Home working reinforces traditional domestic roles…

but flexible work hours leads to more gender equality at home.

An analysis of six years of longitudinal data from between 2010 and 2016 has found that home working reinforces a traditional gendered division of domestic labour while flexible working leads to a more equal domestic arrangement. 

The research analysed data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2010-2016) which surveyed 1700 working parents with at least one child aged under 12.

Overall, women spend more than twice as long as men doing housework. Women reported doing 13.4 hours of housework a week on average, men reported doing an average of 5.5; while 54% of women reported being primarily responsible for childcare.  

Further data analysis adjusted the stats for income, education level, ethnicity, age and neighbourhood to isolate the effect of working from home on childcare and housework.

Fathers working from home were half as likely to report they were sharing child care compared to those who were not working from home, with men fearing they may lose their masculinity when taking on more routine tasks.

Whereas women working from home were twice as likely to report they were primarily responsible for childcare compared to those who were not working from home. 

The effect was greater for lower income couples: women doing low income jobs at home spent proportionately more time doing domestic work than women in higher income jobs. 

graphs showing how gender equality at home changes with working from home and flexible working hours.

Flexible working hours led to a more equal gendered division of labour

Flexitime, where men and women have some degree of control over their working hours (days of the week/ start and finish times) led to a more equal division of domestic labour. 

Conclusions and relevance

The broad conclusions are that working from home does not benefit women, but flexible working arrangements do, so if we want to see a more equal division of labour and childcare we want to push for more flexible working hours, not necessarily more home-working hours! 

You need to be careful when using this research as the results are open to interpretation.

If we just allow men and women to work at home then this reinforces traditional gendered divisions of labour. This suggests that if the domestic sphere is further isolated from society this results in ‘patriarchal norms’ being reinforced. This seems to suggest support for the radical feminist view that the isolated, privatised nuclear family is oppressive to women: as they end up doing more domestic labour, men end up doing less when both partners do more paid work from home.

HOWEVER, the fact that more flexible working hours results in more gender equality in how domestic chores are divided offers support for liberal feminism: when men and women are both working but more flexibly, this breaks down the oppressive traditional division of labour, but this requires men and women to be out at work.

Overall, it suggests that a good social policy change would be to introduce more flexible working hours in general, but that pushing for more home based working isn’t such a good idea, if we are interested in more gender equality at home that is!

Limitations of this research

One limitation of this survey is the relatively low sample sizes for those home working and doing flexitime. 

Only 7% of men used working from home arrangements, and only 5% of women. Only 15% of women used flexitime, and only 11% men. 

This means with a sample size of 1700, only around 50 men would have been working from home in that sample, and once you control for income, location, and ethnicity you have some very small sub-samples, for example. 

Sources and Signposting

Heejung Chung and Cara Booker (August, 2022) Work, Employment and Society: Flexible Working and the Division of Housework and Childcare: Examining Divisions across Arrangement and Occupational Lines.

This material is mainly relevant to the families and households module, usually taught as part of the first year within A-level sociology.

Happy International Women’s Day!

International women’s day campaigns for greater gender equity.

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), which means it’s a good day to reflect on issues of gender equity and possible actions we might take make the world a more equitable place for all genders.

TBH I don’t really see how one can disagree with the goals of IWD which are to realise a world which is free of stereotypes and discrimination, equitable, inclusive and celebrates diversity.

The website above is well worth checking out, there is too much to mention in one post, but there is A LOT of material relevant to A-level sociology.

The main theme of 2023 is embracing equity (#EmbraceEquity)

  • equality is giving all people the same resources and opportunities
  • equity is recognising that people have different abilities and giving each person the appropriate resources to achieve the same outcomes.

The difference can be summed up in this handy cartoon:

Hence in the workplace it involves measures like wheelchair access or specialist equipment for those who need it, sufficient so that they can contribute on an equal level.

In terms of gender, I guess equity in the workplace may involve recognising, for example, that pregnant or menopausal women may need occasional additional time off that simply wouldn’t be the case for their male partners.

