The Gender Gap at Home
By admin October 17, 2016

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Women are globally triumphing in historically male-dominated areas. 2017 may begin with women at the helm of countries such as Germany, Liberia, Norway, South Korea, the UK, and the US; and running Fortune 500 companies and international institutions like General Motors, the IMF, YouTube, and possibly the United Nations. Slowly and incrementally, support is growing for women’s employment and public leadership.

If analyzed on a global scale, progresses towards gender inclusion in employment partly reflect macro-economic changes. Processes such deindustrialization, trade liberalization and de-mechanization have reduced the number of working class men’s jobs in rich countries along with their wages. In the US, for example, women’s employment increased as the median wages four young men declined from $41,000 in 1973, to $23,000 in 2013.

Similar changes can be registered in a developing country like Zambia, where, following the trade liberalization in the 1980s, families could no longer rely on male breadwinner due to factory closures, public sector contraction and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS. These changes convinced many to perceive women’s employment as advantageous.

Moreover, growth in sectors demanding stereotypically “feminine” characteristics has created a wealth of opportunities for females: an example is represented by health, education, public administration and financial services in Britain or by export-orientated manufacturing in Bangladesh.

With the exception of MENA region countries – where growth is concentrated in male-dominated sectors – resulting exposure to a critical mass of women performing socially valued, masculine roles appears to – slowly and incrementally – undermine gender stereotypes. Increasingly, people see women as equally competent and deserving of status, and through time, as productive members of the 21st century workforce.

However, even if gender inclusion is slowly and substantially achieving results in employment, the same thing cannot be said for homecare: in fact, men’s share of cooking, cleaning and caring for elderly relatives or for the house in general is still very low compared to women’s.


This is because exposure to men sharing care work remains limited. Studies have shown that beliefs of what men and women can and should do are highly influenced by past experience. For instance, men who cooked and cleaned in their youth (or saw others doing so) did not regard it as ‘women’s work’. Moreover, seeing men sharing care work also affects people’s norm perceptions about what others think and do. Women who had grown up sharing care work with brothers were commonly more optimistic about social change.

However, even today we rarely see men cooking, cleaning and caring for relatives. And due to the fact that care work is typically performed in private spaces, men that share housework are rarely seen by others. Supportive work-family policies remain fundamental, but uptake is conditional on norm perceptions: beliefs about what others think and do. Even if people become privately critical, this does not seem sufficient for behavioral change.

To amplify ongoing progress towards gender equality, we need to increase exposure to both women as professionals and men as caregivers. This can be done especially through social initiatives and movies; language could also help, and as the practice grows, a word to describe men who stay home to take care of relatives will need to appear. Operating to modify social norms will achieve more inclusive and sustainable societies in social spheres that – unlike employment – are more neglected but bear the same potential for social change.

For more Information:

More women are running the world, so why aren’t more men doing the dishes?

Parental Leave Policy and Gender Equality in Europe

Patriarchy, Power, and Pay: The Transformation of American Families, 1800 – 2015

Masculinity and the Stalled Revolution: How Gender Ideologies and Norms Shape Young Men’s Responses to Work–Family Policies


Thanks for sharing !

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