Fifty years have passed since the passing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963, however the gap that continues to exist between men and women cannot simply be measured monetarily. The glass ceiling that plagued women in the workplace well into the second half of the twentieth century has diminished, though it has not disappeared completely. According to NPR, the commonly cited statistic is that women make only 77 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts. But in addition to this wage gap, there exists a distinct “leisure gap.”
Leisure time, as defined by the Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends Study, is “the residual time after subtracting time spent in paid work, housework, child care, commuting and personal care, while leisure time is more about time spent in activities that relate to relaxation.” According to the study, on average men and women spend almost equal time per week working — around 45 hours per week — although women do slightly more household work and men perform more paid work.
Despite similar working hours, however, men enjoy about five more hours of leisure time than women per week. Interestingly, this gap only increases as women raise families. While fathers tend to devote more time to paid work than women performing household chores and caring for children, married fathers still experience more time for leisure. According to the Pew study, “the gender gap in leisure is about five hours per week” and accounts for activities such as “TV time, playing games, sports and a series of other activities.” The implications of this leisure gap are far reaching given that leisure time is extremely important for an individual’s overall happiness and psychological well-being. Not only are women not making as much money as men to devote to leisure activities, but they also lag behind in terms of time spent relaxing.
This study sheds new light on the connotations associated with stay-at-home mothers. The life of a stay-at-home mother is not as stress-free as commonly assumed. The responsibility of taking care of children and a household may be as stressful of a task as showing up to a cubicle or an office to work each day. Spending time with one’s children is certainly a source of happiness, but stay-at-home mothers often find themselves confined to household chores that eat away at leisure time.
The takeaway is that the Equal Pay Act, fifty years in the making, can only go so far in diminishing the gap between male and female earnings. While male and female wages are slowly but surely becoming more equal, quality of life cannot simply be measured monetarily. Perhaps females themselves can only diminish this disparity; women must carve out the extra time to participate in leisure activities such as exercising, socializing and reading that give meaning to daily life.