffering in silence will only build resentment over time, so it is best to bring it out into the open.”

In a household, chores are often split up according to skill level. For example, whoever is the better cook may be responsible for making dinner at night. However, this can contribute to inequity, where one partner is fully responsible for all child rearing because they have more experience, and by taking on all of those duties, the other partner never gains experience.

A better method to consider is radical delegation. Instead of assigning all tasks according to whoever can do it best, split the work equitably and realize that not everything has to be done perfectly. As an example, Regina noted, there is more than one way to load a dishwasher.


Although Regina’s presentation focused on the labor done at home, many of these principles can be applied to any company. All offices have their own set of unnoticed tasks that are required to keep an operation running, but volunteering one’s time to do those tasks does not gain any recognition.

In past jobs, I saw how the few women around me were tasked with that unrecognized labor — whether it was making a lunch reservation for a team of mostly men or serving as the team’s point of contact for new hires or being asked to smooth things over with a difficult client or vendor.

McKinsey’s annual Women in the Workplace survey noted that women leaders continue to do more than their male counterparts to support employee well-being and foster diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) — initiatives that make a major impact on employee satisfaction but are often not formally rewarded in most companies.

“In a work setting, women leaders often take on the responsibility of initiatives that support the well-being of employees and create inclusion in the workplace,” Lizbeth said. “It is important that men be allies in the workplace and continue to recognize the efforts of women leaders.”

Rather than focusing on an equal division of labor, consider building an equitable division of labor that supports those who need it most. Regina called attention to the Marshall Plan for Moms, an organization that advocates for affordable childcare, paid family leave and other initiatives that support women in the workplace. A portion of all proceeds from Regina’s book Emotional Labor: Why a Woman’s Work is Never Done and What to Do About It goes to this national campaign.

Ultimately, people must acknowledge what is normally unspoken and keep the conversation open. In the same way that people must confront their unconscious biases to achieve inclusivity, it is also important to notice the work that often goes unnoticed and give credit where it is due.

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Roselynne Reyes

Roselynne Reyes has seven years of marketing and communications experience. She enjoys working with subject matter experts to deliver interesting, engaging content.​ At GHJ, Roselynne works with the Firm’s niche leaders to develop relevant articles. She produces GHJ’s Business Disruption and…Learn More