As the world pauses to celebrate and recognise women on International women’s day, I want to give recognition to women who find themselves, for whatever reason, doing so-called menial jobs to provide for themselves and their families.
I have no doubt that the work they do, keep the world turning. We just have to imagine what would happen if no one did the jobs they do.
What are the menial jobs?
According to the dictionary, menial jobs are those not requiring much skill and also lacking prestige. Other words similar to menial are unskilled, lowly, routine, boring, low-grade, low status, and dull.
Doesn’t sound good, does it?
Surely there must be reasons that so many women are employed in doing these jobs. But what are these jobs?
First of all, what are we talking when we say ‘low pay’?
According to the Office for National Statistics, low pay is defined as the value that is two-thirds of median hourly earnings (£12.78 x 2/3 = £8.52 in 2018)
In April 2018, there were 441,000 employees aged 16 years and over who were paid below the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage (1.6% of employee jobs).
Note that in April 2018, the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates were increased by approximately 4.4%!
So there were, according to official documentation, over four hundred and forty thousand people working and being paid less than what the government recommends.
So there were (and still are) thousands of women doing menial jobs and being paid less than the minimum wage.
Types of menial jobs that women do
If we are to go by the dictionary definition, I am sure you can list dozens of these jobs. Let’s give it a go and see:
- Domestic worker
- Bin man (woman)
- Factory worker
- Fruit/vegetable picker
- Call centre worker
- Factory worker
Do you rely on any of these workers? Why are they doing these jobs that we are so reliant on?
Reasons to take a menial job
Money makes the world go ‘round. Women run more than half of the households in the UK so it goes without saying that they need the jobs that will give them the chance to do what they can for their families.
I tried to think of reasons they may take menial jobs, some that pay less than the minimum wage, and I could figure out a few reasons:
- Overqualified but unable to find suitable work
- Some women find themselves in debt and so do these jobs (even part-time) to get out of debt
- Some women are not satisfied to just stay home and want to show their financial worth
- To get a foot in the door (in the hope of future promotion)
- To build their CVs
- To learn/improve English
- To be gainfully employed while unqualified
- Too young for ‘better jobs’
- Some take these jobs in addition to their main job to make extra money or just to make ends meet.
When I think of these women and the jobs they do, the more I think that we really owe them a debt of gratitude! Now just stop and think about it! What would happen if everyone, including you and I, decided that these jobs were below us and we would not do them!
I really want to challenge myself and so I just did a double take and revisited those menial jobs again, and honestly, I would not feel comfortable to say I did any of these to make a living! I mean, I don’t mind doing some of them for myself at home, but I would really feel embarrassed to say that is my job. So I’ve made a pledge to myself that I would do my utmost to not look down on these women or treat them unfairly in any way. I don’t normally look down on people anyway so perhaps what I want to say is that I intend to treat these women who do menial jobs, in a good way.
So as we look to celebrate International Women’s day this year, and most look to celebrate larger than life phenomenal women who have made vast contributions to life, let’s think about these other women and find ways to value and celebrate their worth. ‘What can I do?’ I hear you ask. Well, here are some ideas of ways you can do Random Acts of Frugal Kindness. I encourage you to choose some ideas from here or of course, feel free to honour them in your own special way.
- Acknowledge their presence! So often we pass them back and forth without even noticing that they are there! How rude. I know sometimes they have their heads down and are grinding away but I’m sure they would like some human interaction every now and again.
- Buy a bunch of flowers and treat that woman who cleans your office. Or better yet, pick them a bunch. They might appreciate it more. They would have known that you actually thought of them!
- How about agreeing to keep your corner of the world (be it home or work) a little tidier to lessen the load on someone else?
- Take the time out to find out about them and their life. What made them go into their line of work? What are their aspirations? Is there any way that you can help them achieve even the first notch to make a move?
- Simple things like making a hot drink for the office help go some way to making them feel special.
- Find out when their birthday is. Give them a card, even a handmade one.
- What about looking them in the eye one day and just saying ‘’the work that you do every day is really appreciated and we want to thank you.’
- Invite them to take their lunch break the same time as you every now and again, and eat lunch together.
- Bring them something home baked, something simple like a flapjack or a slice of cake is a good idea.
- Cheer them up/surprise them with a basic acrostic poem made with their name. That would certainly please them I am sure.
Just think, these women do these menial jobs for others, and no doubt, have to carry on doing this work at home too!
This list is by no means exhaustive. And I am sure you can think of a myriad of ways to treat nicely those women in your sphere who make a contribution no matter how menial. Imagine what life would be like if those menial jobs remain undone. Just imagine: mess everywhere is just the start of it, and the stench! So let’s do what we can to show these women some appreciation not only on International Women’s Day but throughout the year.
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