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Gender Equity Starts in the Home

  • David G. Smith
  • W. Brad Johnson

gender equality at home essay

The shift to remote work is highlighting domestic inequity in many households.

Many men teleworking from home for the first time are getting a front row seat to the daily demands of running a home and caring for kids, as well as a crash course in learning to “balance” work and family. Although many men have experienced traditional role reversals for short stints, most have never worked from home for an extended period while leaning in as primary caregiver for children. Most of this work has fallen on women.

The presence of more men sharing more fully in domestic duties for an extended period of time has the potential to create a sea change in gendered norms — at home and at work. Men teleworking during the pandemic are more likely to appreciate women’s work-family experiences, understand the value of flexible work arrangements, appreciate the benefits of relationships with work colleagues, and role model more equitable work-family gender roles for their children.

In these difficult times, we’ve made a number of our coronavirus articles free for all readers. To get all of HBR’s content delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Daily Alert newsletter.

Jack Koban, a geologist and engineering project manager, is working from home during the pandemic shutdown while his wife, Ashley Saucier, works long hours as a pediatric emergency medicine physician. In our recent call with Jack, he reflected, “I don’t remember the last time I’ve cooked three meals a day and done the dishes for three straight weeks. It’s been nice being home, having more family time, and being more involved with the kids. We’ve definitely achieved a new work-life balance.”

gender equality at home essay

  • David G. Smith is an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. He is the coauthor, with W. Brad Johnson, of Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace and Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women .
  • W. Brad Johnson is a professor of psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy and a faculty associate in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. He is the coauthor of Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace , Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women , The Elements of Mentoring , and other books on mentorship.

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In her words

The Household Work Men and Women Do, and Why

Men are more likely than ever to embrace the idea of gender equality, but when it comes to the home front, traditional values dominate.

gender equality at home essay

By Francesca Donner

“Our beliefs about gender are really strong and sticky.”

— Joanna Pepin, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin

Men, while they’re more likely than ever to embrace the idea of gender equality, are still slackers when it comes to household work, according to a new Gallup poll.

Multiple surveys and studies have documented men’s changing attitudes toward women in recent years: There is almost universal support for women to pursue careers and political office, and attitudes have become far more accepting around gender identity.

But when it comes to the home front, traditional values dominate , writes Claire Cain Miller. Nearly one-quarter of high school seniors, when asked about the ideal at-home arrangement, favored a setup where — you guessed it — Dad works full time (for pay) and Mom stays home (for free).

These attitudes bear out in practice too: Men between ages 18 and 34 in opposite-sex relationships are no more likely than older couples to divide household labor equitably. And while it’s true that men have picked up some of the household labor, a significant gap remains: In the U.S., women spend about four hours a day on unpaid work , compared with about 2.5 hours for men according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development .

I caught up with Claire Cain Miller, a New York Times correspondent who writes about gender, families and the future of work. Ever wonder how unpaid work breaks down along gender lines and whether some chores are better than others? She had answers.

A new survey found that younger opposite-sex couples are no more likely to divide home chores equitably than older couples. Wait … is that news?

Fair — it’s probably not news to most people living this reality! But it still surprises the social scientists who study these topics, because they expect younger generations to become more open-minded and egalitarian over time, and when it comes to most things related to gender roles, they are. But not in terms of domestic labor.

But men have been taking on more household chores over the years, right? They just don’t do as much as their female partners.

Men do a little more at home — they’ve doubled the time they spend on housework since 1965, and women now do less — but women still do about an hour more a day. In one of the new surveys I reported on, by Gallup, almost half of respondents said they split daily child care equally.

Why child care over, say, loading the dishwasher or doing the laundry?

One reason is that intensive parenting has become the norm — people value spending as much time as possible engaging with their children. Dishes and laundry just aren’t as fulfilling and, I imagine, men might not think the payoff is as great. There’s also a lot of societal pressure on women to have a clean house, and the expectation is different for men (and no, it’s not that women see mess and men don’t — that’s been disproved ).

Is there an unspoken hierarchy of chores in the household? I would think that vacuuming is worse than say, folding clothes, but maybe that’s just my preference.

One study that amused me looked at various tasks and how they affected people’s satisfaction with their relationship. For women, it was all about dishwashing — if that task was shared, they were happier, and if they did all the dishes, they were discontent. Men were happiest when they shared errands, and least happy when they did more cleaning and laundry than their partner.

I wonder if male-aligned chores like, say, washing the car, end up being more “desirable.”

It’s striking to me how much chores break down along gender lines. The chores men do more of are usually outdoors, like car upkeep and yard work. The chores women do more of are indoors, like cleaning and cooking. But there’s a big reason men’s tasks are more desirable — the chores they do happen weekly or less often, and the ones women do happen daily or several times a day.

Another study you wrote about showed that many men support women going to work in part because they’re happy to share the economic burden. As we’ve explored above, clearly the domestic burden is a different animal.

I think a big reason is simply that men are happy for their partner to bring home another paycheck, but aren’t as happy to do more chores. Social scientists offer some other explanations. Work and parenting have both become more demanding, so it’s often easier for couples to divide those responsibilities , even if they didn’t plan to. Masculinity is strongly tied to earning an income (and to avoiding things that are considered feminine). And the authors of one of the studies I covered suggested another idea: economic uncertainty. Perhaps young people are open to women’s equality at work not because their attitudes about gender roles have evolved, but because they need a second income, so they still act more traditional at home.

When’s it going to change?

It seems to me that it will change when it’s not just women who want it to change. Men would have to step up at home. Policymakers could ease work-family struggles with ideas like paid family leave or public preschool. Employers could stop expecting people, especially men, to work at all hours. There are also smaller changes that could make a difference — like parents giving their sons as many chores as their daughters , or schools and pediatricians’ offices who need to reach families calling fathers, not just mothers.

Readers: Tell us how household labor stacks up in your home. Email us at: [email protected] .

Read more: Young Men Embrace Gender Equality, but They Still Don’t Vacuum

Today’s In Her Words is written by Francesca Donner and edited by Adam Pasick. Our art director is Catherine Gilmore-Barnes, and our photo editor is Sandra Stevenson.

Sign up here to get future installments of In Her Words . You can also follow us on Instagram or email us at [email protected] .

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Why gender inequality often starts at home

gender equality at home essay

Home is where the heart is. But it’s also the first place where children are socialized into gender norms, values and stereotypes. 

From the moment babies are born, their assigned sex (male or female) immediately begins to shape how they should be treated, what opportunities they should receive or how they should behave according to dominant gender stereotypes in their society. 

In fact, studies have shown that an individual’s sense of being either male or female is predominately determined by the way they are treated by others. Based on their external environment, children learn very quickly (from as young as 9 months old in some cases) that boys and girls are different – they have their own colours, toys, abilities and particular interests. 

These differences and assigned roles based on sex, also known as the “gender binary”, become unquestioned rationale for many ideas about what boys, girls, men and women can and cannot do. For example, most societies expect females to behave in a submissive, dependent and emotional way while males are expected to be strong, independent and stoic. 

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The most damaging impact of restrictive gender norms is that they hurt everyone – people are expected to conform to rigid ideas which limit the spaces and the behaviours they may wish to participate in because it may not be an acceptable gender norm for their assigned sex. 

Gendered norms also result in girls and women experiencing violence, harassment and struggling to receive equal pay and opportunities while boys and men experience higher rates of substance abuse and completed suicide. In addition, body image issues are prevalent among both sexes , with a large percentage of both men and women agreeing that they’re self-conscious about their physical form. 

But these widespread ideas about what it means to be a woman, girl, man or boy can be tackled at home by working with parents to help identify and counter dominant gender norms.

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Parents teach children their place in the world

Without a doubt, the most significant influence on gender role development occurs within the family setting, with parents modelling and passing on to their children their own beliefs about gender. 

In many patriarchal societies there is an idea that boys are preferable to girls. According to research conducted in North America; families are more likely to continue having children if they only have daughters versus if they only have sons – indicating that there is a preference to have male children in the family. 

And in low-income countries, where millions live below the poverty line, parents with limited financial resources tend to favour having boys due to a myriad of gender related reasons: 

  • Boys are perceived as being more “valuable” and worthy of investing in. For example, a preference for sending boys to school is fuelled by a belief that all girls will eventually get married off. Therefore, investing in a girl’s education reaps little return because a girl who stays at home and learns how to take care of a family is of more value to a future husband.
  • In marriage, a girl often joins her husband’s family and may cost her family a dowry (property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage).
  • In many countries, girls and women do not have property rights . Only men are allowed to own or inherit property, having a son keeps assets in the family and makes sure parents will have somewhere to live when they get old.
  • If a family needs hard physical labour to run a farm or make it’s living in some other way, boys are seen as more capable and stronger than girls

As part of our maternal, newborn, and child healthcare programming, we work with fathers to take an active role in supporting women during pregnancy, childbirth and in the care of newborns.

Treating boys and girls differently

Beliefs about the value of boys versus girls are commonly reflected in the way parents treat their children. 

For example, the gendered division of household work is accepted almost everywhere. Boys are more likely than girls to have maintenance chores like mowing the lawn or painting, while girls are given domestic chores like cooking and cleaning. This segregation of household labour tells children that they are expected to take on different roles based on their gender. 

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While both parents influence their children’s perceptions of gender, fathers in particular are more likely to reinforce common gender stereotypes, preferring to encourage gendered toys, sports and rough play with their sons versus their daughters. In addition, the way fathers treat their wives can have a long-term impact on their sons and daughters’ personality and life choices.

In fact, fathers who take on an active role in childcare and domestic labour positively influence their children by showing that the adult male role can be nurturing. This positive role modelling helps boys become better husbands, fathers, brothers and friends to girls and women. At the same time, it positively impacts the self-esteem of young girls and reinforces that both genders are equal.

Additionally, mothers who work and take on a financial provider role in the family also help break down stereotypes for their children – especially their daughters – and challenge ideas about the conventional female role.

Gender equality for all

Of course, parents aren’t entirely responsible for how their children perceive gender – much of the external world including peers, teachers, caretakers and the media have an impact on how children (and even parents themselves) think they should behave based on their assigned sex. 

However, parents who are conscious of prevailing gender norms within their society have an important opportunity to challenge gender roles, break stereotypes and educate their children. 

When everyone plays a part in standing up for gender equality, we can create a just and equal world where no one is held back by restrictive gender norms.

Transforming prevalent attitudes towards gender

Gender inequality continues to grant men and boys with more rights, privileges and opportunities to become key decision makers and influencers. Girls and women, however, are denied opportunities to develop themselves and improve their social conditions – simply because they are female. 

And in many low-income countries, girls and women are not free to exercise basic human rights like education, health and protection – this further perpetuates serious global issues such as intergenerational  cycles of poverty ,  child early and forced marriage ,  gender-based violence  and  high maternal and newborn mortality rates . 

At Plan International, we’re committed to transforming unequal gender power relations by addressing the root causes of gender inequality and promoting the inherent power and value of women and girls. Our programming goes beyond improving the condition of women and girls – we seek to improve their social position within their communities. 

Learn more about our gender transformative programming here

gender equality at home essay

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Promoting Gender Equality and Women Empowerment

Gender Equality Begins At Home

Gender Equality Begins At Home : A Personal Reflection

Swagata Sen

  • Swagata Sen
  • June 21, 2020

As a mother of a boy and a girl, I was very conscious about never imposing social gender norms and stereotypes on my children. It was primarily because of my own childhood experience – I was expected to act, behave, and express myself in a certain way since I was nine or ten years old. Since that tender age, I used to be told every day that a girl’s value and worth lie in her cooking and domestic work skills. Regardless of the education of a woman, if she is not good at cooking or cleaning, her husband’s family would never love her. That’s not all. A girl should never reply back, should never say ‘no’ to any order, never challenge her traditional and cultural values, or talk or laugh loudly – the list was endless. Because of my apathy in cooking as a pre-teen, every day I used to be reminded how worthless I was. I felt limited, restricted, inferior, and less cared for throughout my entire childhood, because of my gender. Gender equality indeed begins at home.

Stereotyping affects both boys and girls

Guess what? I had a brother who was one year older than me. And the rules, expectations, behavioral standards, life goals, everything was different for him. He never had to do any household chores, help with cooking, or cleaning. He was also allowed to remind me every day that getting good grades would not give me a pass to a great life if my cooking skills are not great! 

We both were equally smart and ambitious. But by the time he was 14, I could see the expectation started mounting on him about his professional success. However insulting and disgusting it might sound, as an elder brother he was responsible for paying the expenses of my marriage (read dowry)! 

It was not only me, but we both were victims of cultural gender norms and gender roles, which affected our adult lives in different ways. It’s a common misconception that gender stereotypes affect only girls. 

Keep gender-norms out of the conversation 

As a mother, I was extremely cautious and conscious of not repeating these with my children. I refrained from setting any expectations or behavioral standards based on their gender. I taught both of them to help me with household work when needed. 

I’ve never told my daughter ‘you are a girl’ in any context. Even today, I associate this sentence with an attempt to limit my ability, my freedom, and my dreams.

Even with my utmost concern and awareness about keeping gender out of the conversation, I remember, it was impossible to control what family members or neighbors would comment on. For instance, my son used to be often teased by some relatives as ‘girlish’ for being tearful and sensitive.

Leading by example is the best way to teach

“To be in your children’s lives tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.”

By the time my son was 12, he started refusing to do dishes, and chores or help me in cooking. The more I tried explaining to him the importance of sharing domestic work, the more he started resisting it. At that point I realized, he never saw his father doing any domestic work, which is a very common social norm in India. Most of our close friends and families also have very divisive gender roles when it comes to domestic work. More than what you explicitly tell them, how you as a parent lead your life, influences them the most. It all boils down to leading by example. Our family certainly needed more gender-equal roles. 

As boys grow up, they start identifying themselves more with their fathers. I realized my son had probably started considering these works as womanly or feminine. 

On the other hand, my daughter would often come and ask me whether I would need any help in the kitchen. If a girl always sees her mother cooking and taking care of family members, no matter how independent or empowered you raise her, she will always have a greater amount of implicit biases about her role as a caregiver of the family. 

It all starts with sharing the chores 

No matter how insignificant it sounds, gender equality begins with sharing domestic and care work. Though women today are more economically independent, all over the world they spend significantly more time doing domestic and care work than their male family members. This impacts women’s economic and professional performance, and growth and makes them more vulnerable to emotional stress and anxiety. Women often seek less demanding careers not because they are less capable, but because they don’t have a strong support system at home. The gender gap in care work is a huge contributing factor to the professional and social gender gap. Equality in domestic and care work helps families and communities flourish. 

Power dynamics between parents affect children

The power dynamics between the parents shape children’s perception of gender roles to a large extent. In many cultures, men are the head of the family and the decision-makers. Women, on the other hand, are not allowed to take any important decisions independently. Men consider reversing the gender rhetoric equivalent to giving up on their power and privileges. If we want to break these patterns for future generations, parents should try to be conscious of reversing gender roles.

In short, parents play a very significant role in introducing gender equality at home and in being role models for their children. In other words, if parents' behaviors promote gender stereotypes, it reinforces the problem. Children growing up in families with huge gender gaps often repeat the same patterns in their adult lives. Tweet

We’ve started realizing that we did not want to repeat the same mistakes that our parents made. We’ve made a lot of positive changes in our household in the last year in breaking the division of work. My husband didn’t grow up to have to contribute any chores at home, but he has started doing it now to teach our son the importance of countering traditional gender norms. We do believe that gender equality begins at home. As adults, it’s harder for parents to overcome their own cultural biases. But, once you acknowledge and own your unconscious biases, you can work your way through it! 

Related posts:  A Step by Step Guide For Men To Fight Against Gender Discrimination  and  You Too 

Related resources:  Gender equality starts at home: Seven tips for raising feminist kids

#GenderEqualityBeginsAtHome #MenCanCook #ShareDomesticWork

Swagata Sen

A clinical researcher by profession, I am an advocate of gender equality and women’s rights. I have created Rights of Equality to dismantle institutionalized gender discrimination and harmful social practices through systemic changes. Over the last few years, our contributors from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds were able to voice their concerns about a range of issues that are oppressive to women across the world. We are hopeful that our efforts will help promote awareness and contribute to changing mindsets and shifting cultures about gender roles and norms.

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Phionah Musumba, Equality Change makers

11 Comments

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Amber Myers

Yes, I love this. I make sure my son knows he needs to help in the kitchen. And I want my daughter to know how to change her own tire and such. I think that’s important!

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Tara Pittman (@momknowsbest15)

Having 4 boys and 1 girl, I made sure to teach them all to cook and clean. My sons are awesome in the kitchen.

' src=

That is true that some household roles should not be assigned to a child according to their gender.

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Jessi Joachim

I have 1 boy and 1 girl, and I totally think it is a conscious decision to break down gender norms with my kids. I even have to remind my own parents that some things won’t be made to be a “big deal”… like my dad hates that my son likes his long hair…. my kids both play with whatever toys they want and do the same chores.

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So true….nature versus nurture. We must begin with the teaching at a young age from home.

' src=

this is so true. i’ve been reading new books for myself and to my kids to try and unlearn / learn.

kileen cute & little

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successunscrambled

Like you I have a boy and a girl and they both help around the house. My son is such a ‘foody’ as well so he is always making something in the kitchen.

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World In Eyes

Great post, I strongly believe that Gender inequality begins from Kitchen, so we must finish it at kitchen.

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Enriqueta Lemoine

Treating and teaching children as equally as possible it huge.

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Melissa Cushing

I loved this post and enjoyed reading. I have to say you have a beautiful family and loved the pictures too…. the pictures are what grab me 🙂

' src=

This is fantastic and 100% correct. When ever we have kids we’ll be doing our best to ensure they are tolerant and treat everyone as they themselves would want to be treated.

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Human Rights Careers

5 Powerful Essays Advocating for Gender Equality

Gender equality – which becomes reality when all genders are treated fairly and allowed equal opportunities –  is a complicated human rights issue for every country in the world. Recent statistics are sobering. According to the World Economic Forum, it will take 108 years to achieve gender parity . The biggest gaps are found in political empowerment and economics. Also, there are currently just six countries that give women and men equal legal work rights. Generally, women are only given ¾ of the rights given to men. To learn more about how gender equality is measured, how it affects both women and men, and what can be done, here are five essays making a fair point.

Take a free course on Gender Equality offered by top universities!

“Countries With Less Gender Equity Have More Women In STEM — Huh?” – Adam Mastroianni and Dakota McCoy

This essay from two Harvard PhD candidates (Mastroianni in psychology and McCoy in biology) takes a closer look at a recent study that showed that in countries with lower gender equity, more women are in STEM. The study’s researchers suggested that this is because women are actually especially interested in STEM fields, and because they are given more choice in Western countries, they go with different careers. Mastroianni and McCoy disagree.

They argue the research actually shows that cultural attitudes and discrimination are impacting women’s interests, and that bias and discrimination is present even in countries with better gender equality. The problem may lie in the Gender Gap Index (GGI), which tracks factors like wage disparity and government representation. To learn why there’s more women in STEM from countries with less gender equality, a more nuanced and complex approach is needed.

“Men’s health is better, too, in countries with more gender equality” – Liz Plank

When it comes to discussions about gender equality, it isn’t uncommon for someone in the room to say, “What about the men?” Achieving gender equality has been difficult because of the underlying belief that giving women more rights and freedom somehow takes rights away from men. The reality, however, is that gender equality is good for everyone. In Liz Plank’s essay, which is an adaption from her book For the Love of Men: A Vision for Mindful Masculinity, she explores how in Iceland, the #1 ranked country for gender equality, men live longer. Plank lays out the research for why this is, revealing that men who hold “traditional” ideas about masculinity are more likely to die by suicide and suffer worse health. Anxiety about being the only financial provider plays a big role in this, so in countries where women are allowed education and equal earning power, men don’t shoulder the burden alone.

Liz Plank is an author and award-winning journalist with Vox, where she works as a senior producer and political correspondent. In 2015, Forbes named her one of their “30 Under 30” in the Media category. She’s focused on feminist issues throughout her career.

“China’s #MeToo Moment” –  Jiayang Fan

Some of the most visible examples of gender inequality and discrimination comes from “Me Too” stories. Women are coming forward in huge numbers relating how they’ve been harassed and abused by men who have power over them. Most of the time, established systems protect these men from accountability. In this article from Jiayang Fan, a New Yorker staff writer, we get a look at what’s happening in China.

The essay opens with a story from a PhD student inspired by the United States’ Me Too movement to open up about her experience with an academic adviser. Her story led to more accusations against the adviser, and he was eventually dismissed. This is a rare victory, because as Fan says, China employs a more rigid system of patriarchy and hierarchy. There aren’t clear definitions or laws surrounding sexual harassment. Activists are charting unfamiliar territory, which this essay explores.

“Men built this system. No wonder gender equality remains as far off as ever.” – Ellie Mae O’Hagan

Freelance journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan (whose book The New Normal is scheduled for a May 2020 release) is discouraged that gender equality is so many years away. She argues that it’s because the global system of power at its core is broken.  Even when women are in power, which is proportionally rare on a global scale, they deal with a system built by the patriarchy. O’Hagan’s essay lays out ideas for how to fix what’s fundamentally flawed, so gender equality can become a reality.

