Why are we not celebrating women’s extra efforts in the workplace and at home instead of treating them like victims?

The “extra labor” or “unseen labor” of women is a frequent topic of discussion. Whether praising their efforts or bemoaning their necessity, media outlets often recognize the extra work that women do, beyond their specific responsibilities in their jobs. They talk about the “second shift” for working women when caring for children and their homes, and they rail against misinformed “problems” like “Equal Pay Day” (which can be explained by the choices that women make throughout their education and careers). The BBC recently joined the mix with a new phrase, “‘The extra shift’: The unpaid emotional labour expected of women at work.”

The article explains that women carry many social workplace responsibilities—from party planning to team-building exercises—and that they often work in more emotionally taxing professions like teaching and nursing. This “emotional labor” is “the work that runs families and communities…It’s what creates a feeling of safety and connection, meaning and belonging within a company.” Women carry this emotional labor because they’ve been “policed” and taught to be “other-oriented” from a young age, the author argues.

In this day of female empowerment, it’s hard to take a claim such as “policing” girls to be other-oriented at face value. We should hold boys and girls to the same expectations in those areas. But while it’s important to stand up for oneself and take care of one’s needs, the “extra shift” that the article describes is something that I would celebrate, not describe as a burden on women. 

It’s true that women dominate professions that involve caregiving and emphasize personal interactions. But maybe it really is because they feel more fulfilled in those jobs than others. After all, it’s hard to explain such female dominance in jobs like teaching and nursing without some sort of natural inclination. And as for women carrying extra burdens in the office, many women enjoy and are naturally good at community-building efforts, and everyone around them is better for it. 

The problem that the BBC article won’t admit is that men and women are fundamentally different. Not every woman wants to do the extra work, and maybe some women who are in that camp need to learn to stand up for themselves and say “no.” 

Women’s home and work lives come in many varieties: from the single mothers who must work to support their families to those who choose to prioritize their careers and the stay-at-home mothers on the opposite side of the spectrum. But women are strong, capable, and more empowered than ever. We haven’t been forced into servitude either in the workplace or at home; we’ve chosen these paths as best for ourselves and our families.

Instead of acting like women are victims for making these extra efforts, we should encourage recognition of and gratitude for the “extra shift” and realize that a little appreciation goes a long way.