There are several themes for this year’s IWD, but of particular interest to me (probably reflecting my male bias) is the equity in work theme, and within that (reflecting my age bias) is the issue of the pension pay gap:

There’s also some analysis into why the gap exists, and it includes the usual reasons such as women being more likely to be in part-time work and more likely to take employment breaks for child care.

There are several other themes and I suggest you take the time to explore for yourself, there is a lot of good material!

You can even, if you are that way inclined, take a selfie hugging yourself ’embracing equity’, personally that’s not for me, but by all means go for it and upload it to your preferred centralised social media platform, or if like me you aren’t a limited social media web 3.0 dinosaur, upload it to a DECENTRALISED platform.

If you must take part I suggest really getting into it like the woman in the front!

This material is relevant to the major theme of gender equality within A-level sociology.

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Parenting, childcare and gender equality

Parenting is getting more equal, but is still not equal, for example in 2022 women did 30 minutes more childcare per day than their male partners.

To what extent is there equality in relationships between men and women when it comes to parenting and childcare?

Research evidence for greater gender equality

Research by Gayle Kaufman consisting of interviews with 70 American fathers with at least one child under the age of 18 found that between 1977 and 2008 the average American man increased the amount of time spent on household chores and childcare by more than 2 hours per day on average each workday.

Statistics suggest that increasingly men are performing a ‘second shift’ when they return home from work, spending on average 46 hours a week on childcare and housework, which suggests that it is increasingly men rather than women who face the ‘dual burden‘.

Kaufman identified two new types of dads based on how they responded to the challenges of balancing work and family life.

  • ‘New Dads’ which were by far the largest category placed a high priority on involvement with children and made some minor adjustments to their work practices – such as getting to work later or leaving earlier, or ‘leaving work at work’ or bringing work home with them and trying to juggle that and family duties.
  • Superdads actively adjusted their work lives to fit in with their family lives – by changing careers, cutting back work hours or adopting more flexible working hours. These dads saw spending time with their children as the most important thing in their lives, with money and career as less important.

Evidence against gender equality in parenting

We are still a long way from gender equality in parenting…

  • only 10% of full-time stay at home parents are male.
  • 34% of female parents work part time compared to only 6% of male parents.
  • women spend 30 minutes more per day on childcare than men.
  • Only 1/3rd of dads take paternity leave.
  • Fathers spend longer on the fun, easy childcare activities.

90% of full-time stay at home parents are women

Data from the 2021 UK Census found that only 10.6% of full-time stay at home parents were fathers. Meaning that almost 90% of full-time stay at home parents are women.

141 000 economically active men who were looking after children full time at home, compared to 1, 185, 000 women.

However, the proportion of stay at home dads has increased since 2019. in 2019 only 1/14 full time stay at home parents were male, or only 105 000 men. So this is a significant increase in just two years!

Female parents are far more likely to work part-time

  • 83.1% of men work full time compared to 6.3% of men who work part-time
  • 38.4% of women work full time compared to 34.4% of women who work part-time.

Women spend 30 minutes more on childcare more day than men

Post lockdown, in 2022 women still spent 30 minutes more per day on childcare than men. This works out to 3 and a half extra hours per week, even though men and women do increasingly similar amounts of paid work too.

Only 1/3rd of dads take paternity leave

Also, although fathers always say they want to spend more time with their kids rather than working, the evidence does not back this up – a third of men don’t take their two weeks paternity leave, 40% say they don’t intend to take the 6 months they are now entitled to and 90% say they wouldn’t take more than 6 months if it was offered to them.

The Fatherhood Institute reports that only 4% of eligible men take up shared parental leave.

Fathers spend longer on fun childcare activities

Some more detailed research from NatCen revealed that while trends in housework were moving towards greater equality, the same could not be said for trends in childcare.

Graphic on types of childcare men and women do.

Mothers spent more than twice as much time than fathers doing ‘physical’ childcare, which includes such chores as feeding and bathing children.

Mothers spent 28 minutes per day on ‘interactive’ childcare such as playing, reading and talking with their children, compared to 19 minutes for fathers – this is the smallest difference of all the activity types, but arguably the most pleasant!