Ideas include investing in welfare; reducing gender-based violence (which is mostly men committing violence against women); and strengthening trade unions and improving work conditions. With a system that’s not designed to put women down, the world can finally achieve gender equality.

“Invisibility of Race in Gender Pay Gap Discussions” – Bonnie Chu

The gender pay gap has been a pressing issue for many years in the United States, but most discussions miss the factor of race. In this concise essay, Senior Contributor Bonnie Chu examines the reality, writing that within the gender pay gap, there’s other gaps when it comes to black, Native American, and Latina women. Asian-American women, on the other hand, are paid 85 cents for every dollar. This data is extremely important and should be present in discussions about the gender pay gap. It reminds us that when it comes to gender equality, there’s other factors at play, like racism.

Bonnie Chu is a gender equality advocate and a Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur. She’s the founder and CEO of Lensational, which empowers women through photography, and the Managing Director of The Social Investment Consultancy.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

Closing the equity gap

Jeni Klugman

Caren Grown and Odera Onyechi

Why addressing gender inequality is central to tackling today’s polycrises

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Africa Growth Initiative, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution

As we enter 2023, the term “ polycrisis ” is an increasingly apt way to describe today’s challenges. 1 Major wars, high inflation, and climate events are creating hardship all around the world, which is still grappling with a pandemic death toll approaching 7 million people.

Faced with such daunting challenges, one might well ask why we should be thinking about the gender dimensions of recovery and resilience for future shocks. The answer is simple: We can no longer afford to think in silos. Today’s interlocking challenges demand that sharp inequalities, including gender disparities, must be addressed as part and parcel of efforts to tackle Africa’s pressing issues and ensure the continent’s future success.

“We can no longer afford to think in silos. … Gender disparities, must be addressed as part and parcel of efforts to tackle Africa’s pressing issues and ensure the continent’s future success.”

The burdens of the pandemic have been unequally borne across regions and countries, and between the poor and better off. Inequalities exist around gender—which can be defined as the “socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, attributes and opportunities that any society considers appropriate for men and women, boys and girls” and people with non-binary identities. 2 As Raewyn Connell laid out more than two decades ago, existing systems typically distribute greater power, resources, and status to men and behaviors considered masculine . 3 As a result, gender intersects with other sources of disadvantage, most notably income, age, race, and ethnicity.

This understanding is now mainstream. As recently observed by the IMF, “The gender inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic follow different paths but almost always end up the same: Women have suffered disproportionate economic harm from the crisis.” 4 Among the important nuances revealed by micro-surveys is that rural women working informally continued to work through the pandemic , but with sharply reduced earnings in Nigeria and elsewhere. 5 And as the burden of child care and home schooling soared, rural households headed by women were far less likely than urban households to have children engaged in learning activities during school closures.

Important insights emerge from IFPRI’s longitudinal panel study (which included Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda) covering income loss, coping strategies, labor and time use, food and water insecurity, and child education outcomes. 6

Among the especially adverse impacts for women were greater food and water insecurity compared to men, including worrying about insufficient food and eating less than usual, while a large proportion of women also did not have adequately diverse diets. Moreover, many women had to add hours to their workday caring for sick family members, and their economic opportunities shrank, cutting their earnings and widening gender income gaps.

While today’s problems seem daunting, there remain huge causes for optimism, especially in Africa. Over the past three decades, many African countries have achieved enormous gains in levels of education, health, and poverty reduction. Indeed, the pace of change has been staggering and commendable. As captured in the Women Peace and Security Index , which measures performance in inclusion, justice, and security, 6 of the top 10 score improvers during the period 2017-2021 were in sub-Saharan Africa. [GIWPS.2022. “Women Peace and Security Index” Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.] The Democratic Republic of Congo was among top score improvers since 2017, as the share of women with financial accounts almost tripled, to 24 percent; and increases exceeding 5 percentage points were registered in cell phone use and parliamentary representation. In the Central African Republic, improvements were experienced in the security dimension, where organized violence fell significantly, and women’s perceptions of community safety rose 6 percentage points up to 49 percent.

Looking ahead, efforts to mitigate gender inequalities must clearly be multi-pronged, and as highlighted above—we need to think outside silos. That said, two major policy fronts emerge to the fore.

Ensure cash transfers that protect against poverty , are built and designed to promote women’s opportunities, with a focus on digital payments. 7 Ways to address gender inequalities as part of social protection program responses 8 include deliberate efforts to overcome gender gaps in cell phone access by distributing phones to those women who need them, as well as private sector partnerships to subsidize airtime for the poorest, and to make key information services and apps freely available . 9 Programs could also make women the default recipient of cash transfer schemes, instead of the head of household. Furthermore, capacity-building initiatives can be built into program design to give women the skills and capabilities needed to successfully manage accounts and financial decisionmaking. 10

Reducing the risk of violence against women. Women who are not safe at home are denied the freedom from violence needed to pursue opportunities that should be afforded to all. In 2018, 10 of the 15 countries with the worst rates of intimate partner violence were in sub-Saharan Africa—in descending order of average intimate partner violence these were, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia, Ethiopia, Liberia, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Uganda.

“As the burden of child care and home schooling soared, rural households headed by women were far less likely than urban households to have children engaged in learning activities.”

Conflicts and crises multiply women’s risk of physical, emotional, and sexual violence . During the pandemic, risk factors like economic stress were compounded by service closures and stay-at-home orders, which increased exposure to potential perpetrators. 11 Several governments responded by strengthening existing help services , including police and justice, supporting hotlines, ensuring the provision of psychological support, and health sector responses. 12 Examples of good practice included an NGO in North-Eastern Nigeria, which equipped existing safe spaces with phone booths to enable survivors to contact caseworkers.

However, given the high levels of prevalence and often low levels of reporting, prevention of gender-based violence is key. Targeted programs with promising results in prevention include community dialogues and efforts to change harmful norms, safe spaces, as well as possibilities to reduce the risk of violence through cash plus social protection programs. These efforts should be accompanied by more systematic monitoring and evaluation to build evidence about what works in diverse settings.

Finally, but certainly not least, women should have space and voices in decisionmaking. This case was powerfully put by former President Sirleaf Johnson in her 2021 Foresight essay, which underlined that “ economic, political, institutional, and social barriers persist throughout the continent, limiting women’s abilities to reach high-level leadership positions .” 13 Persistent gender gaps in power and decision-making, not only limits innovative thinking and solutions, but also the consideration of more basic measures to avoid the worsening of gender inequalities. Overcoming these gaps in power and decision-making requires safeguarding legal protections and rights, investing in women and girls financially, and opening space for women in political parties so that women have the platforms to access high-level appointed and competitive positions across national, regional, and international institutions. 14

Strengthening fiscal policy for gender equality

Senior Fellow, Center for Sustainable Development, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution

Research Analyst, Center for Sustainable Development, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution

It is often said that women act as “shock absorbers” during times of crisis; this is even more so in the current context of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased geopolitical conflict. These three global crises have simultaneously stretched women’s ability to earn income and intensified their unpaid work. Well-designed fiscal policy can help cushion the effects of these shocks and enable women and their households to recover more quickly.

Over 60 percent of employed women in Africa work in agriculture, including in small-scale food production; women are the primary sellers in food markets, and they work in other sectors such as informal trading. At the same time, women are an increasing share of entrepreneurs in countries such as Ghana and Uganda, even as they face financial and other constraints to start and grow their firms. [Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL). 2020. “Supporting Women Throughout the Coronavirus Emergency Response and Economic Recovery.” World Bank Group. ] In addition to earning income for their households, women bear the major responsibility for unpaid domestic activities such as cooking; collecting water and fuelwood; caring for children, elderly, and other dependents—so women are more time-poor than are men.

African women and entrepreneurs have been impacted disproportionately more than men by the triple shocks mentioned earlier. Extreme weather events disrupt food production and agricultural employment, making it harder for women to earn income . 15 16 17 The pandemic and conflict in Ukraine further intensified women’s paid and unpaid activities . 18 19 Beyond climate change and the war in Ukraine, localized conflicts and insecurity in East and West Africa exposes women and girls to gender-based violence and other risks as they seek to support their families and develop new coping strategies. 20 21 22

“Responding to these shocks necessitates a large infusion of resources. In this context, fiscal policy can be deployed more smartly to advance gender equality and create an enabling environment for women to play a greater role in building their economies’ recovery and resilience.”

Responding to these shocks necessitates a large infusion of resources. In this context, fiscal policy can be deployed more smartly to advance gender equality and create an enabling environment for women to play a greater role in building their economies’ recovery and resilience. Public expenditure supports critical sectors such as education, health, agriculture, social protection, and physical and social infrastructure, while well-designed tax policy is essential to fund the public goods, services, and infrastructure on which both women and men rely.

Gender-responsive budgets, which exist in over 30 countries across the continent, can be strengthened. Rwanda provides a good model for other countries. After an early unsuccessful attempt, Rwanda invested seriously in gender budgeting beginning in 2011. 23 24 The budget is focused on closing gaps and strengthening women’s roles in key sectors—agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure—which are all critical for short- and medium-term economic growth and productivity. The process has been sustained by strong political will among parliamentarians. Led by the Ministry of Finance, the process has financed and been complemented by important institutional and policy reforms. A constitutional regulatory body monitors results, with additional accountability by civil society organizations.

However, raising adequate fiscal revenue to support a gender budget is a challenge in the current macro environment of high public debt levels, increased borrowing costs, and low levels of public savings. Yet, observers note there is scope to increase revenues through taxation reforms, debt relief, cutting wasteful public expenditure, and other means. 25 26 We focus here on taxation.

Many countries are reforming their tax systems to strengthen revenue collection. Overall tax collection is currently low; the average tax-to-GDP ratio in Africa in 2020 was 14.8 percent and fell sharply during the pandemic, although it may be rebounding. 27 Very few Africans pay personal income tax or other central government taxes, 28 29 and statutory corporate tax rates (which range from 25-35 percent), are higher than even the recent OECD proposal for a global minimum tax 30 so scope for raising them further is limited. Efforts should be made to close loopholes and reduce tax evasion.

As countries reform their tax policies, they should be intentional about avoiding implicit and explicit gender biases. 31 32 33 34 Most African countries rely more on indirect taxes than direct taxes, given the structure of their economies, but indirect taxes can be regressive as their incidence falls primarily on the poor. Presumptive or turnover taxes, for example, which are uniform or fixed amounts of tax based on the “presumed” incomes of different occupations such as hairdressers, can hit women particularly hard, since the burden often falls heavily on sectors where women predominate. 35 36

Property taxes are also becoming an increasingly popular way to raise revenue for local governments. The impact of these efforts on male and female property owners has not been systematically evaluated, but a recent study of land use fees and agricultural income taxes in Ethiopia finds that female-headed and female adult-only households bear a larger tax burden than male-headed and dual-adult households of property taxes. This is likely a result of unequal land ownership patterns, gender norms restricting women’s engagement in agriculture, and the gender gap in agricultural productivity. 37

“Indirect taxes can be regressive as their incidence falls primarily on the poor. Presumptive or turnover taxes … can hit women particularly hard, since the burden often falls heavily on sectors where women predominate.”

Going forward, two key ingredients for gender budgeting on the continent need to be strengthened. The first is having sufficient, regularly collected, sex-disaggregated administrative data related to households, the labor force, and other survey data. Investment in the robust technical capacity for ministries and academia to be able to access, analyze, and use it is also necessary. For instance, the World Bank, UN Women, and the Economic Commission for Africa are all working with National Statistical Offices across the continent to strengthen statistical capacity in the areas of asset ownership and control, work and employment, and entrepreneurship which can be used in a gender budget.

The second ingredient is stronger diagnostic tools. One promising new tool, pioneered by Tulane University, is the Commitment to Equity methodology, designed to assess the impact of taxes and transfers on income inequality and poverty within countries. 38 It was recently extended to examine the impact of government transfers and taxes on women and men by income level and other dimensions. The methodology requires standard household-level data but for maximum effect should be supplemented with time use data, which are becoming more common in several African countries. As African countries seek to expand revenue from direct taxes, lessons from higher income economies are instructive. Although there is no one size fits all approach, key principles to keep in mind for designing personal income taxes include building in strong progressivity, taxing individuals as opposed to families, ensuring that the allocation of shared income (e.g., property or non-labor income) does not penalize women, and building in allowances for care of children and dependents. 39 As noted, corporate income taxes need to eliminate the many breaks, loopholes, and exemptions that currently exist, 40 and countries might consider experimenting with wealth taxes.

In terms of indirect taxes, most African countries do not have single-rate VAT systems and already have zero or reduced rates for basic necessities, including foodstuffs and other necessities. While it is important to minimize exempted sectors and products, estimates show that goods essential for women’s and children’s health (e.g., menstrual health products, diapers, cooking fuel) should be considered part of the basket of basic goods that have reduced or zero rates. 41 And while African governments are being advised to bring informal workers and entrepreneurs into the formal tax system, 42 it should be noted that this massive sector earns well below income tax thresholds and already pays multiple informal fees and levies, for instance in fees to market associations. 43 44

Lastly, leveraging data and digital technologies to improve tax administration (i.e., taxpayer registration, e-filing, and e-payment of taxes) may help minimize costs and processing time, and reduce the incidence of corruption and evasion.32 Digitalization can also be important for bringing more female taxpayers into the net, especially if digital systems are interoperable; for instance, digital taxpayer registries linked to national identification or to property registration at the local level. However, digitalization can be a double-edged sword if privacy and security concerns are not built-in from the outset. Women particularly may need targeted digital financial literacy and other measures to ensure their trust in the system. Recent shocks have worsened gender inequality in Africa. It is therefore important now, more than ever, to invest in strengthening fiscal systems to help women and men recover, withstand future shocks, and reduce gender inequalities. While fiscal policy is not the only tool, it is an important part of government action. To be effective and improve both budgeting and revenue collection, more and better data, new diagnostic tools, and digitalization will all be necessary.

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  • 3. Connell RW. 1995. “Masculinities”. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press.
  • 4. Aoyagi, Chie.2021.“Africa’s Unequal Pandemic”. Finance and Development. International Monetary Fund.
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  • 6. Muzna Alvi, Shweta Gupta, Prapti Barooah, Claudia Ringler, Elizabeth Bryan and Ruth Meinzen-Dick.2022.“Gendered Impacts of COVID-19: Insights from 7 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia”. International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • 7. Klugman, Jeni, Zimmerman, Jamie M., Maria A. May, and Elizabeth Kellison. 2020. “Digital Cash Transfers in the Time of COVID 19: Opportunities and Considerations for Women’s Inclusion and Empowerment”. World Bank Group.
  • 8. IFPRI.2020. “Why gender-sensitive social protection is critical to the COVID-19 response in low-and middle-income countries”. International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • 9. IDFR.2020. “Kenya: Mobile-money as a public-health tool”. International Day of Family Remittances.
  • 10. Jaclyn Berfond Franz Gómez S. Juan Navarrete Ryan Newton Ana Pantelic. 2019. “Capacity Building for Government-to-Person Payments A Path to Women’s Economic Empowerment”. Women’s World Banking.
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  • 15. One recent study in West, Central Africa, East and Southern Africa found that women represented a larger share of agricultural employment in areas affected by heat waves and droughts, and a lower share in areas unaffected by extreme weather events. Nico, G. et al. 2022. “How Weather Variability and Extreme Shocks Affect Women’s Participation in African Agriculture.” Gender, Climate Change, and Nutrition Integration Initiative Policy Note 14.
  • 16. Carleton, E. 2022. “Climate Change in Africa: What Will It Mean for Agriculture and Food Security?” International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
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  • 19. Thomas, A. 2020. “Power Structures over Gender Make Women More Vulnerable to Climate Change.” Climate Change News.
  • 21. Kalbarczyk, A. et al. 2022. “COVID-19, Nutrition, and Gender: An Evidence-Informed Approach to Gender Responsive Policies and Programs.” Social Science & Medicine, 312.
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  • 30. African Tax Administrative Forum (ATAF). 2021. African Tax Outlook 2021.
  • 31. Stotsky, J. et al. 2016. “Sub-Saharan Africa: A Survey of Gender Budgeting Efforts.” IMF Working Paper 2016/512.
  • 32. Coelho, M. et al. 2022. “Gendered Taxes: The Interaction of Tax Policy with Gender Equality.” IMF Working Paper 2022/26.
  • 33. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2021. Gender and Capital Budgeting.
  • 34. Grown, C. and Valodia, I. 2010. Taxation and Gender Equity: A Comparative Analysis of Direct and Indirect Taxes in Developing and Developed Countries. Routledge.
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  • 39. Grown, C. and Valodia, I. 2010. “Taxation and Gender Equity: A Comparative Analysis of Direct and Indirect Taxes in Developing and Developed Countries.” Routledge.
  • 40. Cesar, C. et al. 2022. “Africa’s Pulse: An Analysis of Issues Shaping Africa’s Economic Future.” World Bank.
  • 41. Woolard, I. 2018. Recommendations on Zero Ratings in the Value-Added Tax System. Independent Panel of Experts for the Review of Zero Rating in South Africa.
  • 42. It is important to distinguish between firms and individuals that are large enough to pay taxes but do not (which include icebergs, e.g., which are registered and therefore partially visible to tax authorities but do not pay their full obligations) and ghosts, e.g., those which should register to pay but do not and there invisible to tax authorities) and firms and individuals that are small and potentially but not necessarily taxable such as street vendors and waste pickers. Rogan, M. (2019). “Tax Justice and the Informal Economy: A Review of the Debates.” Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing Working Paper 14.
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  • 06 September 2023

Gender equality: the route to a better world

You have full access to this article via your institution.

The Mosuo People lives in China and they are the last matriarchy society. Lugu, Sichuan, China.

The Mosuo people of China include sub-communities in which inheritance passes down either the male or the female line. Credit: TPG/Getty

The fight for global gender equality is nowhere close to being won. Take education: in 87 countries, less than half of women and girls complete secondary schooling, according to 2023 data. Afghanistan’s Taliban continues to ban women and girls from secondary schools and universities . Or take reproductive health: abortion rights have been curtailed in 22 US states since the Supreme Court struck down federal protections, depriving women and girls of autonomy and restricting access to sexual and reproductive health care .

SDG 5, whose stated aim is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, is the fifth of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, all of which Nature is examining in a series of editorials. SDG 5 includes targets for ending discrimination and violence against women and girls in both public and private spheres, eradicating child marriage and female genital mutilation, ensuring sexual and reproductive rights, achieving equal representation of women in leadership positions and granting equal rights to economic resources. Globally, the goal is not on track to being achieved, and just a handful of countries have hit all the targets.

gender equality at home essay

How the world should oppose the Taliban’s war on women and girls

In July, the UN introduced two new indices (see go.nature.com/3eus9ue ), the Women’s Empowerment Index (WEI) and the Global Gender Parity Index (GGPI). The WEI measures women’s ability and freedoms to make their own choices; the GGPI describes the gap between women and men in areas such as health, education, inclusion and decision making. The indices reveal, depressingly, that even achieving a small gender gap does not automatically translate to high levels of women’s empowerment: 114 countries feature in both indices, but countries that do well on both scores cover fewer than 1% of all girls and women.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse, with women bearing the highest burden of extra unpaid childcare when schools needed to close, and subjected to intensified domestic violence. Although child marriages declined from 21% of all marriages in 2016 to 19% in 2022, the pandemic threatened even this incremental progress, pushing up to 10 million more girls into risk of child marriage over the next decade, in addition to the 100 million girls who were at risk before the pandemic.

Of the 14 indicators for SDG 5, only one or two are close to being met by the 2030 deadline. As of 1 January 2023, women occupied 35.4% of seats in local-government assemblies, an increase from 33.9% in 2020 (the target is gender parity by 2030). In 115 countries for which data were available, around three-quarters, on average, of the necessary laws guaranteeing full and equal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights had been enacted. But the UN estimates that worldwide, only 57% of women who are married or in a union make their own decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Systemic discrimination against girls and women by men, in many contexts, remains a colossal barrier to achieving gender equality. But patriarchy is not some “natural order of things” , argues Ruth Mace, an anthropologist at University College London. Hundreds of women-centred societies exist around the world. As the science writer Angela Saini describes in her latest book, The Patriarchs , these are often not the polar opposite of male-dominated systems, but societies in which men and women share decision making .

gender equality at home essay

After Roe v. Wade: dwindling US abortion access is harming health a year later

One example comes from the Mosuo people in China, who have both ‘matrilineal’ and ‘patrilineal’ communities, with rights such as inheritance passing down either the male or female line. Researchers compared outcomes for inflammation and hypertension in men and women in these communities, and found that women in matrilineal societies, in which they have greater autonomy and control over resources, experienced better health outcomes. The researchers found no significant negative effect of matriliny on health outcomes for men ( A.  Z. Reynolds et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 117 , 30324–30327; 2020 ).

