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Taking your first steps into higher education
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1.4 How work is divided in different families

The extract in Activity 1 stated that the way household tasks are divided depends partly on ‘the beliefs partners have about the role each should play’, that is, what social scientists call their ‘gender ideology’ – or what people see as behaviour which is appropriate for the different genders, men and women.

In other words, social science suggests that people have ideas about what is the appropriate and ‘normal’ way to divide work between men and women. As you saw when you took notes on the Ramos reading, these ideas may be traditional, which in this case means believing that men and women have different roles to play and that it is women’s role to take most responsibility for what happens in the home.

On the other hand, they may be egalitarian, which means believing that men and women should share the work in the home and that there should be equal opportunities to enter and succeed in the paid workforce.

These ideas or beliefs can be very strongly rooted. They may be ideas about gender that people grew up with, which are supported by families close to them, or ideas they share with workmates or colleagues. They are part of a way of looking at and making sense of the world and, most importantly, they result in quite significant differences in how families divide up the work.

In this section you have been examining how the division of labour in the home contributes to inequality within the family. In the next section you will look at inequalities between families and see how this is associated with location, or where families live.