Mothers spent almost twice as long on ‘other childcare‘ activities such as taking children to school and after-school activities.

You can read a more detailed version of the report here.

Only 16% of single parent households are male

84% of single parent households are single mother households, only 16% are single father households. (Source: ONS families and households data).

However, the number of single father households is increasing, not so long ago 90% of single parent households were headed by females.

Intensive Motherhood

The Emergence of ‘Intensive Motherhood’ suggests things might even be getting worse for some mothers…

According to Sharon Hays (1996) it is still mothers, rather than fathers who remain the target of most parenting advice, and today all mothers are expected to live up to a new norm of ‘intensive mothering’ – a style of mothering that is ‘expert-guided’ and child centred as well as emotionally absorbing, labour intensive and financially expensive, requiring a 24/7 focus on the child.

Hays suggests that intensive mothering has become the taken for granted ‘correct’ style of mothering , and the focus is typically on the mother and not on the father.

Signposting and related posts

This material is relevant to the families and households module.

There is some support here for Liberal Feminism as parenting is gradually becoming more equal. However the pace is VERY SLOW!

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Sylvia Walby: Six Structures of Patriarchy

Wallby’s six structures of patriarchy are paid work, household production, culture, sexuality, violence and the state.

To Sylvia Walby, the concept of Patriarchy must remain central to a feminist understanding of society. She argues that there are six patriarchal structures which restrict women and maintain male domination – the existence of these structures restricts women’s freedom and life-chances compared to men.

However, she does recognise that women of different class and ethnic backroads and different sexual orientations experience these structures in different ways.

 Walby also recognises that patriarchal structures can change and they can be affected by the actions of both men and women – and in more recent works she talks of ‘gender regimes’ rather than patriarchy to reflect this greater fluidity.

Six Structures of Patriarchy

Sylvia Wallby argued there were six structures of Patriarchy:

  1. paid work
  2. household production
  3. culture
  4. sexuality
  5. violence
  6. the state.

She developed this theory in here 1989 article: Theorising Patriarchy (1)

Paid Work

Walby believes that paid employment remains a key structure for disadvantaging women in Britain. Today, men continue to dominate the best paid jobs and women are still paid less than men, and do more part-time work. Many women choose not to work, or work part-time because of poor job opportunities.

The median gender pay gap in Britain in 2022 was still over 9% meaning that men earn on average £2.48 an hour more than women (2)

bar chart showing mean and median gender pay gap in Britain 2022.

Household Production

According to Walby individual men still benefit from women’s unpaid labour. Women still do most of the housework and childcare. However easier divorce means women are not as trapped as the once were by marriage and some black feminists see family life as less exploitative than the labour market, where there is considerable racism.



Walby believes that that the culture of Western societies has consistently distinguished between men and women and expected different behaviours from them, but the expected patterns of behaviour have changed. The key sign of femininity today is sexual attractiveness to men, and not just for younger women, but increasingly for older women.


Also, the increase in Pornography increases the freedom of men while threatening the freedom of women. To Walby, the ‘male gaze’, not that of women, is the viewpoint of pornography which encourages the degradation of women by men and promotes sexual violence.


Despite the sexual liberation of the 1960s, there is still a ‘sexual double standard’ in society – males condemn women who are sexually active as slags and those who are not as drags, which males with many sexual conquests are admired.

sexual double standard.png

Walby also argues that ’heterosexuality constitutes a patriarchal structure’ – there is more pressure today for women to be heterosexually active and to service males through marrying them.


Like many other Feminists Walby sees violence against women as a form of male control of women, which is still a problem for many women today, although she concedes that it is difficult to measure how much progress has been made in this area, because of validity problems where the stats are concerned.


The state

To Walby, the state is still patriarchal, racists and capitalist. She argues that there has been little attempt to improve women’s position in the public sphere and equal opportunities legislation is rarely enforced.


Evaluations of Theorising Patriarchy

Wallby’s six structures offer students a useful analytical tool for breaking down ‘patriarchy’ and analysing the extent to which there remains gender inequality in different spheres of society.