When it comes to the SDGs, evidence is emerging that a more gender-equal approach to politics and power benefits many goals. In a study published in May, Nobue Amanuma, deputy director of the Integrated Sustainability Centre at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Hayama, Japan, and two of her colleagues tested whether countries with more women legislators, and more younger legislators, are performing better in the SDGs ( N. Amanuma et al. Environ. Res. Lett. 18 , 054018; 2023 ). They found it was so, with the effect more marked for socio-economic goals such as ending poverty and hunger, than for environmental ones such as climate action or preserving life on land. The researchers recommend further qualitative and quantitative studies to better understand the reasons.

The reality that gender equality leads to better outcomes across other SDGs is not factored, however, into most of the goals themselves. Of the 230 unique indicators of the SDGs, 51 explicitly reference women, girls, gender or sex, including the 14 indicators in SDG 5. But there is not enough collaboration between organizations responsible for the different SDGs to ensure that sex and gender are taken into account. The indicator for the sanitation target (SDG 6) does not include data disaggregated by sex or gender ( Nature 620 , 7; 2023 ). Unless we have this knowledge, it will be hard to track improvements in this and other SDGs.

The road to a gender-equal world is long, and women’s power and freedom to make choices is still very constrained. But the evidence from science is getting stronger: distributing power between genders creates the kind of world we all need and want to be living in.

Nature 621 , 8 (2023)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-023-02745-9

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Gender Inequality in Household Chores and Work-Family Conflict

Javier cerrato.

1 Department of Social Psychology, Faculty of Labour Relations and Social Work, Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain

2 Department of Developmental, Educational and Social Psychology and Methodology, Universitat Jaume I, Castellón de la Plana, Spain

The fact that the permeability between family and work scopes produces work-family conflict (WFC) is well established. As such, this research aims to check whether the unequal involvement in household chores between men and women is associated with increased WFC in women and men, interpreting the results also from the knowledge that arise from gender studies. A correlational study was carried out by means a questionnaire applied to 515 subjects (63% men) of two independent samples of Spanish men and women without emotional relationship, who lived with their heterosexual partner. As expected, results firstly show unequal involvement in household chores by women and men as it is higher in women that in men, and the perception of partner involvement is lower in women that in men. Secondly, those unequal involvements relate differently to men and women on different ways of work-family interaction. They do not increase WFC in women comparing to men, although there are tangentially significant differences in work conflict (WC) and statistically significant in family conflict (FC). However, perception of partner involvement on household chores increases WFC both in men and in women but not WC nor FC. Nevertheless, increase on marital conflict (MC) by domestic tasks neither affect in a significant way WFC in women nor in men, but increase WC in both women and men and FC only in women. Results also confirm that subject involvement on household chores is not a significant predictor of WFC in women nor in men, and that MC by domestic tasks is a statistically significant predictor in women of WFC and FC, but not in men. Thus, results show that traditional gender roles still affect the way men and women manage the work and family interaction, although the increased WFC due to involvement in housework is not exclusive to women, but also occurs in men. Personal and institutional recommendations are made on the basis of these results to cope with these conflicts.

Introduction

Occupational health psychology promotes labor risk prevention intervening both on the organization and on the person, but also on work-family interface. It seeks the goodness-of-fit among these dimensions in order to reduce psychosocial risks on occupational health and concurrently to improve organizational efficacy. The effect of psychosocial stressors at work does not remain within the working sphere as it extends also to personal life. This permeability between family and work scopes has produced work-family conflict (WFC) to be one of the psychosocial risks receiving more attention during the past years ( Eby et al., 2005 ; Ammons and Kelly, 2015 ; French et al., 2017 ; Lapierre et al., 2017 ; Wayne et al., 2017 ; Carvalho et al., 2018 ). WFC negatively affects both health and general life such as work performance and work satisfaction within the organizational context, but it also increases conflict rates and decreases family satisfaction. From this perspective, and within a context of a more technological and digitalized society, gender equality at work is a matter of paramount importance, which must start with a gender equality at home. The aim of this study is to check whether the unequal involvement in household chores between men and women is associated with increased WFC in women, and explain it in terms integrating the knowledge of gender studies.

Work-Home Conflict and Gender

Individuals may experience conflict between their work and home roles due to limited time, high levels of stress, and competing behavioral expectations ( Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985 ). Although most of the work-home research has focused on how work variables affect home from the point of view of the conflict between the two spheres ( Major and Cleveland, 2005 ), organizational psychology also begins to study how family variables affect job performance and satisfaction.

In the psychosocial scientific literature, there is a wide tradition on the work and home interface studies (i.e., Kopelmanś et al., 1983 ; Edwards and Rothbard, 2000 ; Pitt-Catsouphes et al., 2006 ; Mills, 2015 ; Paulin et al., 2017 ). Two primary perspectives have been offered in this literature based on the incompatibility between individuals’ work and home domains ( Michel and Hargis, 2008 ). One perspective focuses on the mechanisms that generate conflict between both domains. The other perspective focuses on the segmentation mechanisms between the work and the family domains. In this study, we adopt the conflict model in examining the influence of home roles (differential involvement of men and women on household chores), on work roles.

Some research has shown that role pressure in work and home domains generates negative consequences on the other one bidirectionally. So the degree of participation in the home role will create difficulties for participation in work, resulting in the home-work conflict (HWC); conversely, the degree of participation in the work domain can hinder performance on the family role, producing an increase of strain-based, time-based or behavior-based work-home conflict (WHC) ( Huang et al., 2004 ).

Gender roles are essential for understanding the work-home interface. They are shared beliefs that apply to individuals on the basis of their socially identified sex which are the basis of the division of labor in most societies ( Wood and Eagly, 2010 ). In Western societies, the home sphere, and the household chores as part of this sphere, it is assumed to be in charge of women, which could in turn affect more highly the home to work conflict of women than of men. However, to our knowledge, this has not been checked empirically. In this study we will focus on the effect of the relationship between gender and dedication to household chores on WFC among women.

Different meta-analyses ( Byron, 2005 ; Eby et al., 2005 ) have demonstrated the key role played by gender, but how it relates to work-family constructs is still both theoretically and empirically debated ( Shockley et al., 2017 ). Research has found differences in work-home conflict repeatedly, ranging from differences in the experience of WFC to the existence of different work and home backgrounds to women and men. However, most studies in the field of work-home interface do not consider gender as a variable, identifying at most correlates and differential associations for men and women ( Martínez and Paterna, 2009 ). Thus, we posit that work-home interface studies should include gender as key variable due to the influence of gender ideology and gender-role orientation might have on the work-home relationship from a cultural point of view.

From a cultural and discursive perspective ( Gerstel and Sarkisian, 2006 ), gender ideology, defined as beliefs and values maintained about what is right for men and women, determines the patterns by which a particular society judges or evaluates the proper conduct of a man or a woman.

This gender ideology is also reflected in the social discourse, as frequently the couple recreates the dominant social discourse in which is referred the essential characteristics in which men and women differ ignoring the sociopolitical context. This discourse states that the differences between men and women in relation to home and work are the result of personal choice, that there are differences in innate abilities of men and women for household chores and work outside the home, and that these differences guide the choice for certain jobs and even that preference for home toward work is a free choice in the case of women ( Martínez and Paterna, 2009 ; Kuo et al., 2018 ). Linked to this ideology, the traditional gender role model prescribes that work domain and instrumentality are more important for men than for women, whereas the home domain and expressiveness is more important for women. The traditional gender role model has a biosocial and cultural origin, and was described by Parsons and Bales (1955) in their delineation of instrumental (men) and expressive (women) roles. This model arbitrarily assumes that expressiveness and instrumentality are separate dimensions, and that expressiveness is always women gender role whereas instrumentality is that of men. Work and family interactions are embedded in the broader cultural, institutional and economic context in which individuals reside ( Ollier-Malaterre and Foucreault, 2017 ). Of particular relevance to gender differences in WFC are cultural differences in gender egalitarianism, or belief or attitudes about de equality of the sexes within de culture ( House et al., 2004 ; Lucas-Thompson and Goldberg, 2015 ).

As Martínez and Paterna (2009) indicate, gender ideology seems to determine the percentage of tasks considered traditionally feminine by members of the couple, such as washing, ironing, shopping, cooking, or cleaning. It also generates a differential meaning about household chores for men and women. Also, recent studies have shown that there is still a division of house chores by gender, depending on the gender role nuclei: instrumentality inside and outside home for men; expressiveness and instrumentality inside home for women ( Fernández et al., 2016 ). All this rationale, leads us to formulate hypothesis 1:

  • simple  H1: There will be a division of household chores between men and women based on traditional gender roles. Women will spend more time than men in traditionally female household chores and men in traditionally male ones.

Both men and women similarly perceive a lack of parity in performing household chores, but perceive greater equality in the care of daughters and sons ( Yago and Martínez, 2009 ). This leads us to propose hypothesis 2:

  • simple  H2 : Women will perceive their partners much less involved in household chores and only focus on household chores traditionally considered masculine. Men will perceive their female partners more involved in traditionally female household chores, especially in those traditionally considered feminine.

Implication in Household Chores and Work-Family Conflict (WFC)

Time required for household chores and caring for the family is one of the most important factors in the conflict coming from the family sphere, especially in families with children. So, the dual-income couples with children tend to have a greater number of conflicts between the partners and a higher level of stress than their counterparts without children ( Michel and Hargis, 2008 ). From this point of view, the gender roles model assumes that the nature of the role demands differs in men and women, and these roles act as moderators of WFC ( Barnett et al., 1995 ).

The highest level of family to work interference in women comes from the different implication of women and men in household chores, including the care of children. This different implication has been proven by various studies and research ( Bianchi et al., 2000 ; Korabik, 2015 ; Borelli et al., 2017 ) and still persists in society as has been found in different surveys ( Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2014 ; Eurobarometer, 2015 ). In concrete, this model keeps very persistent in Spain, where women spend almost double the amount of time on unpaid work as men National Institute of Statistics (INE), 2018 ). This time is spent on activities such as caring for children (38 h a week women versus 23 men) or family members (20 h women versus 14 men) or household chores (20 h women versus 11 men). So although women have begun to strongly form part of the labor force and to spend more time with their children taking care of them, they neither assume a decrease in their salary as much as women do for work interruptions due to family issues nor stay at home to take care of their children ( Gerstel and Sarkisian, 2006 ). Most men still maintain full involvement in their work because their feminine couple assume the responsibility for caring their children. Thus, we can deduce that women will suffer more by the interference of the family at work, because their greater involvement in the family will can subtract them time, strength and dedication to their work; however, men will suffer more by the interference of work in the family. In fact, a high implication in the family sphere has been shown linked to a higher family-to-work interference only in women ( Hammer et al., 1997 ).

Moreover, men do not feel an obligation when they are involved in the home as women do, as they perceive it more as a hobby or a free choice. Also, those house chores that keep the home every day (shopping, cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes, and cleaning the house) are considered feminine, while those considered male or neutral tasks (paying bills, taking care of the car or home maintenance) do not involve daily devotion. Some cultural interpretation argue that women are more involved in house chores and do not want to fully share because of the belief that this is central to their gender identity and a source of power in the family, whereas husbands, whose gender identity has traditionally been marked by paid work, would not object to do less household chores than their wives ( Martínez and Paterna, 2009 ).

Besides, a crossover effect must be included: to the greater involvement of women in the family and household chores must be added the greatest involvement of men in the workplace ( Bakker et al., 2008 ), which supposes an increased family burden for women. As husbands are not available for household chores, wives suffer overload by household chores and emotional demands related to children caregiving, which will increase still more women stress and family to work interference ( Frone, 2003 ).

In short, the lesser involvement of men in household chores and greater transfer of stress from work to family causes increased domestic workload on women and marital conflict (MC), thus increasing the tension transfer from family environment to worksite in women. All this rationale, leads us to formulate hypothesis 3:

  • simple  H3: The greater involvement of women in household chores and the perception of the lesser involvement of their men partners is linked to an increased family to work conflict (FWC) in women.

Marital Conflict and Household Chores

This greater involvement of women in household chorus and increased family to work conflict may lead to an increase of MC. In this line, Pittman et al. (1996) provide evidence for this idea by showing that the contribution of women to household chores is higher on the days when their husbands express higher levels of work stress; in these cases, women must subtract energy and time from work due to their husbands’ increased work stress. However, men do not adjust their contribution to household chores when their wives bring their work stress home. Research on family processes shows that stressed couples show a high level of negative interactions and conflicts. Thus, increased stress associated with WFC and its correlative frustration, leads individuals to initiate or exacerbate their sequence of negative interaction with the partner ( Westman and Etzion, 2005 ; Huffman et al., 2017 ). This negative interaction may be understood as product both of social undermining which consist in behaviors that involve rejection, criticism and negative attitude toward the couple ( Vinokur and Van Ryn, 1993 ) and hostile marital interactions ( Matthews et al., 1996 ), which aims to express hostility toward the partner or MCs.

Focusing on the conflict between the partners and their relationship with household chores, it has shown how increasing distress and frustration generated by the WFC tends to impair the interaction with the partner ( Westman and Etzion, 2005 ). This can result in increased tension between the partners due to the transfer of stress from work to family by men and their lesser involvement in household chores, which would generate an increase in MC and, therefore, an increase of conflict in the family especially in women due to unequal distribution of household chores. This leads us to propose hypothesis 4:

  • simple  H4: The conflict between the partners due to unequal distribution of household chores generates an increase of more family to work conflict (FWC) in women than in men because of their greater involvement at home.

Materials and Methods

Participants and procedure.

A correlational study was carried out by means of a questionnaire applied by professional surveyors during 2014. They selected a segmented sample of men and women working in public and private organizations from different productive sectors (teaching, services, and manufacturing sectors). The final sample consisted of 515 subjects, mostly (63%) were men, with an average age of 40 years old; all of them were married or living with a heterosexual partner, and they had children. Samples of men and women were independent from each other, without emotional/marital relationship between them. Regarding the organizational setting, 21% were working in public organizations and 79% in private ones.

  • simple • Work-Family Conflict (WFC), Family Conflict (FC), and Work Conflict (WC) based on time and strain were measured through the Spanish version ( Martínez-Pérez and Osca, 2001 ) of the Kopelmanś et al. (1983) scale. This scale applies the role conflict concept of Kahn et al. (1964) to study work and family scopes first separately and then together, based on the idea that WC and FC might act as antecedents of WFC. Each of these subscales consists of eight items on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (total disagree) to 5 (total agree). An example of a WFC subscale item is My work timetable is often incompatible with my family life ; an example of an item from the FC subscale is My family dislikes doing some activities I would like to do; and an example of an item from the WF subscale is At work I can’t be myself, or be the way I really am.
  • simple • Subject involvement with household chores scale. This is a 10-item self-constructed scale that measures subjects’ self-perception about different tasks related to household chores, family management, and child care and education. Subjects respond to each item using a dichotomous yes/no format. The final scale score is the total number of family tasks they do. Examples of these items are Do you take the children to school every day? and Do you clean your house in your everyday life? This scale only includes the most common household chores of a standard Spanish couple with children of school age, not including others that may be less frequent in this culture (i.e., cutting the grass).
  • simple • Partner involvement in household chores perception scale . This self-constructed scale is similar to the one above, but in this case it measures the subjects’ perception of their partners’ involvement in all the household chores. Subjects respond to each item using a dichotomous yes/no format about their perception of their partner’s involvement in different family tasks. The final scale score is the total number of tasks they perceive that their partners dedicate to family tasks. An example of these items is Does your partner take the children to school in everyday life?
  • simple • Marital conflict about household chores was measured with the single question How many times do you and your partner argue about who must do the household chore s and when ? Subjects respond to this item on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (every day).

We also measured socio-demographic (sex and age) and socio-familiar (family status, number of children) variables for the sample description.

Data Analyses

First, we performed skewness and kurtosis analyses to check normality among variables. Second, we calculated internal consistencies (Cronbach’s α), descriptive analyses and correlations between conflict scales and subject/partner perceived involvement on household chores scales. Third, we computed Analyses of Variance (ANOVAs) in order to test whether there was any statistically significant difference between-group regarding gender for subject’s involvement in household chores scale, and subject’s perception of partner’s involvement in household scale, and Kruskal–Wallis non-parametrical tests for item to item analysis due to its dichotomous level of response (Hypothesis 1 and 2). After that, we computed new ANOVAs and Regression Analyses to check gender, household chores, partner’s implication and conflict on WFC, WC, and FC (Hypothesis 3 and 4). All data analyses were carried out using SPSS 21.0.

Table ​ Table1 1 shows skewness and kurtosis statistics. As expected, all scales show values equal or below 0.5 and −0.5 in both or at least at one of them. So we assume a normal distribution of the scores of these scales. However, item by item of subject’s and partner’s involvement in household chores scales do not follow that normal distribution, due to its dichotomical nature.

Skewness and Kurtosis analysis of variables distribution.

Table ​ Table2 2 shows the descriptive analyses and Cronbach’s alpha of the variables for both samples. The alpha values meet the criterion of 0.70 ( Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994 ), except in the case of the perception of partner’s involvement in household chores, which was above 0.60. As expected, the pattern of correlations shows that WFC, work conflict and FC are positively and significantly related in both samples. However, WFC is more related to conflict at work in women and to conflict in the family in men.

Cronbach’s alpha, means ( M ), standard deviation ( SD ), and intercorrelations by gender ( N = 515).

Marital conflict is only highly and positively related to WFC, work conflict and FC in women, but not in men. This could indicate that women assimilate the conflict with the partner into conflicts in the family, i.e., women integrate the couple into the family concept, while men consider them to be different.

Subject’s involvement in household chores correlates significant and negatively with WFC in both men and women, but only with work conflict in men. Then, for both men and women, the higher their involvement is in household chores, the lower their WFC; moreover, the higher the work conflict is, the lower the men’s involvement in household chores.

Finally, the correlation between the subject’s and the perception of the partner’s involvement in household chores is only highly, significantly and negatively related in women. However, the perception of the partner’s involvement in household chores is only highly, significantly and positively related to WFC in men. Thus, women decrease their involvement in household chores when their male partners increase their involvement; on the other hand, in the case of men, the greater the involvement of the partner (women) in the household chores, the higher the WFC is.

ANOVA results confirm these differences and inequality about men’s and women’s involvement in household chores. Women’s involvement in household chores is more than twice that of men (4.0 and 1.7, respectively; F = 82.60; p ≤ 001). Consistently, women perceive lower involvement of their partner (men) in household chores than men do (1.8 and 2.8, respectively; F = 22.70; p ≤ 001).

Kruskal–Wallis tests also confirm that women are significantly more involved than men in seven of eleven household chores (see Table ​ Table3 3 ). These seven tasks are traditionally considered feminine: home shopping, house cleaning, free-time family management, taking children from home to school and from school to home, children’s care, helping children with homework, and playing with them. Men only score higher than women on one task traditionally considered masculine: house repairs. There are no differences in family management. These results confirm Hypothesis 1.

Kruskal–Wallis test of subject involvement on household chores and perception of partner involvement on household chores by gender (item to item) ( N = 515).

Symmetrically, Kruskal–Wallis tests also show that these results are confirmed by the perception that men and women have of their partner’s involvement in household chores: men consider that their partners (women) are mainly involved in traditionally feminine household chores: home shopping, house cleaning, free-time family management, taking children from home to school and school to home, taking care of the children, and helping children with homework, whereas women consider that their partners (men) are involved in typically masculine household chores: house repairs and family management. There are no differences in the perception of playing with the children. On the whole, these results confirm Hypothesis 2.

To test the hypothesis 3 (the effect of the greater involvement of women in household chores and perception of lesser involvement of male partners in the increase in the WFC among women compared to men), and hypothesis 4 (the effect of MC in the increased level of WFC in women relative to men), we performed three separate ANOVAs ( Table ​ Table4 4 ), complemented by multiple regression analysis ( Table ​ Table5 5 ).

Analysis of variance of work-family conflict, work conflict and family conflict by subject involvement on household chores and subject perception of partner involvement on household chores and marital conflict by gender ( N = 515).

Regression analyses predicting work conflict, family conflict and work-family conflict (dependent variables) in women and men by involvement on household chores, subject perception of partner involvement on household chores and level of marital conflict (independent variables).

ANOVAs results confirm partially hypothesis 3 since greater involvement of women in household chores do not generate a statistically significant increase in WFC comparing to men. There are gender differences in the extent to which this differential involvement in domestic tasks affects FC and (in a tangentially significant way) WC that point to a gender effect. On one hand, in the case of women, when their involvement in household chores is high, their FC and WC levels are similar; however, when their involvement is low, FC decreases and WC increases. On the other hand, in the case of men, the WC is always greater than the FC regardless of their degree of involvement in household chores. That is, in the case of women when there is a lower involvement in household chores the FC is also lower, but increases the WC.

There are no gender differences regarding the WFC according to the perception of their partners: it increases significantly in both men and women when the involvement in household chores of the partner is high or low, being always higher among women than among men regardless of the involvement of the partner with household chores is high or low, which completely rejects hypothesis 3.

