Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century

Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century

New Barriers and Continuing Constraints

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette

Both women and men strive to achieve a work and family balance, but does this imply more or less equality? Does the persistence of gender and class inequalities refute the notion that lives are becoming more individualised? Leading international authorities document how gender inequalities are changing and how many inequalities of earlier eras are being eradicated. However, this book shows there are new barriers and constraints that are slowing progress in attaining a more egalitarian society. Taking the new global economy into account, the expert contributors to this book examine the conflicts between different types of feminisms, revise old debates about ‘equality’ and ‘difference’ in the gendered nature of work and care, and propose new and innovative policy solutions.

Chapter 8: Family, Class and Gender ‘Strategies’ in Mothers’ Employment and Childcare

Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, family and gender policy, labour policy


Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette INTRODUCTION: SOCIETAL INEQUALITIES: ORIGINS AND POLICIES As cross-national comparisons demonstrate, Britain is a highly unequal society, and indeed, class inequalities have considerably widened since the 1980s (Hills 2004). Sociologists with very different approaches to ‘class analysis’ would be in agreement on one important point – that the major ‘transmission belt’ for the reproduction of class inequalities is the family (Erikson and Goldthorpe 1993, Bourdieu 1996, Crompton 2006). However, there are important differences in emphasis. Whereas Goldthorpe (via the development of Rational Action Theory, RAT) has been emphatic that the ‘drivers’ of class reproduction via the educational system are entirely economic, Bourdieu and others influenced by his approach (such as Reay and Lucey 2003; Ball 2003) have also emphasised the parallel impact of cultural and social capital in the creation and reproduction of class habitus – ‘things to do or not to do, things to say or not to say, in relation to a probable upcoming future’ (Bourdieu, cited in Ball 2003: 16). In contrast to Goldthorpe’s approach, therefore, these authors emphasise that both economic and cultural factors are significant in the reproduction of class inequalities. In general, we would be in agreement with those who have emphasised the dual significance of economic and cultural factors in the reproduction of class inequalities (Crompton 2008). However, the question of the relative importance of one or the other factor is an important issue in policy debates. If class inequalities are seen as a ‘problem’ to be tackled, then the question...

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