Self-care has become a social media buzzword, a way for us all to remind each other to do nice things for ourselves and in doing so, give ourselves permission for that bubble bath we've been hankering after.
Taking time out of work and life to really relax is essential for every human being, but even more so for women in tech. Why? Because the strain they labour under every day is formidable - and in many cases, far greater than it is for men in similar jobs.
Not only do women in tech have to deal with the many microaggressions that come with being "a female software engineer" or whatever other unnecessarily gender-specific label they're given, with being referred to as "guys" ten times a day and constantly mistaken for the receptionist, statistics suggest they also get the bulk of the work at home and in their relationships.
Let's take relationships first. "Emotional labour" is another buzzword, and another task that's mostly left to women. A Harpers Bazaar article defining the concept went viral in 2017 after thousands of women saw a reflection of their own lives, and suddenly realised the huge extra burden they'd been taking on unawares. It's everything from making sure the kids have a wrapped present to take to their friend's party to tiptoeing around their male partner's feelings as the article's author has to when her husband wants to be effusively thanked for performatively cleaning the bathroom as a birthday present.
And then, of course, there's the housework. Another viral article, this time in the Guardian, recently called out the total lack of progress in balancing the load between the sexes. And it's not just loading the dishwasher - the major work involved in raising children still falls to women, too:
"More than fifty years after second-wave feminists began demanding gender equality in domestic life, there is an increasing amount of evidence that women still do much more housework, eldercare, and childcare than men. The stress and lack of leisure time that this causes not only diminishes women's quality of life, but also can have negative health effects - including risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes."
It gets worse. Caroline Criado-Perez's incredible book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men goes into depressing detail about the fact that once we do acquire heart problems as a result of all that extra work, we're more likely to die from it:
If a woman is in a car crash she is 17% more likely to die than a man because vehicles are not designed or safety tested with female bodies in mind. This must be changed.— Helen Goodman (@HelenGoodmanMP) June 12, 2019
Thank you @CCriadoPerez for highlighting this important data gap in your writing. pic.twitter.com/PiU6YDhX96
The British Heart Foundation points out that women are twice as likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack. Super.
So what does all this mean for women in tech? It means that not only are we working harder and longer to prove ourselves in a badly imbalanced industry, not only are we taking on the majority of the housework and emotional labour, we're not even properly treated when all of those things cause our bodies to malfunction.
And that means that self-care isn't just a nice-to-have for women in tech. It's essential - possibly even lifesaving.
So if you've been thinking about a leisurely soak in the bath with a good book and a glass of wine, you'd better get on with it. Doctor's orders.
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