It is noteworthy that the effect of the perception of involvement of the partner in household chores by gender does not affect WC or FC in a gender-specific way, but it affects the WFC globally statistically significantly, although these differences were not gender effects manifest. This indicates that the WFC is affected by the involvement of the partner in household chores, but not for the involvement of the subject in them, which segmentally would affect the FC and WC.

Regarding hypothesis 4, the increase of conflict by domestic tasks among the partners does not affect the WFC in a statistically significant way in women nor in men, but it does on WC and FC: when MC is high WC increase both in women and men, but FC increase only in women.

As a confirmation of this results, regarding the relationship between the subject’s and partner’s involvement in household chores and the different conflicts, regression analyses (see Table ​ Table5 5 ) show, first, that subject involvement on household chores does not predict WFC in women nor men, but only WC in men in a negative way. Moreover, the perception of the partner’s involvement in household chores and MC is a predictor of women’s WC and men’s WFC. Again these results do not confirm hypothesis 3.

Nevertheless, regarding hypothesis 4, as a difference of the ANOVA results, the increase of conflict by domestic tasks among the partners predict the WFC, WC, and FC in a statistically significant way in women but not in men. So results show that MC in women predicts WFC. This result fully support hypothesis 4. In addition to this, the MC is the only variable of those studied that affects the FC in the case of women, whereas involvement in housework does in the case of men, supporting also hypothesis 4.

In the case of men, the perception of the partner’s (women) involvement in household chores is a predictor of WFC. Results also show that men’s involvement in household chores is a negative statistically significant predictor FC as their beta coefficient is negative. That is, it seems that when the involvement of men in housework increases, the conflict in the family decreases; but when the perception of involvement of their female partners is high, it increases in them the WFC. However, MC does not predict this FC in men, so the FC does not increase by the conflict with the partner for housework but by their low involvement in them.

Home-work interaction has been the focus of a wide range of scientific literature during the past decades. It is generally accepted that both the family and the work scope affect each other in a different way. However, it was not studied in which degree the own and the partner’s involvement in family issues affect different kind of work-home conflict from a gender point of view. Thus, the aim of this study was to check whether the unequal involvement in household chores between men and women is associated with increased WFC in women, and explain it in terms integrating the knowledge of gender studies.

First, results confirm inequality because it indicates that the involvement of women in household chores is, on average, more than double the involvement of their male partners. In addition, men are more involved in traditionally masculine household chores (i.e., home repairs and family management), and women are more involved in traditionally feminine chores (i.e., childcare or shopping). Symmetrically, the subject’s perception of the partner implication confirms this difference: women perception of their men partner involvement in household chores much less than men perception of their woman partner involvement. Therefore, hypotheses 1 and 2 of our study are confirmed.

Secondly, we checked if those unequal involvements relate differently to men and women on different ways of WF interaction. We found that the greater involvement of women in household chores does not affect the level of WFC differentially in men and women, so hypothesis 3 is not met. This gender inequality in the distribution of household chores and child care does not imply a higher level of WFC in women compared to men. Rather the opposite happens: when more involved are both men and women in household chores, lower is the WFC. Although the hypothesis 3 is not corroborated, it should be noted that when the involvement of women in household chores is high, their level of FC increases; when men’s involvement increases, their level of WC increases, which in some way supports hypothesis 3. That is, the high involvement in household chores has negative consequences in the family sphere for women and in the workplace for men, possibly because of the greater respective importance that women give to family and men to work, as it poses the traditional gender role model.

In addition to this, results show that when the involvement of women in household chores is high, their levels of WC and FC are similar, i.e., it equally affects both areas. When this involvement is low, FC is lower than the WC. However, among men, WC is always greater than the WC regardless of their involvement in household chores. Furthermore, when the conflict with the partner for household chores is high, women report a higher FC but not a higher WC, whereas in man this conflict does not affect neither the FC nor the WC.

However, in the case of women, MC affects conflict related WC and FC and WFC, so hypothesis 4 is fully corroborated. This is very interesting because although hypothesis 3 is not met, however, the conflict with the partner due to this inequality in the distribution of housework seems to generate this WFC. That is, it would not be the greatest involvement in household chores itself that might cause and increase WFC in women, but the conflict with their partner which might produce it.

These results may be related to the absence of perception of injustice in the relationships regarding to inequality in the distribution of domestic and family responsibilities between men and women, so that in many cases women neither do perceive injustice in their relationships nor are dissatisfied. Following the review of Yago and Martínez (2009) , it has repeatedly shown that the perception of an unequal distribution of housework between men and women does not necessarily lead to a perception of unfairness. This perception of justice on the division of domestic work and the ideology of traditional gender that supports it explain why gender inequalities remain in the family sphere mediating the relationship between the perception of injustice and perceived quality the relationship. In fact, when women are more socially and emotionally independent from their partners, they are more likely to consider unfair the inequality in the distribution of household chores.

The perception of injustice is a mediating factor between an unequal distribution of domestic work and the perceived quality of the relationship; the relationship may be perceived as satisfactory although the sharing of responsibilities is not equal, if it is not perceived unfair ( Yago and Martínez, 2009 ). However, these results were mediated by gender ideology so this inequal distribution do not generate distress in the more traditional women whereas it does in women with an equal gender ideology.

In this line a study of Ogolsky et al. (2014) shows that the discrepancies at a cognitive level between men and women with regard to equality in household chores affects the quality of the relationship in the sphere of the couple in greater way to women than in men. However, when this inequality is manifested in a behavioral level, it does not seem to affect the quality of the relationship in women. That is, the real inequality does not affect the quality of the relationship in women, but it does at the cognitive level.

The involvement of the couple in household chores is related to an increased WFC, although it does not affect the WC or the FC separately by gender, but affects the WFC globally: it increases similarly in men and women when the couple’s involvement is high. This indicates that the WFC is affected by the involvement of the partner in household chores, but not for the involvement of the subject in them, which would affect to a segmented FC and WC. These results do not prove the hypothesis 3, but can indicate that the model of traditional gender roles does not serve to satisfactorily explain the influence of the division of household tasks and the effect of gender inequality in the WFC, as both in the case of men and women more involved in household chores generate that their female and male partners feel an increased WFC.

Men’s and women’s perceptions of their partners’ involvement in household chores contribute significantly to the perception of WFC; their own involvement also contributes significantly to FC, but negatively, which means that the more involved their partner is in the household chores, the greater their WFC.

Although our study seems to show that gender is an important variable in the involvement in household chores, and that gender inequality and the model of traditional gender roles is still valid in our western society, it also seems to suggest that increased WFC due to a high involvement in household chores is not exclusive to men but also occurs in women. This could be an indicator of a change in the model of traditional gender roles that began in the 80s, where new generations equate the importance of work and family spheres in the cases of both men and women.

In fact, results of some recent research ( Shockley et al., 2017 ) indicate that men and women appear to be more similar than different in their WFC experiences; gender differences in WFC appear to generally be small, regardless of which specific subgroups are examined, and when there is meaningful variation in the magnitude of gender differences in WFC the key factors that determine this variation is currently not well understood.

From this point of view, several alternative models other than the conflict perspective might explain these results. This tis the case of models such as the synergy between work and family, positive balance, work-family facilitation, or work-family enrichment ( Beutell and Wittig-Berman, 2008 ; Lapierre et al., 2017 ), which would better understand the effect of gender on the individual’s relationship between work and family.

The use of this new model integrative approach is justified by the social changes that characterize the values of the new generations, Gen Xers (born between 80 and 2000 population). They seem to consider that both work and family are equally important in their life, and try to find the most appropriate way to reconcile both aspects ( Beutell and Wittig-Berman, 2008 ), giving less importance to presentism at work and being supporters of flexibility. This understanding of the work is based, in addition to the facilities provided the digital revolution and technologies for work, making workers less dependent of a particular physical space and a fixed schedule to perform their work, together with the values of personal autonomy and responsibility that are shared by this new generation. This facilitates that people can now have more time to devote to other areas of their life within the scope of non-work such as family or leisure, with a progressively greater importance in their social identity.

From this point of view, research on work and family interaction has evolved from the study of isolated variables within the conflict and segmentation models toward more complex models that try to understand from the boundary theory, and the models of facilitation and synergy, how transitions are made from one scope to the other, and how they integrate with each other. They do not consider them as separate domains but as something unitary and unbreakable within the life of people. In the same way, an approach that takes into account the gender ideology is progressively being imposed, since it is inseparable from the relationship between work and the family from a cultural point of view.

Study Limitations

This study focuses on the effect of different kinds of conflict related to the home and work settings. However, due the lack of clear differences in results regarding WFC in men and women when partners’ implication in household chorus is high, it would be necessary to include facilitation and synergy models that would make it easier to understand the work-family relationship in all its facets, including the role played by gender and gender inequality. Research on the positive reciprocal effects of work and family is fundamental to understanding the complexity of the work-family interaction.

In addition, this study has other methodological limitations. First, we studied the effect of gender and involvement in household chores on the work-family relationship using independent samples of men and women, without collecting data from their partners. However, we analyzed the perceptions of these people (men and women) about their own involvement and their partner’s involvement, and this perception was shown to be significant. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to include the whole couple as a unit in future studies to increase the reliability of the proposed model.

Second, this study is based only on quantitative analyses. It would be interesting to support these results with qualitative studies (through interviews or focus groups) that would help us to interpret the analyses of the results framed in both the traditional gender roles and cross-effect theories, but also in people’s interpretations, increasing the model’s validity. They would also allow us to understand the gender role in the direction of the cross-effects of work stress from men to women, or from women to men, as our results only partially support this cross-effect, contrary to previous results ( Bakker et al., 2008 ). In any case, the quantitative methodology used in this study allowed us to detect, in a relatively simple way, the existence of changes in the relationship between gender and the traditional division of roles as a first step.

Also, the household chores used are those that might be generalized to mostly couples with children at school age. However, we have not considered specific situations (i.e., living in their house, living in a large or in a small town, grandparents support in caring children, age of the children) that might have help us to better describe the sample and interpret our results. Future studies could include this kind of sociodemographic variables.

In addition, may be other methodological limitations that may have conditioned the results. One of them is the imbalance in the percentage of men (63%) regarding women (37%). However, this limitation is assumable given the correlational nature of the study and the breadth of the sample. Finally, the reliably of the involvement of the partner in household chores is not too high (Cronbach’s alpha 0.62) which could raise doubts about its effect as an independent variable in the WFC in men and WC among women. Nevertheless, it met widely accepted criteria to assume its reliably (over 0.60).

Practical Implications

These results raise a number of practical implications for equality between men and women in terms of gender issues in the effective management of organizations in order to establish social integration and equality policies in both family and work settings ( Wharton, 2015 ). The management of work and working time within organizations must take into account the social changes occurring in gender roles, and start to consider that both men and women gradually tend to give the same importance to their work and family environments ( Kuo et al., 2018 ), with the accompanying increase in WFC and stress in both partners. Thus, although in many cases traditional gender roles are still valid (the family sphere continues to be more important for women than for men), it is necessary to consider the vision and specific attitudes that both workers have about their involvement in work and family, and establish organizational policies that help to reconcile both spheres in both genders ( Lucas-Thompson and Goldberg, 2015 ).

Moreover, public and social institutions specializing in family matters should incorporate these progressive changes in traditional gender roles into their strategies, in order to facilitate the homogenization of women’s and men’s roles within the family and workplace. For instance, they can design family counseling and couple training campaigns that help them to discover how to best coordinate their dedication to the family in a way that will reduce stress and conflict, and how to minimize WFC, even translating it into work-family synergy.

But also organizations might participate in this social change. They might contribute for instance through the inclusion of family friendly politics to support the search for home-work balance of their workers, men and women ( Sprung et al., 2015 ; Lin et al., 2017 ; Matias et al., 2017 ). It would mean a way to improve the quality of working life of their workers and, at the same time, a return of investment (ROI) both for the organization ( Dowd et al., 2017 ) and for our, hopefully, every time more equitable society.

Ethics Statement

All participants provided written informed consents before to complete the survey, in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and researchers guaranteed the anonymity of data. This study was approved by the institutional review board of the Faculty of Labour Relations and Social Work of the University of Basque Country.

Author Contributions

JC has been the director of review of the scientific literature, theoretical justification, methodology design, data collection, statistical analyses, and results description. EC has coordinated the improvement of the whole design and redaction paper, including conclusions and research limitations.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Funding. The authors gratefully thank the financial support provided by Generalitat Valenciana (Grant AICO/2017/073).

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In the words of Johanna Tantria T. Wardham: “Gender inequality starts from the household”

Date: Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Author : Oisika Chakrabarti

gender equality at home essay

Passionate and fiery Johanna Tantria T. Wardham, is known universally as Jo. A popular figure in the urban slums of Jakarta, she can often be spotted in Prumpung and other neighborhoods, on the outskirts of Indonesia’s bustling capital city. Her mission in life is to build a culture of gender equality, from the ground up. She leads community discussions, trainings on preventing violence against women and girls, and conducts gender audits, but in the midst of all this, what she has become is a GO-TO person for the community. Jo is a staff member of the NGO Kalyanamitra, UN Women’s partner for the Safe City pilot programme in Indonesia. The Prumpung area was selected along with two other sites for the initiative, due to high prevalence of violence, including gender-based violence in the neighbourhoods. According to the National Women’s Commission, there were over 250,000 cases of violence against women and girls reported in Indonesia in 2016. Today Jo inspires not only the people she works with, but also many young students, to give back to the community.

gender equality at home essay

I graduated from the faculty of law and even when I was a university student, I was already active in student activism. I was always aware that I had to transfer my knowledge to a lot of people. I am from a family who lived in a village. My father was a civil servant, and there are a lot of poor people living in the surrounding area. I feel that I have the responsibility to transfer my knowledge to other people because that is the message I always got from my late father.

Gender inequality starts from the household, the unequal division of labour and that creates violence against women in all forms...especially gender-based violence. And I often encounter these kinds of problems in places I work. I think gender equality should start from the family.

I was lucky…in my family, my mother and father set an example for the neighbourhood because my father did not discriminate between women's work and men's work. Everyday my father did the mopping, washed the dishes; on Sundays, they did the laundry together. We are a Catholic family and the neighbours were also happy seeing that the father could do anything.

When I chose this work, I fully realized that this was not an easy job, this was going to be tough and challenging because it is all about changing paradigms that are rooted in the culture of the community. Not only do we have the patriarchal values and a capitalist system, but we also have the face of poverty as women—that is the reality here. So many NGOs try to solve the problem of gender inequality. We have campaigns, discussions, education, case-handling--so many other NGOs have already done that. But for me, it’s all about raising critical awareness in the community. It’s very important to organize community groups to be critical, and to support the change in the culture, as well as in the system that marginalizes women.

In this community, the main issue for women is gender inequality. Inequality in their relations in the household, the unequal division of work in the household, domestic violence, and we also find sexual violence against women and girls.

What I wish to see is better relations in the family. There should not be the standardized gender role strictly applied in the family. They [men and women] should work together in the household because that is the key to prevent sexual violence in the family.

What gives me hope is when the women in the community tell me stories like, ‘my husband is willing to do the laundry, he helps with dinner.’ It shows that nothing is impossible. Change is possible!

I always tell my students in the campus, or at universities, they should not only think about graduating and getting a job and making a living. They should show a little care and concern about others. You don’t have to be the big candle, you can become just a small candle to provide light and illumination to people who may not be as advantaged as us.”

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Gender Equality Essay for Students and Children

500+ words essay on gender equality essay.

Equality or non-discrimination is that state where every individual gets equal opportunities and rights. Every individual of the society yearns for equal status, opportunity, and rights. However, it is a general observation that there exists lots of discrimination between humans. Discrimination exists because of cultural differences, geographical differences, and gender. Inequality based on gender is a concern that is prevalent in the entire world.  Even in the 21 st century, across globe men and women do not enjoy equal privileges. Gender equality means providing equal opportunities to both men and women in political, economic, education and health aspects.

gender equality essay

Importance of Gender Equality

A nation can progress and attain higher development growth only when both men and women are entitled to equal opportunities. Women in the society are often cornered and are refrained from getting equal rights as men to health, education, decision-making and economic independence in terms of wages.

The social structure that prevails since long in such a way that girls do not get equal opportunities as men. Women generally are the caregivers in the family. Because of this, women are mostly involved in household activities. There is lesser participation of women in higher education, decision-making roles, and leadership roles. This gender disparity is a hindrance in the growth rate of a country. When women participate in the workforce increases the economic growth rate of the country increases. Gender equality increases the overall wellbeing of the nation along with economic prosperity .

How is Gender Equality Measured?

Gender equality is an important factor in determining a country’s overall growth. There are several indexes to measure gender equality.

Gender-Related Development Index (GDI) –   GDI is a gender centric measure of Human Development Index. GDI considers parameters like life expectancy, education, and incomes in assessing the gender equality of a country.

Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) – This measure includes much detail aspects like the proportion of seats than women candidates hold in national parliament, percentage of women at economic decision-making role, the income share of female employees.

Gender Equity Index (GEI) – GEI ranks countries on three parameters of gender inequality, those are education, economic participation, and empowerment. However, GEI ignores the health parameter.

Global Gender Gap Index – The World Economic Forum introduced the Global Gender Gap Index in 2006. This index focuses more on identifying the level of female disadvantage. The four important areas that the index considers are economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, health, and survival rate.

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Gender Inequality in India

As per the World Economic Forum’s gender gap ranking, India stands at rank 108 out of 149 countries. This rank is a major concern as it highlights the immense gap in opportunities in women with comparison to men. In Indian society from a long time back, the social structure has been such that the women are neglected in many areas like education, health, decision-making areas, financial independence, etc.

Another major reason, which contributes to the discriminatory behavior towards women in India, is the dowry system in marriage.  Because of this dowry system, most Indian families consider girls as a burden.  Preference for son still prevails. Girls have refrained from higher education. Women are not entitled to equal job opportunities and wages. In the 21 st century, women are still preferred gender in home managing activities. Many women quit their job and opt-out from leadership roles because of family commitments. However, such actions are very uncommon among men.

For overall wellbeing and growth of a nation, scoring high on gender equality is the most crucial aspect. Countries with less disparity in gender equality have progressed a lot. The government of India has also started taking steps to ensure gender equality. Several laws and policies are prepared to encourage girls. “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana ” (Save girl, and make girls educated) campaign is created to spread awareness of the importance of girl child.  Several laws to protect girls are also there. However, we need more awareness of spreading knowledge of women rights . In addition, the government should take initiatives to check the correct and proper implementation of policies.

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Introduction to Gender Equality

In a society, everyone has the right to lead his/her life accordingly without any discrimination. When this state is achieved where all individuals are considered to be equal irrespective of their caste, gender, colour, profession, and status, we call it equality. Equality can also be defined as the situation where every individual has the same rights and equal opportunity to grow and prosper. 

Every individual of society dreams for equal rights and access to resources available at their disposal, but there is a lot of discrimination. This discrimination can be due to cultural differences, geographical differences, the colour of the individual, social status and even gender. The most prevalent discrimination is gender inequality. It is not a localised issue and is limited to only certain spheres of life but is prevalent across the globe. Even in progressive societies and top organisations, we can see many examples of gender bias. 

Gender equality can only be achieved when both male and female individuals are treated similarly. But discrimination is a social menace that creates division. We stop being together and stand together to tackle our problems. This social stigma has been creeping into the underbelly of all of society for many centuries. This has also been witnessed in gender-based cases. Gender inequality is the thing of the past as both men and women are creating history in all segments together.

Gender Equality builds a Nation

In this century, women and men enjoy the same privileges. The perception is changing slowly but steadily. People are now becoming more aware of their rights and what they can do in a free society. It has been found that when women and men hold the same position and participate equally, society progresses exclusively and creates a landmark. When a community reaches gender equality, everyone enjoys the same privileges and gets similar scopes in education, health, occupation, and political aspect. Even in the family, when both male and female members are treated in the same way, it is the best place to grow, learn, and add great value.

A nation needs to value every gender equally to progress at the right place. A society attains better development in all aspects when both genders are entitled to similar opportunities. Equal rights in decision making, health, politics, infrastructure, profession, etc will surely advance our society to a new level. The social stigma of women staying inside the house has changed. Nowadays, girls are equally competing with boys in school. They are also creating landmark development in their respective profession. Women are now seeking economic independence before they get married. It gives them the confidence to stand against oppression and make better decisions for themselves.

The age-old social structure dictated that women need to stay inside the home taking care of all when men go out to earn bread and butter. This has been practised for ages when the world outside was not safe. Now that the time has changed and we have successfully made our environment quite safer, women can step forward, get educated, pursue their passion, bring economic balance in their families, and share the weight of a family with men. This, in a cumulative way, will also make a country’s economy progress faster and better.

Methods to measure Gender Equality

Gender equality can be measured and a country’s growth can be traced by using the following methods.

Gender Development Index (GDI) is a gender-based calculation done similar to the Human Development Index. 

Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) is a detailed calculation method of the percentage of female members in decision-making roles. 

Gender Equity Index (GEI) considers economic participation, education, and empowerment.

Global Gender Gap Index assesses the level of gender inequality present on the basis of four criteria: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, health and survival .

