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The Second Shift

In an interesting piece over at Liberal Conspiracy, Jennifer O’Mahony speculates about why the media is still so male-dominated.   O’Mahony says she is often the only woman in a meeting, although she is also careful to point out that she does not come across sexist attitudes in her work.   ‘Planeshift’ suggested in the comments that the informal recruitment procedures in the media, the importance of networking, might have something to do with this.  Others mentioned that in some professions women seem to be in the majority.  Does that matter too, and if not, why not?  I picked up on the post’s passing reference to childcare probably being an important factor holding women back, and wrote:

I think there is still an expectation (created by both women and men, sometimes unconsciously?) that women will have more responsibility for childcare. I don’t know much about journalism but I expect the hours are long and irregular sometimes. For that reason women may prefer more regular jobs – such as English teachers – which fit childcare more predictably. I think there is another reason why women are attracted to that kind of well structured, public sector career. The mechanisms for hiring and promoting are generally pretty fair and transparent. On the other hand, in a system where things happen through networking and word of mouth – and where employers (maybe themselves women in some cases) are able not to employ youngish women who might have children without getting picked up for sexism – then I think men are more likely to succeed. Certainly as someone with young children and a f/t job I don’t have a huge amount of time for networking – going to lots of conferences or even going to the pub.

Men, as one of the commenters pointed out, also sometimes get held back in their careers because of childcare responsibilities.  And in any case giving up, or cutting down on, work can be a positive choice. But the continuing inequalities between the sexes are highlighted in a new OECD working paper, ‘Cooking, caring and volunteering: unpaid work around the world’; this reveals marked differences between the time men and women spend looking after their children, the ‘second shift’, and is particularly interesting because it distinguishes between working and non-working parents of both sexes.

This new analysis includes the differences in time spent whether parents are working or not. In Nordic countries, men spend roughly the same time looking after children whether they are working or not (around 40 minutes). Australian men spend the most time, whether working or not (69 and 105 minutes respectively). The least time spent by working fathers is in South Africa (8 minutes) and Korea (12 minutes). On average, working dads spend 40 minutes on childcare, and only 10 minutes more when not working, whereas working mothers spend 74 minutes and nearly double (144 minutes) when not working.

In other words, the average working mother spends more time on childcare than the average non-working father.

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