International Women’s Day 2023: Embracing Equity in Caregiving


Written by Musqan Butt

When you think of a caregiver, who do you think of? The chances are higher that the first person who comes to your mind is probably your mum, maybe your grandmother, or your sister. Chances are lower, however, that you thought of your father, grandfather or brother. Why is this the case?

The caregiving role is very vast and includes both formal and informal care as well as both paid and unpaid work. It might not come as a surprise that the majority of caregivers around the world are women despite men also being involved in the caregiving profession. Women spend 50% more time providing care as compared to men[1] and even in relationships where both partners are working women are more likely to spend extra time caregiving compared to their male partners.

So, why is it that women shoulder the caregiving role much more than men? If you are a woman you probably already know one of the answers to this question. Expectations! One of the reasons why women are more likely to be found within the caregiving profession or to be informal caregivers is because of societal and cultural expectations. Women and men internalize gender norms constructed by society and culture and come to view caregiving as “women’s work”. In African societies, women are raised to take on more domestic roles as compared to men. Women are expected to cook, clean, raise children, care for their husbands, etc. So, when it comes to the caregiving role they just “naturally” match the qualities required of a caregiver.

Another reason why women are more likely to be caregivers than men is because of attachment. Women are regarded as being able to develop more emotional connections with the people around them as compared to men. This then creates a sense of obligation, particularly within the context of family. Women appear to have more concern about the people they care for and are therefore seen as better fits in terms of the caregiving role. After all, who better to care for you than someone who understands you? In reality, though, there is no difference between men and women in terms of concern and their ability to take on the caregiving role.

The employment sector also pushes women towards the caregiving role more as compared to other professions. Therefore, women opt for careers where there is more demand for their services. For example, nursing is regarded as more of a female profession as compared to male and thus women find themselves in positions like these more often than men. Because there is so much competition in the workplace and women are less likely to acquire positions compared to men (even when they have the same qualifications) means that women are more likely to stay at home instead of working. A study found that compared to men with the same qualifications, women are often called for interviews 30% less frequently [2]. This is then misconstrued as them having more “free time” to take on the caregiving role because the man is too busy at work, they can’t help it, now can they? The gender gap within the workforce then widens the gender gap in caregiving [3].

Men are less likely to be caregivers than women because of the differences between how they approach care work, the stresses that may come with it and how they approach these stressors. It has been suggested that gender inequalities result from female caregivers being more exposed to stressors associated with caregiving and having varying levels of social support to manage these demands [4]. When men suddenly find themselves in the caregiving position, they are quick to find alternative ways of dealing with the situation. This might include them hiring professional caregivers to do the work for them. Surprise, surprise! These caregivers turn out to be women. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to step down from other roles in their life to take on their caregiving duties. Ultimately this means that a majority of caregivers turn out to be women.

What does this mean for women?

Although in recent years men have taken on a more active role in caregiving than in the past, there is still a large disparity. Women are still the primary ones responsible for these duties, leaving them more vulnerable to role strain and role conflict than men.

Role conflict is when an individual experiences high levels of stress caused by the demands of various roles. The person may find it difficult to meet the expectations and obligations of their different roles and this might eventually lead them to feel overwhelmed or experience burnout. For example, a woman could be a mother, wife, daughter, worker, and caregiver all at the same time. Each of these titles comes with its responsibilities. One of these roles might require more of her time and effort compared to the others, maybe her work for example, and this would then interfere with how well she can manage the other roles in her life.

As a result of role conflict, women are not able to perform their various duties and responsibilities well as compared to if they had fewer roles. They are likely to feel overwhelmed when trying to manage the various demands they must meet, and this might hinder their capacity to carry out any of their roles effectively.

Role strain on the other hand is when a person experiences stress caused by the demands of a single role. The duties associated with this role might be overwhelming and might require a lot of the individual’s time and energy. This can lead to anxiety and fatigue. Women might experience role strain when caregiving because a majority of the time the duties and responsibilities fall on them alone. They must take care of the ill person’s needs, schedule doctors’ appointments, be meticulous when giving medication, cook, clean, tend to visitors, and the list goes on. They rarely receive any form of support from others around them and this might lead them to experience burnout. In the process of things, they come to neglect themselves and their own needs because they are so engrossed in caring for the ill person and ultimately, their own mental and physical health deteriorates. They then become a second patient who goes largely unseen.

What can be done?

As mentioned earlier, women who are caregivers rarely receive support from others around them. If you are a woman who is a caregiver, or you know a caregiver who might be struggling you can support them and yourself by reaching out to us.

At Suruvi-Care for Caregivers, we understand the unique challenges faced by caregivers and have crafted our services to meet their needs. We provide support services for caregivers across the country, such as therapy and counselling sessions. These can be individual or group-based sessions, which offer an “emotional check-up”. Here, our clients are allowed to explore and develop strategies to manage their feelings. Unfortunately, many female caregivers neglect their own health to focus on the person they are caring for. This can eventually lead to a deterioration of their own well-being.

With this balance, caregivers can more effectively manage their role, keeping both their care recipients and them safe. By supporting one another, we can achieve incredible things!





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