According to the Gender Gap Index (GGI), India ranks 140 among 156 participating countries. This denotes that the performance of India has fallen from the previous years, denoting negative growth in terms of closing the gender gap. In the current environment where equality and equal opportunities are considered supreme, this makes India be at a significant disadvantage.

Roadblocks to Gender Equality  

Indian society is still wrecked by such stigmas that dictate that women are meant to manage the home and stay indoors. This is being done for ages, leading to neglect of women in areas like education, health, wealth, and socio-economic fields. 

In addition to that, the dowry system is further crippling society. This ill practice had led to numerous female feticides. It has created a notion that girls are a burden on a family, which is one of the primary reasons a girl child cannot continue her education. Even if they excel in education and become independent, most of them are forced to quit their job as their income is considered a backup source, which is not fair. New-age women are not only independent, but they are confident too. The only thing they demand from society is support, which we should provide them.  

Along with dowry, there is one more burning issue that has a profound impact on women's growth. It is prevalent in all kinds of society and is known as violence. Violence against women is present in one or another form in public and private spaces. Sometimes, violence is accompanied by other burning issues such as exploitation, harassment, and trafficking, making the world unsafe for women. We must take steps to stop this and ensure a safe and healthy place for women.  

Poverty is also one of the major roadblocks towards gender equality. It has led to other malpractices such as child marriage, sale of children, trafficking and child labour, to name a few. Providing equal job opportunities and upliftment of people below the poverty line can help bring some checks onto this.

Initiative Towards Gender Equality

Any kind of discrimination acts as a roadblock in any nation’s growth, and a nation can only prosper when all its citizens have equal rights. Most of the developed countries has comparatively less gender discrimination and provide equal opportunity to both genders. Even the Indian government is taking multiple initiatives to cut down gender discrimination. 

They have initiated a social campaign called “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana” to encourage the education of girl children. Besides this, the government runs multiple other schemes, such as the Women Helpline Scheme, UJJAWALA, National Mission for Empowerment of Women, etc., to generate awareness among the people. Moreover, as responsible citizens, it is our responsibility to spread knowledge on gender discrimination to create a beautiful world for wome n [1] [2] .

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FAQs on Gender Equality Essay

1. What Makes Women Unequal to Men?

The social stigmas and beliefs that have been running deeply in the veins of all families make women unequal to men. Women are considered to be a burden by many families and are not provided with the same rights men enjoy in society. We are ill-informed regarding women’s rights and tend to continue age-old practices. This is made worse with social menaces such as the dowry system, child labor, child marriage, etc. Women can gather knowledge, get educated, and compete with men. This is sometimes quite threatening to the false patriarchal society.

2. How can We Promote Gender Equality?

Education is the prime measure to be taken to make society free from such menaces. When we teach our new generation regarding the best social practices and gender equal rights, we can eradicate such menaces aptly. Our society is ill-informed regarding gender equality and rights. Many policies have been designed and implemented by the government. As our country holds the second position in terms of population, it is hard to tackle these gender-based problems. It can only be erased from the deepest point by using education as the prime weapon.

3. Why should Women be Equal to Men?

Women might not be similar to men in terms of physical strength and physiological traits. Both are differently built biologically but they have the same brain and organs to function. Women these days are creating milestones that are changing society. They have traveled to space, running companies, creating history, and making everyone proud. Women are showing their capabilities in every phase and hence, they should be equal to men in all aspects.

4. Mention a few initiatives started by the Indian Government to enable gender equality.

The Indian government has initiated a social campaign called “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana” to encourage girls’ education. Besides this, the government runs multiple other schemes, such as the  Women Helpline Scheme, UJJAWALA, National Mission for Empowerment of Women, etc., to generate awareness among the people.

UN Women Strategic Plan 2022-2025

Explainer: Sustainable Development Goal 5

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Activists, social leaders, organizations, women and men shout slogans against gender-based violence during the "Vivas nos Queremos" protest in Quito, Ecuador. Photo: UN Women/Johis Alarcon

In 2015, recognizing the global nature of challenges  like poverty, inequality and climate change, UN Member states universally adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda . Resolving to meet these matters head on, the international community set forth an ambitious vision for the future.

The Agenda encompasses three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. Together, these interconnected principles form the basis of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a blueprint for progress across all areas of life.

Gender is woven throughout the SDGs as it sits at the intersection of economic, social and environmental issues. It has its own Goal, SDG 5—with the ambition of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls—and is mentioned explicitly in 10 of the other Goals.

Each SDG contains specific objectives that can be measured and tracked over time. Like a global checklist, these objectives allow us to check our progress as we approach the 2030 deadline. There are nine objectives within SDG 5, which UN Women and UNDESA take annual stock of in our Gender Snapshot report .

Learn more about these nine objectives, and find out how near—or far—we are from reaching them in 2022. 

The SDG 5 Gender Equality logo is seen outside UN Headquarters during  the opening of the 74th General Debate at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Photo: UN Women/Amanda Voisard

End discrimination

Gender-based discrimination has long kept women and girls subordinate to men in the workplace, in politics and at home. In some countries such discrimination persists in the law—legally barring women, for example, from certain professions—while in others economic barriers like the gender pay gap prevent women from experiencing full equality. Ending gender-based discrimination will require laws and frameworks that promote, enforce and monitor gender equality across all areas of life .

This means equal access to employment and economic benefits, including both laws against workplace discrimination and systems in place to address violations. It means laws on violence against women—legislation specifically addressing sexual harassment, for example, or criminalizing rape within marriage. It encompasses equal rights and protections within marriage and the family, such as the right to initiate a divorce or be recognized as head of household, as well as dedicated family courts to protect such rights. And it includes equality in overarching legal frameworks like constitutions, as well as the equal right to run for and hold public office.

Though there has been notable progress in this area, the pace of legal reform is far too slow. At current rates of change, the report estimates we are 21 years from universal laws banning violence against women and a whopping 286 years from gender equality in legal frameworks.

In Lebanon in 2017,  the successful campaign to repeal article 522 made use of striking visuals of women wearing bandages as wedding dresses. Article 522 had given immunity to rapists if they married their victims. Photo Courtesy of ABAAD/Patrick Baz

End violence

Violence against women and girls, already a pervasive problem before 2020, surged in the wake of COVID-19. Many women report feeling more unsafe since the start of the pandemic: nearly 7 in 10 women (68 per cent) say that verbal or physical abuse by a partner has become more common, and 1 in 4 women describes more frequent household conflicts.

Over the past year, nearly 1 in 10 women aged 15+ (9.9 per cent) have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner; for women between the ages of 15 and 49 , that figure jumps to 12.5 per cent. On global average, a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes.

In total, it’s estimated that 736 million women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. And given limitations in data collection, the scope of the problem is likely even larger.

Students of the Midwifery School in El Fasher, North Darfur, march to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence during an event to raise awareness in communities about gender-based violence and its implications for the lives and livelihoods of women and girls. Photo: UNAMID/Hamid Abdulsalam

End harmful practices

Practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) deprive women and girls of their agency, both reflecting and cementing their subordinate status. Marriage robs girls of their childhood, forcing them to take on the responsibilities of adult womanhood too early. It limits their futures, often preventing them from completing school. And it harms their health, putting them at heightened risk of adolescent pregnancy and its accompanying complications, as well as of domestic violence. Female genital mutilation, most often performed on children, also has serious health consequences in both the short and long term.

Child marriage remains a pervasive practice which COVID-19 threatens to exacerbate . As of 2021, nearly 1 in 5 women (19.5 per cent) aged 20-24 was married before turning 18—down from more than 1 in 4 (25.8 per cent) in 2001 but still alarmingly high. To end child marriage by 2030, the rate of change must increase by 17 times.

Progress on FGM, already too slow, also risks reversal in the face of the pandemic . Encouragingly, however, opposition to the practice appears to be gaining momentum. 2021 saw 4,475 communities make public commitments to its elimination—a 48 per cent increase from the year before.

Recognize and value unpaid work

From laundry to cooking to caring for children or the elderly, maintaining a household requires an exhaustive list of daily tasks and chores—labour that’s typically done free of charge by women and girls. This work, though essential to day-to-day life as well as to the global economy, remains largely unrecognized and unvalued.

Before 2020, women did roughly three times as much unpaid work as men on global average. Then came COVID-19, during which lockdowns drove a massive increase in the daily load of household chores and care work. School and preschool closures created an additional 672 billion hours of unpaid childcare in 2020—512 billion of which would have been shouldered by women, assuming the same division of household labour. Governments offered little support: 60 per cent of countries and territories did not take any action to ameliorate this strain.

Lightening the unpaid burden on women and girls will require two kinds of change. Traditional gender roles must give way to a redistribution of household labour, with men and boys taking responsibility for an equal share. At the same time, it’s on governments to provide better public services and social protections—such as expanded care systems and requirements for paid parental leave—that help to reduce the load on individuals. 

Jill Sparron, a Laboratory Technician with a fisheries company, picks up her son Calel from daycare. Jill's employer offers a flexible schedule which helps her manage as a single mom. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Ensure full participation in public life

Women’s equal representation in leadership matters—not only for achieving gender equality, but for making sound decisions in politics, the workplace, and every area of public life. Equal leadership ensures that diverse perspectives and voices make it to decision-making forums, a need recently underscored by COVID-19 task forces, where women’s vast underrepresentation led to crucial gaps in response and recovery plans.

This was not an aberration: women’s representation across political and economic leadership remains far from equal. At the national level, women hold just 26.4 per cent of parliamentary seats globally—and under 10 per cent of seats in 23 countries. In the economic sector, as of 2020, they hold 28.3 per cent of managerial positions, up only 0.3 per cent from 2019.

Without an increase in the rate of progress, gender parity in national parliamentary bodies won’t be reached until 2062. In the workplace things are even worse, with gender parity in management remaining 140 years away.

The outlook is better in local politics, where women hold a little over one third of seats (34.3 per cent) in local decision-making bodies. Parity here is within reach, but it will depend on the widespread implementation of gender quotas to meet the 2030 deadline.

Coumba Diaw, 48, overcame many cultural barriers to join politics. She became the only female mayor of the Sagatta Djoloff commune in the region of Louga, Senegal, which is made up of 54 other municipalities, all headed by men. Photo: UN Women/Assane Gueye

Ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights

Restricting women’s bodily autonomy is a pervasive form of patriarchal control, both at the government level and within the family. Women’s empowerment depends on the protection of their sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to health care and education and the right to make their own informed decisions about their bodies.

As of 2022, 76 per cent of laws needed to guarantee access to sexual and reproductive health care—including maternity care, abortion, contraception, sexual education, HPV vaccination, and HIV testing, counseling and treatment—are in place across 115 countries.

As of 2021, just over half (57 per cent) of the world’s women were able to make their own informed decisions about sex and reproduction. This means the freedom to make choices about health care and the use of contraceptives as well as to say no to sex with a husband or partner.  The backslide on women’s rights currently underway threatens to reduce this number further. 

Ensure equal economic resources

Control over economic resources is a crucial driver of women’s empowerment, providing increased security and independence and improving standards of living. Land ownership in particular helps to reduce women’s reliance on male partners or relatives and increases their access to credit.

Ensuring equal land rights, including equal inheritance rights and shared land rights within couples, is essential for the realization of the 2030 Agenda. But despite women’s relatively equal representation in agriculture—they make up roughly half of the agricultural labour force in developing countries—their equal right to land ownership is guaranteed in only four of 52 countries with data for 2019–2021.

Elena Sam Pec lives in Puente Viejo, a mostly agrarian indigenous community in Guatemala. The women of the village participate in a joint programme by UN Women, World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is empowering more than 1,600 rural women to become economically self-reliant. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Promote women’s empowerment through technology

Technology plays an ever-increasing role in the ways we learn, work and communicate, and cellphones have gone from a luxury to an essential means of connecting with the world. But for many of the world’s women, such technology—as well as the access and independence it confers—remain out of reach: based on data for 2017-2021, women are less likely than men to own a phone in 50 of 82 countries.

Sound policies and legislation

Gender equality is not going to happen on its own. We need enforceable policies and legislation at all levels of government to promote the empowerment of women and girls. Particularly in the wake of COVID-19, whose socioeconomic impacts overwhelmingly hit women harder than men, gender-sensitive policies are essential for narrowing persistent gender gaps.

This requires dedicated resources. By tracking—and making public—budget allocations toward gender equality, governments can ensure adequate financing, as well as increasing transparency and accountability. But according to data from 2018–2021, only 26 per cent of countries have comprehensive systems in place to track such allocations, and 15 per cent have no system at all.

The time to act is now

Across its nine objectives, the latest data on SDG 5 underscores just how far we are from achieving it. Despite progress on some issues, recent backslide in other areas—such as on reproductive rights and women’s economic empowerment—has put gender equality further out of reach.

Without seriously increased investments and commitments, including to gender data availability and use, SDG 5 will not be achieved by 2030 and may not be achieved at all. The time to come together as a global community and demand better—better laws and protections, better access to resources and services, and better funding—is now.

Women and girls can’t afford to wait any longer.

  • 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • Gender data gaps
  • Gender discrimination
  • Gender equality and inequality
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Unpaid work
  • Gender-responsive budgeting
  • Sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • Economic empowerment
  • Ending violence against women and girls
  • Gender equality and women’s empowerment
  • Innovation and technology
  • Leadership and political participation

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Research Article

Twenty years of gender equality research: A scoping review based on a new semantic indicator

Contributed equally to this work with: Paola Belingheri, Filippo Chiarello, Andrea Fronzetti Colladon, Paola Rovelli

Roles Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Energia, dei Sistemi, del Territorio e delle Costruzioni, Università degli Studi di Pisa, Largo L. Lazzarino, Pisa, Italy

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Methodology, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Methodology, Software, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliations Department of Engineering, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy, Department of Management, Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland

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Roles Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation Faculty of Economics and Management, Centre for Family Business Management, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Bozen-Bolzano, Italy

  • Paola Belingheri, 
  • Filippo Chiarello, 
  • Andrea Fronzetti Colladon, 
  • Paola Rovelli

PLOS

  • Published: September 21, 2021
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256474
  • Reader Comments

9 Nov 2021: The PLOS ONE Staff (2021) Correction: Twenty years of gender equality research: A scoping review based on a new semantic indicator. PLOS ONE 16(11): e0259930. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259930 View correction

Table 1

Gender equality is a major problem that places women at a disadvantage thereby stymieing economic growth and societal advancement. In the last two decades, extensive research has been conducted on gender related issues, studying both their antecedents and consequences. However, existing literature reviews fail to provide a comprehensive and clear picture of what has been studied so far, which could guide scholars in their future research. Our paper offers a scoping review of a large portion of the research that has been published over the last 22 years, on gender equality and related issues, with a specific focus on business and economics studies. Combining innovative methods drawn from both network analysis and text mining, we provide a synthesis of 15,465 scientific articles. We identify 27 main research topics, we measure their relevance from a semantic point of view and the relationships among them, highlighting the importance of each topic in the overall gender discourse. We find that prominent research topics mostly relate to women in the workforce–e.g., concerning compensation, role, education, decision-making and career progression. However, some of them are losing momentum, and some other research trends–for example related to female entrepreneurship, leadership and participation in the board of directors–are on the rise. Besides introducing a novel methodology to review broad literature streams, our paper offers a map of the main gender-research trends and presents the most popular and the emerging themes, as well as their intersections, outlining important avenues for future research.

Citation: Belingheri P, Chiarello F, Fronzetti Colladon A, Rovelli P (2021) Twenty years of gender equality research: A scoping review based on a new semantic indicator. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0256474. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256474

Editor: Elisa Ughetto, Politecnico di Torino, ITALY

Received: June 25, 2021; Accepted: August 6, 2021; Published: September 21, 2021

Copyright: © 2021 Belingheri et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the manuscript and its supporting information files. The only exception is the text of the abstracts (over 15,000) that we have downloaded from Scopus. These abstracts can be retrieved from Scopus, but we do not have permission to redistribute them.

Funding: P.B and F.C.: Grant of the Department of Energy, Systems, Territory and Construction of the University of Pisa (DESTEC) for the project “Measuring Gender Bias with Semantic Analysis: The Development of an Assessment Tool and its Application in the European Space Industry. P.B., F.C., A.F.C., P.R.: Grant of the Italian Association of Management Engineering (AiIG), “Misure di sostegno ai soci giovani AiIG” 2020, for the project “Gender Equality Through Data Intelligence (GEDI)”. F.C.: EU project ASSETs+ Project (Alliance for Strategic Skills addressing Emerging Technologies in Defence) EAC/A03/2018 - Erasmus+ programme, Sector Skills Alliances, Lot 3: Sector Skills Alliance for implementing a new strategic approach (Blueprint) to sectoral cooperation on skills G.A. NUMBER: 612678-EPP-1-2019-1-IT-EPPKA2-SSA-B.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Introduction

The persistent gender inequalities that currently exist across the developed and developing world are receiving increasing attention from economists, policymakers, and the general public [e.g., 1 – 3 ]. Economic studies have indicated that women’s education and entry into the workforce contributes to social and economic well-being [e.g., 4 , 5 ], while their exclusion from the labor market and from managerial positions has an impact on overall labor productivity and income per capita [ 6 , 7 ]. The United Nations selected gender equality, with an emphasis on female education, as part of the Millennium Development Goals [ 8 ], and gender equality at-large as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030 [ 9 ]. These latter objectives involve not only developing nations, but rather all countries, to achieve economic, social and environmental well-being.

As is the case with many SDGs, gender equality is still far from being achieved and persists across education, access to opportunities, or presence in decision-making positions [ 7 , 10 , 11 ]. As we enter the last decade for the SDGs’ implementation, and while we are battling a global health pandemic, effective and efficient action becomes paramount to reach this ambitious goal.

Scholars have dedicated a massive effort towards understanding gender equality, its determinants, its consequences for women and society, and the appropriate actions and policies to advance women’s equality. Many topics have been covered, ranging from women’s education and human capital [ 12 , 13 ] and their role in society [e.g., 14 , 15 ], to their appointment in firms’ top ranked positions [e.g., 16 , 17 ] and performance implications [e.g., 18 , 19 ]. Despite some attempts, extant literature reviews provide a narrow view on these issues, restricted to specific topics–e.g., female students’ presence in STEM fields [ 20 ], educational gender inequality [ 5 ], the gender pay gap [ 21 ], the glass ceiling effect [ 22 ], leadership [ 23 ], entrepreneurship [ 24 ], women’s presence on the board of directors [ 25 , 26 ], diversity management [ 27 ], gender stereotypes in advertisement [ 28 ], or specific professions [ 29 ]. A comprehensive view on gender-related research, taking stock of key findings and under-studied topics is thus lacking.

Extant literature has also highlighted that gender issues, and their economic and social ramifications, are complex topics that involve a large number of possible antecedents and outcomes [ 7 ]. Indeed, gender equality actions are most effective when implemented in unison with other SDGs (e.g., with SDG 8, see [ 30 ]) in a synergetic perspective [ 10 ]. Many bodies of literature (e.g., business, economics, development studies, sociology and psychology) approach the problem of achieving gender equality from different perspectives–often addressing specific and narrow aspects. This sometimes leads to a lack of clarity about how different issues, circumstances, and solutions may be related in precipitating or mitigating gender inequality or its effects. As the number of papers grows at an increasing pace, this issue is exacerbated and there is a need to step back and survey the body of gender equality literature as a whole. There is also a need to examine synergies between different topics and approaches, as well as gaps in our understanding of how different problems and solutions work together. Considering the important topic of women’s economic and social empowerment, this paper aims to fill this gap by answering the following research question: what are the most relevant findings in the literature on gender equality and how do they relate to each other ?

To do so, we conduct a scoping review [ 31 ], providing a synthesis of 15,465 articles dealing with gender equity related issues published in the last twenty-two years, covering both the periods of the MDGs and the SDGs (i.e., 2000 to mid 2021) in all the journals indexed in the Academic Journal Guide’s 2018 ranking of business and economics journals. Given the huge amount of research conducted on the topic, we adopt an innovative methodology, which relies on social network analysis and text mining. These techniques are increasingly adopted when surveying large bodies of text. Recently, they were applied to perform analysis of online gender communication differences [ 32 ] and gender behaviors in online technology communities [ 33 ], to identify and classify sexual harassment instances in academia [ 34 ], and to evaluate the gender inclusivity of disaster management policies [ 35 ].

Applied to the title, abstracts and keywords of the articles in our sample, this methodology allows us to identify a set of 27 recurrent topics within which we automatically classify the papers. Introducing additional novelty, by means of the Semantic Brand Score (SBS) indicator [ 36 ] and the SBS BI app [ 37 ], we assess the importance of each topic in the overall gender equality discourse and its relationships with the other topics, as well as trends over time, with a more accurate description than that offered by traditional literature reviews relying solely on the number of papers presented in each topic.

This methodology, applied to gender equality research spanning the past twenty-two years, enables two key contributions. First, we extract the main message that each document is conveying and how this is connected to other themes in literature, providing a rich picture of the topics that are at the center of the discourse, as well as of the emerging topics. Second, by examining the semantic relationship between topics and how tightly their discourses are linked, we can identify the key relationships and connections between different topics. This semi-automatic methodology is also highly reproducible with minimum effort.

