What are women worth?

There’s been a new study, reported in the Chronicle today, about how much a stay-at-home mother would earn if she were paid for all the jobs she does. It’s one of those stories that makes you sigh, “If only…” but doesn’t come to much more. A lot of the figures are questionable–do women really work 91 hours a week? Aren’t some of those hours being a “psychologist” meshed into the same time as the hours spent on “laundry” when a good “Let’s take the clothes out of the dryer and talk about it” session does double duty? Stay at home moms perfected the multitasking technique years ago, but it is only getting media attention now that men have started doing it. These days new technology allows women to use some of the same multitasking skills at the office while sitting through long, pointless meetings. They have learned how to order groceries on their laptops while the boss drones on.
What has changed as the pool of stay-at-home women has dwindled is the volunteer organizations that depended on their work are having a hard time. Women who used to organize election forums while their toddlers napped have gone back to paid employment and the large pool of unpaid labor that ran many of the country’s social and civic programs has dried up. What is the value of volunteer work that women have put in over the years? Someone ought to do a study of that. Now men and women are sharing volunteer work more equally–a move in the right direction. It would be worthwhile for some academics to look at how these volunteer hours contribute to the health, happiness and economy of the country.

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