I recently came across some poll data about gender. Gender equality, in the abstract, is a widely supported goal, especially in the developed world and among women, but nearly half the respondents “believed men had more right than women to obtain jobs in a down economy.”
Unpack that. Firstly, it suggests that men are supporting families while women are working for kicks. Secondly, it suggests that because women are working for kicks, they will be the ones taking time to worry about raising families. If you’re an employer, the argument goes, a woman who wants to make her kids’ doctors appointments is a less reliable employee. And when you have limited funds, you want the reliable bang for your buck.
The first point is false: the majority of women, like the majority of men, work because they have to. If they are lucky, they will enjoy it, but that’s not why they do it. But women do take the lion’s share of responsibility for the house and the kids. The answer to that should be a reorganization of family life that makes it easier to achieve equality in the workplace. But the truth is that the notion of workplace equality is, on its own, fairly appealing to people, while the notion of shared domestic responsibilities still scares us.