This literature review is organized as follows. In the next section, we present how we selected relevant papers and how we analyzed them through text mining and social network analysis. We then illustrate the importance of 27 selected research topics, measured by means of the SBS indicator. In the results section, we present an overview of the literature based on the SBS results–followed by an in-depth narrative analysis of the top 10 topics (i.e., those with the highest SBS) and their connections. Subsequently, we highlight a series of under-studied connections between the topics where there is potential for future research. Through this analysis, we build a map of the main gender-research trends in the last twenty-two years–presenting the most popular themes. We conclude by highlighting key areas on which research should focused in the future.

Our aim is to map a broad topic, gender equality research, that has been approached through a host of different angles and through different disciplines. Scoping reviews are the most appropriate as they provide the freedom to map different themes and identify literature gaps, thereby guiding the recommendation of new research agendas [ 38 ].

Several practical approaches have been proposed to identify and assess the underlying topics of a specific field using big data [ 39 – 41 ], but many of them fail without proper paper retrieval and text preprocessing. This is specifically true for a research field such as the gender-related one, which comprises the work of scholars from different backgrounds. In this section, we illustrate a novel approach for the analysis of scientific (gender-related) papers that relies on methods and tools of social network analysis and text mining. Our procedure has four main steps: (1) data collection, (2) text preprocessing, (3) keywords extraction and classification, and (4) evaluation of semantic importance and image.

Data collection

In this study, we analyze 22 years of literature on gender-related research. Following established practice for scoping reviews [ 42 ], our data collection consisted of two main steps, which we summarize here below.

Firstly, we retrieved from the Scopus database all the articles written in English that contained the term “gender” in their title, abstract or keywords and were published in a journal listed in the Academic Journal Guide 2018 ranking of the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) ( https://charteredabs.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/AJG2018-Methodology.pdf ), considering the time period from Jan 2000 to May 2021. We used this information considering that abstracts, titles and keywords represent the most informative part of a paper, while using the full-text would increase the signal-to-noise ratio for information extraction. Indeed, these textual elements already demonstrated to be reliable sources of information for the task of domain lexicon extraction [ 43 , 44 ]. We chose Scopus as source of literature because of its popularity, its update rate, and because it offers an API to ease the querying process. Indeed, while it does not allow to retrieve the full text of scientific articles, the Scopus API offers access to titles, abstracts, citation information and metadata for all its indexed scholarly journals. Moreover, we decided to focus on the journals listed in the AJG 2018 ranking because we were interested in reviewing business and economics related gender studies only. The AJG is indeed widely used by universities and business schools as a reference point for journal and research rigor and quality. This first step, executed in June 2021, returned more than 55,000 papers.

In the second step–because a look at the papers showed very sparse results, many of which were not in line with the topic of this literature review (e.g., papers dealing with health care or medical issues, where the word gender indicates the gender of the patients)–we applied further inclusion criteria to make the sample more focused on the topic of this literature review (i.e., women’s gender equality issues). Specifically, we only retained those papers mentioning, in their title and/or abstract, both gender-related keywords (e.g., daughter, female, mother) and keywords referring to bias and equality issues (e.g., equality, bias, diversity, inclusion). After text pre-processing (see next section), keywords were first identified from a frequency-weighted list of words found in the titles, abstracts and keywords in the initial list of papers, extracted through text mining (following the same approach as [ 43 ]). They were selected by two of the co-authors independently, following respectively a bottom up and a top-down approach. The bottom-up approach consisted of examining the words found in the frequency-weighted list and classifying those related to gender and equality. The top-down approach consisted in searching in the word list for notable gender and equality-related words. Table 1 reports the sets of keywords we considered, together with some examples of words that were used to search for their presence in the dataset (a full list is provided in the S1 Text ). At end of this second step, we obtained a final sample of 15,465 relevant papers.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256474.t001

Text processing and keyword extraction

Text preprocessing aims at structuring text into a form that can be analyzed by statistical models. In the present section, we describe the preprocessing steps we applied to paper titles and abstracts, which, as explained below, partially follow a standard text preprocessing pipeline [ 45 ]. These activities have been performed using the R package udpipe [ 46 ].

The first step is n-gram extraction (i.e., a sequence of words from a given text sample) to identify which n-grams are important in the analysis, since domain-specific lexicons are often composed by bi-grams and tri-grams [ 47 ]. Multi-word extraction is usually implemented with statistics and linguistic rules, thus using the statistical properties of n-grams or machine learning approaches [ 48 ]. However, for the present paper, we used Scopus metadata in order to have a more effective and efficient n-grams collection approach [ 49 ]. We used the keywords of each paper in order to tag n-grams with their associated keywords automatically. Using this greedy approach, it was possible to collect all the keywords listed by the authors of the papers. From this list, we extracted only keywords composed by two, three and four words, we removed all the acronyms and rare keywords (i.e., appearing in less than 1% of papers), and we clustered keywords showing a high orthographic similarity–measured using a Levenshtein distance [ 50 ] lower than 2, considering these groups of keywords as representing same concepts, but expressed with different spelling. After tagging the n-grams in the abstracts, we followed a common data preparation pipeline that consists of the following steps: (i) tokenization, that splits the text into tokens (i.e., single words and previously tagged multi-words); (ii) removal of stop-words (i.e. those words that add little meaning to the text, usually being very common and short functional words–such as “and”, “or”, or “of”); (iii) parts-of-speech tagging, that is providing information concerning the morphological role of a word and its morphosyntactic context (e.g., if the token is a determiner, the next token is a noun or an adjective with very high confidence, [ 51 ]); and (iv) lemmatization, which consists in substituting each word with its dictionary form (or lemma). The output of the latter step allows grouping together the inflected forms of a word. For example, the verbs “am”, “are”, and “is” have the shared lemma “be”, or the nouns “cat” and “cats” both share the lemma “cat”. We preferred lemmatization over stemming [ 52 ] in order to obtain more interpretable results.

In addition, we identified a further set of keywords (with respect to those listed in the “keywords” field) by applying a series of automatic words unification and removal steps, as suggested in past research [ 53 , 54 ]. We removed: sparse terms (i.e., occurring in less than 0.1% of all documents), common terms (i.e., occurring in more than 10% of all documents) and retained only nouns and adjectives. It is relevant to notice that no document was lost due to these steps. We then used the TF-IDF function [ 55 ] to produce a new list of keywords. We additionally tested other approaches for the identification and clustering of keywords–such as TextRank [ 56 ] or Latent Dirichlet Allocation [ 57 ]–without obtaining more informative results.

Classification of research topics

To guide the literature analysis, two experts met regularly to examine the sample of collected papers and to identify the main topics and trends in gender research. Initially, they conducted brainstorming sessions on the topics they expected to find, due to their knowledge of the literature. This led to an initial list of topics. Subsequently, the experts worked independently, also supported by the keywords in paper titles and abstracts extracted with the procedure described above.

Considering all this information, each expert identified and clustered relevant keywords into topics. At the end of the process, the two assignments were compared and exhibited a 92% agreement. Another meeting was held to discuss discordant cases and reach a consensus. This resulted in a list of 27 topics, briefly introduced in Table 2 and subsequently detailed in the following sections.

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Evaluation of semantic importance

Working on the lemmatized corpus of the 15,465 papers included in our sample, we proceeded with the evaluation of semantic importance trends for each topic and with the analysis of their connections and prevalent textual associations. To this aim, we used the Semantic Brand Score indicator [ 36 ], calculated through the SBS BI webapp [ 37 ] that also produced a brand image report for each topic. For this study we relied on the computing resources of the ENEA/CRESCO infrastructure [ 58 ].

The Semantic Brand Score (SBS) is a measure of semantic importance that combines methods of social network analysis and text mining. It is usually applied for the analysis of (big) textual data to evaluate the importance of one or more brands, names, words, or sets of keywords [ 36 ]. Indeed, the concept of “brand” is intended in a flexible way and goes beyond products or commercial brands. In this study, we evaluate the SBS time-trends of the keywords defining the research topics discussed in the previous section. Semantic importance comprises the three dimensions of topic prevalence, diversity and connectivity. Prevalence measures how frequently a research topic is used in the discourse. The more a topic is mentioned by scientific articles, the more the research community will be aware of it, with possible increase of future studies; this construct is partly related to that of brand awareness [ 59 ]. This effect is even stronger, considering that we are analyzing the title, abstract and keywords of the papers, i.e. the parts that have the highest visibility. A very important characteristic of the SBS is that it considers the relationships among words in a text. Topic importance is not just a matter of how frequently a topic is mentioned, but also of the associations a topic has in the text. Specifically, texts are transformed into networks of co-occurring words, and relationships are studied through social network analysis [ 60 ]. This step is necessary to calculate the other two dimensions of our semantic importance indicator. Accordingly, a social network of words is generated for each time period considered in the analysis–i.e., a graph made of n nodes (words) and E edges weighted by co-occurrence frequency, with W being the set of edge weights. The keywords representing each topic were clustered into single nodes.

The construct of diversity relates to that of brand image [ 59 ], in the sense that it considers the richness and distinctiveness of textual (topic) associations. Considering the above-mentioned networks, we calculated diversity using the distinctiveness centrality metric–as in the formula presented by Fronzetti Colladon and Naldi [ 61 ].

Lastly, connectivity was measured as the weighted betweenness centrality [ 62 , 63 ] of each research topic node. We used the formula presented by Wasserman and Faust [ 60 ]. The dimension of connectivity represents the “brokerage power” of each research topic–i.e., how much it can serve as a bridge to connect other terms (and ultimately topics) in the discourse [ 36 ].

The SBS is the final composite indicator obtained by summing the standardized scores of prevalence, diversity and connectivity. Standardization was carried out considering all the words in the corpus, for each specific timeframe.

This methodology, applied to a large and heterogeneous body of text, enables to automatically identify two important sets of information that add value to the literature review. Firstly, the relevance of each topic in literature is measured through a composite indicator of semantic importance, rather than simply looking at word frequencies. This provides a much richer picture of the topics that are at the center of the discourse, as well as of the topics that are emerging in the literature. Secondly, it enables to examine the extent of the semantic relationship between topics, looking at how tightly their discourses are linked. In a field such as gender equality, where many topics are closely linked to each other and present overlaps in issues and solutions, this methodology offers a novel perspective with respect to traditional literature reviews. In addition, it ensures reproducibility over time and the possibility to semi-automatically update the analysis, as new papers become available.

Overview of main topics

In terms of descriptive textual statistics, our corpus is made of 15,465 text documents, consisting of a total of 2,685,893 lemmatized tokens (words) and 32,279 types. As a result, the type-token ratio is 1.2%. The number of hapaxes is 12,141, with a hapax-token ratio of 37.61%.

Fig 1 shows the list of 27 topics by decreasing SBS. The most researched topic is compensation , exceeding all others in prevalence, diversity, and connectivity. This means it is not only mentioned more often than other topics, but it is also connected to a greater number of other topics and is central to the discourse on gender equality. The next four topics are, in order of SBS, role , education , decision-making , and career progression . These topics, except for education , all concern women in the workforce. Between these first five topics and the following ones there is a clear drop in SBS scores. In particular, the topics that follow have a lower connectivity than the first five. They are hiring , performance , behavior , organization , and human capital . Again, except for behavior and human capital , the other three topics are purely related to women in the workforce. After another drop-off, the following topics deal prevalently with women in society. This trend highlights that research on gender in business journals has so far mainly paid attention to the conditions that women experience in business contexts, while also devoting some attention to women in society.

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Fig 2 shows the SBS time series of the top 10 topics. While there has been a general increase in the number of Scopus-indexed publications in the last decade, we notice that some SBS trends remain steady, or even decrease. In particular, we observe that the main topic of the last twenty-two years, compensation , is losing momentum. Since 2016, it has been surpassed by decision-making , education and role , which may indicate that literature is increasingly attempting to identify root causes of compensation inequalities. Moreover, in the last two years, the topics of hiring , performance , and organization are experiencing the largest importance increase.

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Fig 3 shows the SBS time trends of the remaining 17 topics (i.e., those not in the top 10). As we can see from the graph, there are some that maintain a steady trend–such as reputation , management , networks and governance , which also seem to have little importance. More relevant topics with average stationary trends (except for the last two years) are culture , family , and parenting . The feminine topic is among the most important here, and one of those that exhibit the larger variations over time (similarly to leadership ). On the other hand, the are some topics that, even if not among the most important, show increasing SBS trends; therefore, they could be considered as emerging topics and could become popular in the near future. These are entrepreneurship , leadership , board of directors , and sustainability . These emerging topics are also interesting to anticipate future trends in gender equality research that are conducive to overall equality in society.

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In addition to the SBS score of the different topics, the network of terms they are associated to enables to gauge the extent to which their images (textual associations) overlap or differ ( Fig 4 ).

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There is a central cluster of topics with high similarity, which are all connected with women in the workforce. The cluster includes topics such as organization , decision-making , performance , hiring , human capital , education and compensation . In addition, the topic of well-being is found within this cluster, suggesting that women’s equality in the workforce is associated to well-being considerations. The emerging topics of entrepreneurship and leadership are also closely connected with each other, possibly implying that leadership is a much-researched quality in female entrepreneurship. Topics that are relatively more distant include personality , politics , feminine , empowerment , management , board of directors , reputation , governance , parenting , masculine and network .

The following sections describe the top 10 topics and their main associations in literature (see Table 3 ), while providing a brief overview of the emerging topics.

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Compensation.

The topic of compensation is related to the topics of role , hiring , education and career progression , however, also sees a very high association with the words gap and inequality . Indeed, a well-known debate in degrowth economics centers around whether and how to adequately compensate women for their childbearing, childrearing, caregiver and household work [e.g., 30 ].

Even in paid work, women continue being offered lower compensations than their male counterparts who have the same job or cover the same role [ 64 – 67 ]. This severe inequality has been widely studied by scholars over the last twenty-two years. Dealing with this topic, some specific roles have been addressed. Specifically, research highlighted differences in compensation between female and male CEOs [e.g., 68 ], top executives [e.g., 69 ], and boards’ directors [e.g., 70 ]. Scholars investigated the determinants of these gaps, such as the gender composition of the board [e.g., 71 – 73 ] or women’s individual characteristics [e.g., 71 , 74 ].

Among these individual characteristics, education plays a relevant role [ 75 ]. Education is indeed presented as the solution for women, not only to achieve top executive roles, but also to reduce wage inequality [e.g., 76 , 77 ]. Past research has highlighted education influences on gender wage gaps, specifically referring to gender differences in skills [e.g., 78 ], college majors [e.g., 79 ], and college selectivity [e.g., 80 ].

Finally, the wage gap issue is strictly interrelated with hiring –e.g., looking at whether being a mother affects hiring and compensation [e.g., 65 , 81 ] or relating compensation to unemployment [e.g., 82 ]–and career progression –for instance looking at meritocracy [ 83 , 84 ] or the characteristics of the boss for whom women work [e.g., 85 ].

The roles covered by women have been deeply investigated. Scholars have focused on the role of women in their families and the society as a whole [e.g., 14 , 15 ], and, more widely, in business contexts [e.g., 18 , 81 ]. Indeed, despite still lagging behind their male counterparts [e.g., 86 , 87 ], in the last decade there has been an increase in top ranked positions achieved by women [e.g., 88 , 89 ]. Following this phenomenon, scholars have posed greater attention towards the presence of women in the board of directors [e.g., 16 , 18 , 90 , 91 ], given the increasing pressure to appoint female directors that firms, especially listed ones, have experienced. Other scholars have focused on the presence of women covering the role of CEO [e.g., 17 , 92 ] or being part of the top management team [e.g., 93 ]. Irrespectively of the level of analysis, all these studies tried to uncover the antecedents of women’s presence among top managers [e.g., 92 , 94 ] and the consequences of having a them involved in the firm’s decision-making –e.g., on performance [e.g., 19 , 95 , 96 ], risk [e.g., 97 , 98 ], and corporate social responsibility [e.g., 99 , 100 ].

Besides studying the difficulties and discriminations faced by women in getting a job [ 81 , 101 ], and, more specifically in the hiring , appointment, or career progression to these apical roles [e.g., 70 , 83 ], the majority of research of women’s roles dealt with compensation issues. Specifically, scholars highlight the pay-gap that still exists between women and men, both in general [e.g., 64 , 65 ], as well as referring to boards’ directors [e.g., 70 , 102 ], CEOs and executives [e.g., 69 , 103 , 104 ].

Finally, other scholars focused on the behavior of women when dealing with business. In this sense, particular attention has been paid to leadership and entrepreneurial behaviors. The former quite overlaps with dealing with the roles mentioned above, but also includes aspects such as leaders being stereotyped as masculine [e.g., 105 ], the need for greater exposure to female leaders to reduce biases [e.g., 106 ], or female leaders acting as queen bees [e.g., 107 ]. Regarding entrepreneurship , scholars mainly investigated women’s entrepreneurial entry [e.g., 108 , 109 ], differences between female and male entrepreneurs in the evaluations and funding received from investors [e.g., 110 , 111 ], and their performance gap [e.g., 112 , 113 ].

Education has long been recognized as key to social advancement and economic stability [ 114 ], for job progression and also a barrier to gender equality, especially in STEM-related fields. Research on education and gender equality is mostly linked with the topics of compensation , human capital , career progression , hiring , parenting and decision-making .

Education contributes to a higher human capital [ 115 ] and constitutes an investment on the part of women towards their future. In this context, literature points to the gender gap in educational attainment, and the consequences for women from a social, economic, personal and professional standpoint. Women are found to have less access to formal education and information, especially in emerging countries, which in turn may cause them to lose social and economic opportunities [e.g., 12 , 116 – 119 ]. Education in local and rural communities is also paramount to communicate the benefits of female empowerment , contributing to overall societal well-being [e.g., 120 ].

Once women access education, the image they have of the world and their place in society (i.e., habitus) affects their education performance [ 13 ] and is passed on to their children. These situations reinforce gender stereotypes, which become self-fulfilling prophecies that may negatively affect female students’ performance by lowering their confidence and heightening their anxiety [ 121 , 122 ]. Besides formal education, also the information that women are exposed to on a daily basis contributes to their human capital . Digital inequalities, for instance, stems from men spending more time online and acquiring higher digital skills than women [ 123 ].

Education is also a factor that should boost employability of candidates and thus hiring , career progression and compensation , however the relationship between these factors is not straightforward [ 115 ]. First, educational choices ( decision-making ) are influenced by variables such as self-efficacy and the presence of barriers, irrespectively of the career opportunities they offer, especially in STEM [ 124 ]. This brings additional difficulties to women’s enrollment and persistence in scientific and technical fields of study due to stereotypes and biases [ 125 , 126 ]. Moreover, access to education does not automatically translate into job opportunities for women and minority groups [ 127 , 128 ] or into female access to managerial positions [ 129 ].

Finally, parenting is reported as an antecedent of education [e.g., 130 ], with much of the literature focusing on the role of parents’ education on the opportunities afforded to children to enroll in education [ 131 – 134 ] and the role of parenting in their offspring’s perception of study fields and attitudes towards learning [ 135 – 138 ]. Parental education is also a predictor of the other related topics, namely human capital and compensation [ 139 ].

Decision-making.

This literature mainly points to the fact that women are thought to make decisions differently than men. Women have indeed different priorities, such as they care more about people’s well-being, working with people or helping others, rather than maximizing their personal (or their firm’s) gain [ 140 ]. In other words, women typically present more communal than agentic behaviors, which are instead more frequent among men [ 141 ]. These different attitude, behavior and preferences in turn affect the decisions they make [e.g., 142 ] and the decision-making of the firm in which they work [e.g., 143 ].

At the individual level, gender affects, for instance, career aspirations [e.g., 144 ] and choices [e.g., 142 , 145 ], or the decision of creating a venture [e.g., 108 , 109 , 146 ]. Moreover, in everyday life, women and men make different decisions regarding partners [e.g., 147 ], childcare [e.g., 148 ], education [e.g., 149 ], attention to the environment [e.g., 150 ] and politics [e.g., 151 ].

At the firm level, scholars highlighted, for example, how the presence of women in the board affects corporate decisions [e.g., 152 , 153 ], that female CEOs are more conservative in accounting decisions [e.g., 154 ], or that female CFOs tend to make more conservative decisions regarding the firm’s financial reporting [e.g., 155 ]. Nevertheless, firm level research also investigated decisions that, influenced by gender bias, affect women, such as those pertaining hiring [e.g., 156 , 157 ], compensation [e.g., 73 , 158 ], or the empowerment of women once appointed [ 159 ].

Career progression.

Once women have entered the workforce, the key aspect to achieve gender equality becomes career progression , including efforts toward overcoming the glass ceiling. Indeed, according to the SBS analysis, career progression is highly related to words such as work, social issues and equality. The topic with which it has the highest semantic overlap is role , followed by decision-making , hiring , education , compensation , leadership , human capital , and family .

