by Rev. Harriet Bradley
I am a woman of many skills and trades — I have been a school teacher, and served on the board of my school district’s union. I am a board member of 9to5 Atlanta. I am a Reverend, and like the Apostle Paul, who was a tentmaker to supplement his ministry income, nine years ago the Lord placed me in a job as a home caregiver. I was in total shock when I found out that, in such an important role as caregiver, I would only be making minimum wage, and receive no benefits.
I quickly discovered that there was an attitude that my work was menial and the value of it minimal. We don’t tend to highly value the work that is traditionally done by women. In fact, we will pay someone more to take of our cars than we will pay them to take care of our children or elderly parents.
I have been with an agency for over eight years and I am making the same minimum rate as when I started with them. No raises at all! I have no sick days or vacation days. As a caregiver I must keep my first aid training, CPR certification and TB tests current, all of which I have to pay for myself.
Women are more than twice as likely as men to work in occupations with poverty wages.1 Even when occupations require the same skill level, the male-dominated fields have higher median wages than the female-dominated fields.2 Our society does not properly value the work that women do — even when it is as crucial as caring for our loved ones. As a home caregiver, I am not just providing services like cooking, dressing the client, or cleaning as “simple chores.” These services help the client to maintain a normal life and remain in their own home, even with some disabilities. Not to mention that the client is getting personal contact with a person who brings joy and laughter to them. That in itself is priceless.
Being a caregiver not only provides services for the clients but it helps the entire family to live a normal and productive life. Now it is time for the caregivers’ pay to be increased so that their quality of life will improve also. It’s time to appreciate and value the vital work that women do, and pay them fairly for it.
Originally published at 9to5.org.