Women and Employment
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Women and Employment

Changing Lives and New Challenges

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi

How is women’s employment shaped by family and domestic responsibilities? This book, written by leading experts in the field, examines twenty-five years of change in women’s employment and addresses the challenges facing women today.
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Chapter 6: Changing Gender Role Attitudes

Jacqueline Scott


1 Jacqueline Scott In their introduction to the 1980 Women and Employment Survey, Martin and Roberts (1984) state that the previous 20 years had seen an explosion of interest in, and writings about, the changing roles of women. The changes are well known. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s there had been a significant rise in the level of economic activity among women. Most of the rise was accounted for by increasing proportions of mothers returning to work after having children, and having less time out of the labour market. In Britain many mothers throughout the latter part of the twentieth century have worked part-time, although whether part-time work was a matter of choice, or a matter of constraint, or some mixture of the two is disputed. Writing at the start of the 1990s, Witherspoon and Prior (1991) suggest that there is clear evidence that women are the key advocates for change in the gender division of labour. It seems hardly surprising that there is a sex divide in terms of whether or not people favour a traditional gender division of labour. It clearly works in men’s favour if women are both contributing to the household income and maintaining their primary role for care of the home and children. Yet, although the main focus of Witherspoon and Prior is the attitudes of working-age women, they conclude that, without changes in men’s attitudes to care work, occupational segregation based on gender is likely to continue. There is no denying, however, that...

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