I also like here balance between four very specific structures – paid work, domestic division of labour, violence and politics where you can just look at more objective statistics and the two less tangible structures – sexuality and culture which would require a more interpretive, qualitative analysis (IMO).

However while gender inequality obviously still exists in all societies, is it right to ‘hold onto’ the concept of patriarchy? From a purely campaigning and onboarding perspective it might be more attractive simply to talk about gender inequalities and oppression rather than keep on using patriarchy which makes it sound like Feminism hasn’t moved on since the 1960s.

Signposting and Relevance to A-level Sociology

This material will be mostly relevant to A-level sociology students in their second year of study working through the theory and methods topic.

Personally I find these six structures a great tool to use for group work – assign one structure to six different groups, get students to research evidence of inequality and oppression in each of these different structures and then report back and discuss.

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

References and Sources

(1) Sylvia Walby: Theorising Patriarchy.

(2) DIT Gender Pay Gap Report 2021 to 2022.

Is the UK really the 18th most gender equal country in the world?

According to the Global Gender Gap Index, the United Kingdom is one of the most gender equal countries in the world, but if you drill down into the statistics, women and men appear to both more and less equal than the headline data suggests.

The BBC’s ‘How equal are you?’ interactive infographic allows you type in any country and see how equal men are to women across a range of different indicators – These statistics come from the latest Global Gender Gap Index, produced by the World Economic Forum which analyses more than a dozen datasets in order to compare gender inequality in 144 countries.

For example in the UK we are told that:

  • The UK ranks 18/ 145 in the world for gender equality.
  • However, women are still not equal to men
  • For every £100 a man earns, a woman earns £83
  • 43% of graduates are male (the only statistic where women appear to be outperforming men.
  • 72% of women and 83% of men are either in work or looking for work (so I assume from this we can imply that women are slightly more likely to take on the caring role)
  • 65% of senior managers and legislators are male
  • 77% of government ministers are male.

The Global Gender Gap Index gives each country a score card – The UK’s Gender Gap Score Card looks like this:

Gender Equality Indicators in the UK
Gender Equality Indicators in the UK

Just a quick glance at the above chart should be sufficient to demonstrate some of the flaws in the Global Gender Gap Index:

  • We rank 68th out of 144 for primary school enrolment – we couldn’t get any better but I’m guessing we’re brought down because there must be 67 developing countries where more girls are enrolled in primary school than boys (making up for years of gender discrimination)
  • We rank 1st for sex ratio at birth – OK I know it’s lower in many developing countries because of female infanticide, but in the many countries where this simply isn’t significant, surely we’re just being rewarded here for very minor ‘luck of the draw differences’ in child sex at birth?
  • We’re 81st for healthy life expectancy – surely here were just being penalised for women suffering from degenerative conditions linked to longer life expectancy compared to men’s? Surely this is a problem of low male life expectancy?
  • Also, if you look at our real ranking success story – we’re effectively first in the world for gender equality in education, the real story is that despite ranking first in the world for gender equality in education, these gains have not been translated into economic, political or health advantages. This is hardly good for women.
  • Our other great gender equality success story is the number of years with a female prime minister – Thatcher in other words. Given that Thatcher = neoliberalism and neoliberalism = increasing inequality, there’s plenty of disagreement over the extent to which this particular indicator can be interpreted as being positive for women.

There’s quite a few other things these stats don’t tell you – for example, there are enormous differences in the gender pay gap by age:

gender pay gap age


There’s also been enormous, rapid progress with women moving into Politics in increasing numbers…. The Gender Gap Index hasn’t been around long enough to show you this….

Male to Female Ratio of MPs in the UK 2015
Male to Female Ratio of MPs in the UK 2015

So how useful is the Global Gender Gap Index?

I’ll be honest, I’m not particularly interested in the issue of gender inequality, so I’m not particularly passionate about tracking down criticisms of data sets related to the issue, but it’s only taken me 30 minutes to find seven criticisms of the validity of this particular data applied to the UK, so I’m left wondering whether these world rankings have any meaning at all?