Career progression implies an advancement in the hierarchical ladder of the firm, assigning managerial roles to women. Coherently, much of the literature has focused on identifying rationales for a greater female participation in the top management team and board of directors [e.g., 95 ] as well as the best criteria to ensure that the decision-makers promote the most valuable employees irrespectively of their individual characteristics, such as gender [e.g., 84 ]. The link between career progression , role and compensation is often provided in practice by performance appraisal exercises, frequently rooted in a culture of meritocracy that guides bonuses, salary increases and promotions. However, performance appraisals can actually mask gender-biased decisions where women are held to higher standards than their male colleagues [e.g., 83 , 84 , 95 , 160 , 161 ]. Women often have less opportunities to gain leadership experience and are less visible than their male colleagues, which constitute barriers to career advancement [e.g., 162 ]. Therefore, transparency and accountability, together with procedures that discourage discretionary choices, are paramount to achieve a fair career progression [e.g., 84 ], together with the relaxation of strict job boundaries in favor of cross-functional and self-directed tasks [e.g., 163 ].

In addition, a series of stereotypes about the type of leadership characteristics that are required for top management positions, which fit better with typical male and agentic attributes, are another key barrier to career advancement for women [e.g., 92 , 160 ].

Hiring is the entrance gateway for women into the workforce. Therefore, it is related to other workforce topics such as compensation , role , career progression , decision-making , human capital , performance , organization and education .

A first stream of literature focuses on the process leading up to candidates’ job applications, demonstrating that bias exists before positions are even opened, and it is perpetuated both by men and women through networking and gatekeeping practices [e.g., 164 , 165 ].

The hiring process itself is also subject to biases [ 166 ], for example gender-congruity bias that leads to men being preferred candidates in male-dominated sectors [e.g., 167 ], women being hired in positions with higher risk of failure [e.g., 168 ] and limited transparency and accountability afforded by written processes and procedures [e.g., 164 ] that all contribute to ascriptive inequality. In addition, providing incentives for evaluators to hire women may actually work to this end; however, this is not the case when supporting female candidates endangers higher-ranking male ones [ 169 ].

Another interesting perspective, instead, looks at top management teams’ composition and the effects on hiring practices, indicating that firms with more women in top management are less likely to lay off staff [e.g., 152 ].

Performance.

Several scholars posed their attention towards women’s performance, its consequences [e.g., 170 , 171 ] and the implications of having women in decision-making positions [e.g., 18 , 19 ].

At the individual level, research focused on differences in educational and academic performance between women and men, especially referring to the gender gap in STEM fields [e.g., 171 ]. The presence of stereotype threats–that is the expectation that the members of a social group (e.g., women) “must deal with the possibility of being judged or treated stereotypically, or of doing something that would confirm the stereotype” [ 172 ]–affects women’s interested in STEM [e.g., 173 ], as well as their cognitive ability tests, penalizing them [e.g., 174 ]. A stronger gender identification enhances this gap [e.g., 175 ], whereas mentoring and role models can be used as solutions to this problem [e.g., 121 ]. Despite the negative effect of stereotype threats on girls’ performance [ 176 ], female and male students perform equally in mathematics and related subjects [e.g., 177 ]. Moreover, while individuals’ performance at school and university generally affects their achievements and the field in which they end up working, evidence reveals that performance in math or other scientific subjects does not explain why fewer women enter STEM working fields; rather this gap depends on other aspects, such as culture, past working experiences, or self-efficacy [e.g., 170 ]. Finally, scholars have highlighted the penalization that women face for their positive performance, for instance when they succeed in traditionally male areas [e.g., 178 ]. This penalization is explained by the violation of gender-stereotypic prescriptions [e.g., 179 , 180 ], that is having women well performing in agentic areas, which are typical associated to men. Performance penalization can thus be overcome by clearly conveying communal characteristics and behaviors [ 178 ].

Evidence has been provided on how the involvement of women in boards of directors and decision-making positions affects firms’ performance. Nevertheless, results are mixed, with some studies showing positive effects on financial [ 19 , 181 , 182 ] and corporate social performance [ 99 , 182 , 183 ]. Other studies maintain a negative association [e.g., 18 ], and other again mixed [e.g., 184 ] or non-significant association [e.g., 185 ]. Also with respect to the presence of a female CEO, mixed results emerged so far, with some researches demonstrating a positive effect on firm’s performance [e.g., 96 , 186 ], while other obtaining only a limited evidence of this relationship [e.g., 103 ] or a negative one [e.g., 187 ].

Finally, some studies have investigated whether and how women’s performance affects their hiring [e.g., 101 ] and career progression [e.g., 83 , 160 ]. For instance, academic performance leads to different returns in hiring for women and men. Specifically, high-achieving men are called back significantly more often than high-achieving women, which are penalized when they have a major in mathematics; this result depends on employers’ gendered standards for applicants [e.g., 101 ]. Once appointed, performance ratings are more strongly related to promotions for women than men, and promoted women typically show higher past performance ratings than those of promoted men. This suggesting that women are subject to stricter standards for promotion [e.g., 160 ].

Behavioral aspects related to gender follow two main streams of literature. The first examines female personality and behavior in the workplace, and their alignment with cultural expectations or stereotypes [e.g., 188 ] as well as their impacts on equality. There is a common bias that depicts women as less agentic than males. Certain characteristics, such as those more congruent with male behaviors–e.g., self-promotion [e.g., 189 ], negotiation skills [e.g., 190 ] and general agentic behavior [e.g., 191 ]–, are less accepted in women. However, characteristics such as individualism in women have been found to promote greater gender equality in society [ 192 ]. In addition, behaviors such as display of emotions [e.g., 193 ], which are stereotypically female, work against women’s acceptance in the workplace, requiring women to carefully moderate their behavior to avoid exclusion. A counter-intuitive result is that women and minorities, which are more marginalized in the workplace, tend to be better problem-solvers in innovation competitions due to their different knowledge bases [ 194 ].

The other side of the coin is examined in a parallel literature stream on behavior towards women in the workplace. As a result of biases, prejudices and stereotypes, women may experience adverse behavior from their colleagues, such as incivility and harassment, which undermine their well-being [e.g., 195 , 196 ]. Biases that go beyond gender, such as for overweight people, are also more strongly applied to women [ 197 ].

Organization.

The role of women and gender bias in organizations has been studied from different perspectives, which mirror those presented in detail in the following sections. Specifically, most research highlighted the stereotypical view of leaders [e.g., 105 ] and the roles played by women within firms, for instance referring to presence in the board of directors [e.g., 18 , 90 , 91 ], appointment as CEOs [e.g., 16 ], or top executives [e.g., 93 ].

Scholars have investigated antecedents and consequences of the presence of women in these apical roles. On the one side they looked at hiring and career progression [e.g., 83 , 92 , 160 , 168 , 198 ], finding women typically disadvantaged with respect to their male counterparts. On the other side, they studied women’s leadership styles and influence on the firm’s decision-making [e.g., 152 , 154 , 155 , 199 ], with implications for performance [e.g., 18 , 19 , 96 ].

Human capital.

Human capital is a transverse topic that touches upon many different aspects of female gender equality. As such, it has the most associations with other topics, starting with education as mentioned above, with career-related topics such as role , decision-making , hiring , career progression , performance , compensation , leadership and organization . Another topic with which there is a close connection is behavior . In general, human capital is approached both from the education standpoint but also from the perspective of social capital.

The behavioral aspect in human capital comprises research related to gender differences for example in cultural and religious beliefs that influence women’s attitudes and perceptions towards STEM subjects [ 142 , 200 – 202 ], towards employment [ 203 ] or towards environmental issues [ 150 , 204 ]. These cultural differences also emerge in the context of globalization which may accelerate gender equality in the workforce [ 205 , 206 ]. Gender differences also appear in behaviors such as motivation [ 207 ], and in negotiation [ 190 ], and have repercussions on women’s decision-making related to their careers. The so-called gender equality paradox sees women in countries with lower gender equality more likely to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields, whereas the gap in STEM enrollment widens as countries achieve greater equality in society [ 171 ].

Career progression is modeled by literature as a choice-process where personal preferences, culture and decision-making affect the chosen path and the outcomes. Some literature highlights how women tend to self-select into different professions than men, often due to stereotypes rather than actual ability to perform in these professions [ 142 , 144 ]. These stereotypes also affect the perceptions of female performance or the amount of human capital required to equal male performance [ 110 , 193 , 208 ], particularly for mothers [ 81 ]. It is therefore often assumed that women are better suited to less visible and less leadership -oriented roles [ 209 ]. Women also express differing preferences towards work-family balance, which affect whether and how they pursue human capital gains [ 210 ], and ultimately their career progression and salary .

On the other hand, men are often unaware of gendered processes and behaviors that they carry forward in their interactions and decision-making [ 211 , 212 ]. Therefore, initiatives aimed at increasing managers’ human capital –by raising awareness of gender disparities in their organizations and engaging them in diversity promotion–are essential steps to counter gender bias and segregation [ 213 ].

Emerging topics: Leadership and entrepreneurship

Among the emerging topics, the most pervasive one is women reaching leadership positions in the workforce and in society. This is still a rare occurrence for two main types of factors, on the one hand, bias and discrimination make it harder for women to access leadership positions [e.g., 214 – 216 ], on the other hand, the competitive nature and high pressure associated with leadership positions, coupled with the lack of women currently represented, reduce women’s desire to achieve them [e.g., 209 , 217 ]. Women are more effective leaders when they have access to education, resources and a diverse environment with representation [e.g., 218 , 219 ].

One sector where there is potential for women to carve out a leadership role is entrepreneurship . Although at the start of the millennium the discourse on entrepreneurship was found to be “discriminatory, gender-biased, ethnocentrically determined and ideologically controlled” [ 220 ], an increasing body of literature is studying how to stimulate female entrepreneurship as an alternative pathway to wealth, leadership and empowerment [e.g., 221 ]. Many barriers exist for women to access entrepreneurship, including the institutional and legal environment, social and cultural factors, access to knowledge and resources, and individual behavior [e.g., 222 , 223 ]. Education has been found to raise women’s entrepreneurial intentions [e.g., 224 ], although this effect is smaller than for men [e.g., 109 ]. In addition, increasing self-efficacy and risk-taking behavior constitute important success factors [e.g., 225 ].

Finally, the topic of sustainability is worth mentioning, as it is the primary objective of the SDGs and is closely associated with societal well-being. As society grapples with the effects of climate change and increasing depletion of natural resources, a narrative has emerged on women and their greater link to the environment [ 226 ]. Studies in developed countries have found some support for women leaders’ attention to sustainability issues in firms [e.g., 227 – 229 ], and smaller resource consumption by women [ 230 ]. At the same time, women will likely be more affected by the consequences of climate change [e.g., 230 ] but often lack the decision-making power to influence local decision-making on resource management and environmental policies [e.g., 231 ].

Research gaps and conclusions

Research on gender equality has advanced rapidly in the past decades, with a steady increase in publications, both in mainstream topics related to women in education and the workforce, and in emerging topics. Through a novel approach combining methods of text mining and social network analysis, we examined a comprehensive body of literature comprising 15,465 papers published between 2000 and mid 2021 on topics related to gender equality. We identified a set of 27 topics addressed by the literature and examined their connections.

At the highest level of abstraction, it is worth noting that papers abound on the identification of issues related to gender inequalities and imbalances in the workforce and in society. Literature has thoroughly examined the (unconscious) biases, barriers, stereotypes, and discriminatory behaviors that women are facing as a result of their gender. Instead, there are much fewer papers that discuss or demonstrate effective solutions to overcome gender bias [e.g., 121 , 143 , 145 , 163 , 194 , 213 , 232 ]. This is partly due to the relative ease in studying the status quo, as opposed to studying changes in the status quo. However, we observed a shift in the more recent years towards solution seeking in this domain, which we strongly encourage future researchers to focus on. In the future, we may focus on collecting and mapping pro-active contributions to gender studies, using additional Natural Language Processing techniques, able to measure the sentiment of scientific papers [ 43 ].

All of the mainstream topics identified in our literature review are closely related, and there is a wealth of insights looking at the intersection between issues such as education and career progression or human capital and role . However, emerging topics are worthy of being furtherly explored. It would be interesting to see more work on the topic of female entrepreneurship , exploring aspects such as education , personality , governance , management and leadership . For instance, how can education support female entrepreneurship? How can self-efficacy and risk-taking behaviors be taught or enhanced? What are the differences in managerial and governance styles of female entrepreneurs? Which personality traits are associated with successful entrepreneurs? Which traits are preferred by venture capitalists and funding bodies?

The emerging topic of sustainability also deserves further attention, as our society struggles with climate change and its consequences. It would be interesting to see more research on the intersection between sustainability and entrepreneurship , looking at how female entrepreneurs are tackling sustainability issues, examining both their business models and their company governance . In addition, scholars are suggested to dig deeper into the relationship between family values and behaviors.

Moreover, it would be relevant to understand how women’s networks (social capital), or the composition and structure of social networks involving both women and men, enable them to increase their remuneration and reach top corporate positions, participate in key decision-making bodies, and have a voice in communities. Furthermore, the achievement of gender equality might significantly change firm networks and ecosystems, with important implications for their performance and survival.

Similarly, research at the nexus of (corporate) governance , career progression , compensation and female empowerment could yield useful insights–for example discussing how enterprises, institutions and countries are managed and the impact for women and other minorities. Are there specific governance structures that favor diversity and inclusion?

Lastly, we foresee an emerging stream of research pertaining how the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic challenged women, especially in the workforce, by making gender biases more evident.

For our analysis, we considered a set of 15,465 articles downloaded from the Scopus database (which is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature). As we were interested in reviewing business and economics related gender studies, we only considered those papers published in journals listed in the Academic Journal Guide (AJG) 2018 ranking of the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS). All the journals listed in this ranking are also indexed by Scopus. Therefore, looking at a single database (i.e., Scopus) should not be considered a limitation of our study. However, future research could consider different databases and inclusion criteria.

With our literature review, we offer researchers a comprehensive map of major gender-related research trends over the past twenty-two years. This can serve as a lens to look to the future, contributing to the achievement of SDG5. Researchers may use our study as a starting point to identify key themes addressed in the literature. In addition, our methodological approach–based on the use of the Semantic Brand Score and its webapp–could support scholars interested in reviewing other areas of research.

Supporting information

S1 text. keywords used for paper selection..

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256474.s001

Acknowledgments

The computing resources and the related technical support used for this work have been provided by CRESCO/ENEAGRID High Performance Computing infrastructure and its staff. CRESCO/ENEAGRID High Performance Computing infrastructure is funded by ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development and by Italian and European research programmes (see http://www.cresco.enea.it/english for information).

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Sample essay on gender equality

Home  »  IELTS BAND 9 ESSAYS  »  Sample essay on gender equality

Welcome to another of our IELTS task 2 essay samples. Students often ask us, how do I write a band 9 essay? Well, writing a band 9 essay task 2 answer is certainly not easy, but the first step is to look at excellent examples and get an idea of appropriate language and layout.

The following is an example of an essay on gender equality which is a common topic for the IELTS essay. This gender equality essay (IELTS task 2) may come up in either the Academic or General IELTS test.

The first step is to read the question carefully. It will often begin with a statement along the lines of, 'the position of women has changed a great deal in recent years' or 'some people feel that equality between the sexes cannot be achieved' . You may get a gender equality IELTS essay where you are focusing on how the sexes are equal (or not) or an essay on gender discrimination where you might be looking more at examples of negative treatment of women, the reasons for this and possible solutions.

A gender equality essay, or gender discrimination essay is somewhat flexible and you can adapt the question to your own knowledge and experience as well as using some global examples that you might be aware of such as the recent demonstrations in Iran.

Sample Gender Equality Question

Women can do everything that men can and they even do it better. They also can do many things that men cannot. But it is a fact that their work is not appreciated as much as men's, although they have to sacrifice a lot for their family and career. It is said: "A woman's place is in the home." What do you think?

IELTS Model Essay on Gender Equality

Women and men have had different roles in the community since the beginning. Under modern pretexts these differences are slowly converging. However, due to the genetic inheritance and socio-demographic components, these differences do exist.

Firstly, men are undoubtedly better adapted genetically to perform physical tasks. Therefore, the assumption that women can match men in everything is clearly flawed. The difference between their physical abilities is clearly demonstrated in the sporting arena. Take, for example, the Olympics or any international sporting event. It can be clearly seen that in these competitions the genders are separated due to inherent differences between the sexes.

Secondly, it has been argued that women are less appreciated in society due to their traditional roles in the home. This statement is true to a certain extent because it largely depends on the society. In certain traditional societies in Africa, females working is frowned upon and is seen as neglecting the family, whereas in Afghanistan, in general, females are allowed to do little else but stay at home, being a housewife.

Consequently, a woman’s value is largely dictated by the society, culture and history. Nevertheless, to state that her place is in the home is widely considered sexist in modern western societies.

To conclude, differences do certainly exist; however, these are largely through nature. Also, the role women may have is usually dictated by other factors, such as, religion or society, not ability.

IELTS Writing Task 2 gender topic common questions

1. Is this model the same as agree or disagree questions about gender? 

Absolutely, yes. 'What do you think?' is the same as asking whether you agree or disagree with the preceding statement.

2. For my gender equality writing task 2, I am worried that I won't have enough facts to support my arguments.

Don't worry about accuracy with places and exact dates, the important thing is your ideas, and if you need to give examples, you can mention different countries. That will be fine. Essay writing on gender equality is not the same as submitting a research paper, you only need to set out your arguments, not reference everything.

3. We didn't study gender equality essay writing in class. Can I still answer the question? 

Of course, you can! It's impossible to study for every potential question in IELTS writing task 2. Gender equality is one of many possibilities and every given subject has scope for flexibility.  Just stay calm, think about your own experiences and knowledge from your own community and the position of women in different professions in your own country, and you will be able to think of some ideas and relevant examples to form your main arguments. These will be the topic sentences for the body paragraphs in your essay. Remember, each paragraph should have one clear topic sentence.

And finally - you may get a gender equality IELTS speaking question in part 3 of the speaking test relating to female students in higher education, women doing military service or women in different professions and how they are treated compared to their male counterparts.

Other possibilities include questions about women in developed countries and whether they have similar rights to men. If so, the vocabulary in the sample answer above will ensure that you are well-prepared to speak about equal opportunity!

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Essay on Gender Equality And Women’s Empowerment

Students are often asked to write an essay on Gender Equality And Women’s Empowerment in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Gender Equality And Women’s Empowerment

Understanding gender equality.

Gender equality means that men and women have the same rights and opportunities. It’s like having two different types of fruits, say an apple and an orange, and giving them the same amount of care, sunlight, and water to grow. No one is better than the other; they are just different but equally important.

What is Women’s Empowerment?

Women’s empowerment is about making sure women can make their own choices in life. It’s like teaching someone to ride a bike. Once they learn, they can go anywhere they want, do things on their own, and feel strong.

Education and Jobs

For true gender equality, both boys and girls should go to school and learn. When they grow up, women should have the same chances to get good jobs as men. Think of it as a game where everyone gets a fair turn to play and show their skills.

Leadership Roles

Women should also be leaders, like being the captain of a team or the president of a club. This shows everyone that girls can lead and make important decisions just as well as boys can.

Equality at Home

At home, chores and responsibilities should be shared. It shouldn’t be just the girl or woman doing the cleaning and cooking. It’s like a team sport where everyone plays their part to win the game together.

250 Words Essay on Gender Equality And Women’s Empowerment

Gender equality means that men and women have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. It’s like a game where everyone gets a fair chance to play, no matter if they are a boy or a girl. Everyone should be able to go to school, work, and take part in making decisions.

Women’s Empowerment

Women’s empowerment is about giving girls and women the power to make their own choices. It’s like letting them be the captain of their own ship. They can decide what they want to study, where they want to work, and stand up for what they believe is right.

Why It’s Important

When women and men are equal, it’s good for everyone. Women can bring new ideas and skills to the table, which can help solve problems better and make the world a nicer place to live. It’s also fair that everyone gets to chase their dreams and be happy.

Challenges to Overcome

Sadly, not all places have gender equality. Some girls are kept from going to school, and some women are not allowed to work or have to work harder for less money. It’s important to change this so that everyone has the same chances in life.

How to Support Equality

To help, we can make sure that both boys and girls know that they are equal. We can also stand up for our friends if they are being treated unfairly. By working together, we can build a world where everyone is respected and can live the life they choose.

500 Words Essay on Gender Equality And Women’s Empowerment

Gender equality means that men and women have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. It’s like making sure that both your left and right hands get the same chance to do things, no matter if one is stronger or more used to working. Everyone is equal, and no one should be treated unfairly just because they are a boy or a girl.

Women’s empowerment is about giving girls and women the power to make choices for themselves. It’s like letting them decide what clothes to wear or what games to play, instead of someone else telling them what to do. Empowerment helps women to speak up, get a good education, and find jobs that they want to do.

Why Gender Equality is Important

When girls and boys, or women and men, are treated equally, it’s good for everyone. It’s like a team game where every player gets a fair chance to play, making the team stronger. Countries with gender equality are usually happier and wealthier because everyone can work, create new things, and help make decisions.

