If time is money, women are poor

A woman working at her rice field in Karongi district. In Rwanda it is estimated that rural women spend at least 5 hours a day on unpaid care work compared to 1.5 hours for men.

Believe it or not, time is actually a more valuable resource than money. You cannot create more than 24 hours in a day, nor can you create more than 365 days in a year.

When it comes to women advancing in their careers and competing with men as they climb up the career ladder, there is more than the gender pay gap.


There is also a time gap or what we call women’s “time poverty”. When it comes to allocating these precious hours, women bear the brunt of unpaid care work in the household.


Whether you are farming upcountry or the Managing Director of a large company, certain tasks just end up on your plate. If we want to level the playing field, let’s look at women’s time.


Rwanda leading the game

When it comes to empowering women in the workplace, we have come a long way – especially in Rwanda. One glance at Rwanda’s Parliament or Cabinet will confirm this.

When it comes to women owning land and property, again, Rwanda is ahead of the game.

Besides the mentioned leadership roles in the executive and legislative spheres, in public institutions women are well-represented up until the highest levels too.

The private sector is getting increasingly aware of the public sector’s lead in this area and taking important steps to follow suit, for example, by joining efforts with the Career Women’s Network Kigali.

Yet across the world, the home situation is lagging behind.

In Rwanda it is estimated that rural women spend at least 5 hours a day on unpaid care work compared to 1.5 hours for men.

These statistics confirm the lived experience of working women: taking a leave of absence to take children to the doctor’s office or add on additional hours for supporting children’s homework, overseeing household duties and managing the family calendar.

Besides the actual activities, there is also the organization: ranging from school pickups, planning family visits and events, to ensuring birthday gifts and parties are catered for. The latter we call “mental load” which is again dis-proportionally the burden of women.

The myth of multitasking women

For a long time, we have been sold the myth that somehow through our biology we women are more adept at multitasking.

More is expected of us, performing both at work and at home, looking after children and staying positive and healthy at the same time. It should come as no surprise that burnout is a real issue many career women face.

Recent research points out that multitasking is a myth – it is not good for anyone, men and women alike.

It does not allow us to focus and produce superior work and simply makes us less productive and more frustrated. So if we cannot multitask, how can we cope?

The solution lies in prioritization and dropping some tasks, in letting go of perfection and calling in help – most importantly, men in the household should take on more household and caring tasks.

If we really want to empower women and get to gender parity at the level of the C-suite, we also need gender parity at home.

We need acceptance of society and brave men to take on a bigger share of the housework and the child-rearing tasks and we need tolerant and trusting women to delegate more.

We need for it to be okay for employers that men leave work early to pick up their children or that men take leave of absence to take their child to the doctor’s office or to care for a sick relative. For first movers the path will not be smooth, but the fruits of a more equal partnership at work and at home will be worth the effort.

Free time

Looking at the above solution or contemplating your own agenda, you might be tempted to scratch self-care and socializing from your schedule altogether, and focus on work and family.

This is a solution that many working women opt for, but that does not always lead to the expected results.

It makes total sense and yet it does not. Why?

Because a career is not a linear process – it is not the more hours or effort you put into it, the higher the return. That works up until a certain point, but not further.

When it comes to moving from a supervisor or first-line management role to the c-suite of a large company, more is involved.

You need to be visible. People need to know you and vouch for you. Without spending time on networking, socializing or simply building professional relationships, how are people going to know you well enough to speak favorably on your behalf?

Secondly, for creative and intellectual tasks and roles, a certain way of thinking is needed.

This creative thinking is often unlocked during mind wandering. That is why you may have your most creative ideas under the shower or during a walk. If you allow yourself no time to “waste”, to be completely free to use your time for whatever seemingly insignificant purpose you choose, you limit those moments for creative insight, for reflection and innovation.

A revolution has taken place on the work floor, it is time to take it further: all the way to the boardroom… and all the way back home!

The writer is a women’s empowerment champion, a connector and a skills development enthusiast.

Read more on the Weekender.

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