Challenges in Achieving Gender Equality

Even though many people agree that gender equality is important, it’s not easy to achieve. Some people still think that men should do certain jobs and women others, or that boys should study some subjects and girls others. This is unfair and stops people from reaching their full potential.

Education and Gender Equality

Education is a powerful tool for gender equality. When girls go to school and learn just like boys, they can get better jobs and make better choices for their lives. It’s like giving them a key to a big door that leads to a world of opportunities.

Women in Leadership

Having more women in leadership roles is also important for gender equality. Leaders make big decisions that affect everyone. When women are leaders, they can make sure that the needs and ideas of both women and men are included. It’s like making sure that both sides of a story are heard before deciding what to do.

How to Support Gender Equality

Everyone can help support gender equality. It starts with treating everyone fairly, no matter if they are a boy or a girl. You can also learn about the achievements of women and tell others about them. It’s like cheering for your friends when they do something great.

In the end, gender equality and women’s empowerment are about making sure that everyone, no matter if they are a boy or a girl, has the same chances in life. It’s like a game where the rules are fair for all players, and everyone can win. When we work together to treat everyone equally, we make the world a better place for everyone.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

If you’re looking for more, here are essays on other interesting topics:

  • Essay on Gender Equality And Sustainable Development
  • Essay on Exciting Cricket Match
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gender equality at home essay

The Layers of Sexism: Understanding its Complexity and Impact

This essay about the intricate layers of sexism, highlighting its pervasive nature and impact on individuals across gender spectrums. It explores how sexism manifests through stereotypes, discrimination, and power imbalances, affecting various aspects of society. The essay emphasizes the importance of recognizing intersectionality and challenging ingrained biases to foster a more equitable future. Through education, advocacy, and inclusive practices, society can work towards dismantling systemic barriers and promoting gender equality for all individuals.

How it works

Sexism, a multifaceted social phenomenon, permeates various facets of human interaction, often unnoticed or downplayed. At its core, sexism entails prejudice, discrimination, or stereotyping based on one’s gender. While commonly associated with the oppression of women, sexism affects individuals across the gender spectrum, albeit in differing ways. Understanding its nuances is paramount to fostering a more equitable society.

Central to sexism is the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, manifesting in beliefs about the inherent capabilities, roles, and characteristics of individuals based on their gender.

This pervasive stereotyping not only influences societal perceptions but also seeps into institutional structures, shaping policies, and practices. For instance, the persistent underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in corporate settings reflects ingrained biases that hinder their advancement.

Moreover, sexism operates on both explicit and implicit levels, with overt acts of discrimination coexisting alongside subtler forms of bias. While blatant instances, such as unequal pay or harassment in the workplace, are more readily identifiable, implicit biases subtly influence decision-making processes, perpetuating systemic inequalities. These biases often go unnoticed, underscoring the need for introspection and education to combat ingrained prejudices.

Intersectionality further complicates the landscape of sexism, highlighting how individuals experience discrimination based on the intersection of their gender identity with other social categories such as race, class, sexuality, and ability. Women of color, for example, may face compounded forms of discrimination, experiencing racism and sexism simultaneously. Recognizing these intersecting identities is crucial for addressing the diverse experiences of marginalization within the broader framework of sexism.

Moreover, the perpetuation of gender norms and expectations perpetuates harmful dynamics that restrict individuals’ autonomy and agency. From childhood, societal norms dictate rigid gender roles, prescribing certain behaviors and interests based on one’s assigned gender at birth. This socialization process not only limits personal expression but also reinforces harmful power dynamics, perpetuating inequalities between genders.

Addressing sexism necessitates a multifaceted approach encompassing societal, institutional, and individual levels of intervention. Education plays a pivotal role in challenging stereotypes, fostering empathy, and promoting gender equality from an early age. Additionally, advocating for inclusive policies and practices within institutions can help dismantle systemic barriers to equality, ensuring fair treatment and opportunities for all individuals.

In conclusion, sexism is a complex social phenomenon rooted in gender stereotypes, discrimination, and power imbalances. Recognizing its multifaceted nature is essential for devising effective strategies to combat it. By challenging ingrained biases, fostering inclusivity, and promoting gender equality, society can work towards creating a more equitable future for all.

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH article

Gender inequality in household chores and work-family conflict.

\r\nJavier Cerrato*

  • 1 Department of Social Psychology, Faculty of Labour Relations and Social Work, Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain
  • 2 Department of Developmental, Educational and Social Psychology and Methodology, Universitat Jaume I, Castellón de la Plana, Spain

The fact that the permeability between family and work scopes produces work-family conflict (WFC) is well established. As such, this research aims to check whether the unequal involvement in household chores between men and women is associated with increased WFC in women and men, interpreting the results also from the knowledge that arise from gender studies. A correlational study was carried out by means a questionnaire applied to 515 subjects (63% men) of two independent samples of Spanish men and women without emotional relationship, who lived with their heterosexual partner. As expected, results firstly show unequal involvement in household chores by women and men as it is higher in women that in men, and the perception of partner involvement is lower in women that in men. Secondly, those unequal involvements relate differently to men and women on different ways of work-family interaction. They do not increase WFC in women comparing to men, although there are tangentially significant differences in work conflict (WC) and statistically significant in family conflict (FC). However, perception of partner involvement on household chores increases WFC both in men and in women but not WC nor FC. Nevertheless, increase on marital conflict (MC) by domestic tasks neither affect in a significant way WFC in women nor in men, but increase WC in both women and men and FC only in women. Results also confirm that subject involvement on household chores is not a significant predictor of WFC in women nor in men, and that MC by domestic tasks is a statistically significant predictor in women of WFC and FC, but not in men. Thus, results show that traditional gender roles still affect the way men and women manage the work and family interaction, although the increased WFC due to involvement in housework is not exclusive to women, but also occurs in men. Personal and institutional recommendations are made on the basis of these results to cope with these conflicts.

Introduction

Occupational health psychology promotes labor risk prevention intervening both on the organization and on the person, but also on work-family interface. It seeks the goodness-of-fit among these dimensions in order to reduce psychosocial risks on occupational health and concurrently to improve organizational efficacy. The effect of psychosocial stressors at work does not remain within the working sphere as it extends also to personal life. This permeability between family and work scopes has produced work-family conflict (WFC) to be one of the psychosocial risks receiving more attention during the past years ( Eby et al., 2005 ; Ammons and Kelly, 2015 ; French et al., 2017 ; Lapierre et al., 2017 ; Wayne et al., 2017 ; Carvalho et al., 2018 ). WFC negatively affects both health and general life such as work performance and work satisfaction within the organizational context, but it also increases conflict rates and decreases family satisfaction. From this perspective, and within a context of a more technological and digitalized society, gender equality at work is a matter of paramount importance, which must start with a gender equality at home. The aim of this study is to check whether the unequal involvement in household chores between men and women is associated with increased WFC in women, and explain it in terms integrating the knowledge of gender studies.

Work-Home Conflict and Gender

Individuals may experience conflict between their work and home roles due to limited time, high levels of stress, and competing behavioral expectations ( Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985 ). Although most of the work-home research has focused on how work variables affect home from the point of view of the conflict between the two spheres ( Major and Cleveland, 2005 ), organizational psychology also begins to study how family variables affect job performance and satisfaction.

In the psychosocial scientific literature, there is a wide tradition on the work and home interface studies (i.e., Kopelmanś et al., 1983 ; Edwards and Rothbard, 2000 ; Pitt-Catsouphes et al., 2006 ; Mills, 2015 ; Paulin et al., 2017 ). Two primary perspectives have been offered in this literature based on the incompatibility between individuals’ work and home domains ( Michel and Hargis, 2008 ). One perspective focuses on the mechanisms that generate conflict between both domains. The other perspective focuses on the segmentation mechanisms between the work and the family domains. In this study, we adopt the conflict model in examining the influence of home roles (differential involvement of men and women on household chores), on work roles.

Some research has shown that role pressure in work and home domains generates negative consequences on the other one bidirectionally. So the degree of participation in the home role will create difficulties for participation in work, resulting in the home-work conflict (HWC); conversely, the degree of participation in the work domain can hinder performance on the family role, producing an increase of strain-based, time-based or behavior-based work-home conflict (WHC) ( Huang et al., 2004 ).

Gender roles are essential for understanding the work-home interface. They are shared beliefs that apply to individuals on the basis of their socially identified sex which are the basis of the division of labor in most societies ( Wood and Eagly, 2010 ). In Western societies, the home sphere, and the household chores as part of this sphere, it is assumed to be in charge of women, which could in turn affect more highly the home to work conflict of women than of men. However, to our knowledge, this has not been checked empirically. In this study we will focus on the effect of the relationship between gender and dedication to household chores on WFC among women.

Different meta-analyses ( Byron, 2005 ; Eby et al., 2005 ) have demonstrated the key role played by gender, but how it relates to work-family constructs is still both theoretically and empirically debated ( Shockley et al., 2017 ). Research has found differences in work-home conflict repeatedly, ranging from differences in the experience of WFC to the existence of different work and home backgrounds to women and men. However, most studies in the field of work-home interface do not consider gender as a variable, identifying at most correlates and differential associations for men and women ( Martínez and Paterna, 2009 ). Thus, we posit that work-home interface studies should include gender as key variable due to the influence of gender ideology and gender-role orientation might have on the work-home relationship from a cultural point of view.

From a cultural and discursive perspective ( Gerstel and Sarkisian, 2006 ), gender ideology, defined as beliefs and values maintained about what is right for men and women, determines the patterns by which a particular society judges or evaluates the proper conduct of a man or a woman.

This gender ideology is also reflected in the social discourse, as frequently the couple recreates the dominant social discourse in which is referred the essential characteristics in which men and women differ ignoring the sociopolitical context. This discourse states that the differences between men and women in relation to home and work are the result of personal choice, that there are differences in innate abilities of men and women for household chores and work outside the home, and that these differences guide the choice for certain jobs and even that preference for home toward work is a free choice in the case of women ( Martínez and Paterna, 2009 ; Kuo et al., 2018 ). Linked to this ideology, the traditional gender role model prescribes that work domain and instrumentality are more important for men than for women, whereas the home domain and expressiveness is more important for women. The traditional gender role model has a biosocial and cultural origin, and was described by Parsons and Bales (1955) in their delineation of instrumental (men) and expressive (women) roles. This model arbitrarily assumes that expressiveness and instrumentality are separate dimensions, and that expressiveness is always women gender role whereas instrumentality is that of men. Work and family interactions are embedded in the broader cultural, institutional and economic context in which individuals reside ( Ollier-Malaterre and Foucreault, 2017 ). Of particular relevance to gender differences in WFC are cultural differences in gender egalitarianism, or belief or attitudes about de equality of the sexes within de culture ( House et al., 2004 ; Lucas-Thompson and Goldberg, 2015 ).

As Martínez and Paterna (2009) indicate, gender ideology seems to determine the percentage of tasks considered traditionally feminine by members of the couple, such as washing, ironing, shopping, cooking, or cleaning. It also generates a differential meaning about household chores for men and women. Also, recent studies have shown that there is still a division of house chores by gender, depending on the gender role nuclei: instrumentality inside and outside home for men; expressiveness and instrumentality inside home for women ( Fernández et al., 2016 ). All this rationale, leads us to formulate hypothesis 1:

H1: There will be a division of household chores between men and women based on traditional gender roles. Women will spend more time than men in traditionally female household chores and men in traditionally male ones.

Both men and women similarly perceive a lack of parity in performing household chores, but perceive greater equality in the care of daughters and sons ( Yago and Martínez, 2009 ). This leads us to propose hypothesis 2:

H2 : Women will perceive their partners much less involved in household chores and only focus on household chores traditionally considered masculine. Men will perceive their female partners more involved in traditionally female household chores, especially in those traditionally considered feminine.

Implication in Household Chores and Work-Family Conflict (WFC)

Time required for household chores and caring for the family is one of the most important factors in the conflict coming from the family sphere, especially in families with children. So, the dual-income couples with children tend to have a greater number of conflicts between the partners and a higher level of stress than their counterparts without children ( Michel and Hargis, 2008 ). From this point of view, the gender roles model assumes that the nature of the role demands differs in men and women, and these roles act as moderators of WFC ( Barnett et al., 1995 ).

The highest level of family to work interference in women comes from the different implication of women and men in household chores, including the care of children. This different implication has been proven by various studies and research ( Bianchi et al., 2000 ; Korabik, 2015 ; Borelli et al., 2017 ) and still persists in society as has been found in different surveys ( Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2014 ; Eurobarometer, 2015 ). In concrete, this model keeps very persistent in Spain, where women spend almost double the amount of time on unpaid work as men National Institute of Statistics (INE), 2018 ). This time is spent on activities such as caring for children (38 h a week women versus 23 men) or family members (20 h women versus 14 men) or household chores (20 h women versus 11 men). So although women have begun to strongly form part of the labor force and to spend more time with their children taking care of them, they neither assume a decrease in their salary as much as women do for work interruptions due to family issues nor stay at home to take care of their children ( Gerstel and Sarkisian, 2006 ). Most men still maintain full involvement in their work because their feminine couple assume the responsibility for caring their children. Thus, we can deduce that women will suffer more by the interference of the family at work, because their greater involvement in the family will can subtract them time, strength and dedication to their work; however, men will suffer more by the interference of work in the family. In fact, a high implication in the family sphere has been shown linked to a higher family-to-work interference only in women ( Hammer et al., 1997 ).

Moreover, men do not feel an obligation when they are involved in the home as women do, as they perceive it more as a hobby or a free choice. Also, those house chores that keep the home every day (shopping, cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes, and cleaning the house) are considered feminine, while those considered male or neutral tasks (paying bills, taking care of the car or home maintenance) do not involve daily devotion. Some cultural interpretation argue that women are more involved in house chores and do not want to fully share because of the belief that this is central to their gender identity and a source of power in the family, whereas husbands, whose gender identity has traditionally been marked by paid work, would not object to do less household chores than their wives ( Martínez and Paterna, 2009 ).

Besides, a crossover effect must be included: to the greater involvement of women in the family and household chores must be added the greatest involvement of men in the workplace ( Bakker et al., 2008 ), which supposes an increased family burden for women. As husbands are not available for household chores, wives suffer overload by household chores and emotional demands related to children caregiving, which will increase still more women stress and family to work interference ( Frone, 2003 ).

In short, the lesser involvement of men in household chores and greater transfer of stress from work to family causes increased domestic workload on women and marital conflict (MC), thus increasing the tension transfer from family environment to worksite in women. All this rationale, leads us to formulate hypothesis 3:

H3: The greater involvement of women in household chores and the perception of the lesser involvement of their men partners is linked to an increased family to work conflict (FWC) in women.

Marital Conflict and Household Chores

This greater involvement of women in household chorus and increased family to work conflict may lead to an increase of MC. In this line, Pittman et al. (1996) provide evidence for this idea by showing that the contribution of women to household chores is higher on the days when their husbands express higher levels of work stress; in these cases, women must subtract energy and time from work due to their husbands’ increased work stress. However, men do not adjust their contribution to household chores when their wives bring their work stress home. Research on family processes shows that stressed couples show a high level of negative interactions and conflicts. Thus, increased stress associated with WFC and its correlative frustration, leads individuals to initiate or exacerbate their sequence of negative interaction with the partner ( Westman and Etzion, 2005 ; Huffman et al., 2017 ). This negative interaction may be understood as product both of social undermining which consist in behaviors that involve rejection, criticism and negative attitude toward the couple ( Vinokur and Van Ryn, 1993 ) and hostile marital interactions ( Matthews et al., 1996 ), which aims to express hostility toward the partner or MCs.

Focusing on the conflict between the partners and their relationship with household chores, it has shown how increasing distress and frustration generated by the WFC tends to impair the interaction with the partner ( Westman and Etzion, 2005 ). This can result in increased tension between the partners due to the transfer of stress from work to family by men and their lesser involvement in household chores, which would generate an increase in MC and, therefore, an increase of conflict in the family especially in women due to unequal distribution of household chores. This leads us to propose hypothesis 4:

H4: The conflict between the partners due to unequal distribution of household chores generates an increase of more family to work conflict (FWC) in women than in men because of their greater involvement at home.

Materials and Methods

Participants and procedure.

A correlational study was carried out by means of a questionnaire applied by professional surveyors during 2014. They selected a segmented sample of men and women working in public and private organizations from different productive sectors (teaching, services, and manufacturing sectors). The final sample consisted of 515 subjects, mostly (63%) were men, with an average age of 40 years old; all of them were married or living with a heterosexual partner, and they had children. Samples of men and women were independent from each other, without emotional/marital relationship between them. Regarding the organizational setting, 21% were working in public organizations and 79% in private ones.

• Work-Family Conflict (WFC), Family Conflict (FC), and Work Conflict (WC) based on time and strain were measured through the Spanish version ( Martínez-Pérez and Osca, 2001 ) of the Kopelmanś et al. (1983) scale. This scale applies the role conflict concept of Kahn et al. (1964) to study work and family scopes first separately and then together, based on the idea that WC and FC might act as antecedents of WFC. Each of these subscales consists of eight items on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (total disagree) to 5 (total agree). An example of a WFC subscale item is My work timetable is often incompatible with my family life ; an example of an item from the FC subscale is My family dislikes doing some activities I would like to do; and an example of an item from the WF subscale is At work I can’t be myself, or be the way I really am.

• Subject involvement with household chores scale. This is a 10-item self-constructed scale that measures subjects’ self-perception about different tasks related to household chores, family management, and child care and education. Subjects respond to each item using a dichotomous yes/no format. The final scale score is the total number of family tasks they do. Examples of these items are Do you take the children to school every day? and Do you clean your house in your everyday life? This scale only includes the most common household chores of a standard Spanish couple with children of school age, not including others that may be less frequent in this culture (i.e., cutting the grass).

• Partner involvement in household chores perception scale . This self-constructed scale is similar to the one above, but in this case it measures the subjects’ perception of their partners’ involvement in all the household chores. Subjects respond to each item using a dichotomous yes/no format about their perception of their partner’s involvement in different family tasks. The final scale score is the total number of tasks they perceive that their partners dedicate to family tasks. An example of these items is Does your partner take the children to school in everyday life?

• Marital conflict about household chores was measured with the single question How many times do you and your partner argue about who must do the household chore s and when ? Subjects respond to this item on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (every day).

We also measured socio-demographic (sex and age) and socio-familiar (family status, number of children) variables for the sample description.

Data Analyses

First, we performed skewness and kurtosis analyses to check normality among variables. Second, we calculated internal consistencies (Cronbach’s α), descriptive analyses and correlations between conflict scales and subject/partner perceived involvement on household chores scales. Third, we computed Analyses of Variance (ANOVAs) in order to test whether there was any statistically significant difference between-group regarding gender for subject’s involvement in household chores scale, and subject’s perception of partner’s involvement in household scale, and Kruskal–Wallis non-parametrical tests for item to item analysis due to its dichotomous level of response (Hypothesis 1 and 2). After that, we computed new ANOVAs and Regression Analyses to check gender, household chores, partner’s implication and conflict on WFC, WC, and FC (Hypothesis 3 and 4). All data analyses were carried out using SPSS 21.0.

Table 1 shows skewness and kurtosis statistics. As expected, all scales show values equal or below 0.5 and −0.5 in both or at least at one of them. So we assume a normal distribution of the scores of these scales. However, item by item of subject’s and partner’s involvement in household chores scales do not follow that normal distribution, due to its dichotomical nature.

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TABLE 1. Skewness and Kurtosis analysis of variables distribution.

Table 2 shows the descriptive analyses and Cronbach’s alpha of the variables for both samples. The alpha values meet the criterion of 0.70 ( Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994 ), except in the case of the perception of partner’s involvement in household chores, which was above 0.60. As expected, the pattern of correlations shows that WFC, work conflict and FC are positively and significantly related in both samples. However, WFC is more related to conflict at work in women and to conflict in the family in men.

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TABLE 2. Cronbach’s alpha, means ( M ), standard deviation ( SD ), and intercorrelations by gender ( N = 515).

Marital conflict is only highly and positively related to WFC, work conflict and FC in women, but not in men. This could indicate that women assimilate the conflict with the partner into conflicts in the family, i.e., women integrate the couple into the family concept, while men consider them to be different.

Subject’s involvement in household chores correlates significant and negatively with WFC in both men and women, but only with work conflict in men. Then, for both men and women, the higher their involvement is in household chores, the lower their WFC; moreover, the higher the work conflict is, the lower the men’s involvement in household chores.

Finally, the correlation between the subject’s and the perception of the partner’s involvement in household chores is only highly, significantly and negatively related in women. However, the perception of the partner’s involvement in household chores is only highly, significantly and positively related to WFC in men. Thus, women decrease their involvement in household chores when their male partners increase their involvement; on the other hand, in the case of men, the greater the involvement of the partner (women) in the household chores, the higher the WFC is.

ANOVA results confirm these differences and inequality about men’s and women’s involvement in household chores. Women’s involvement in household chores is more than twice that of men (4.0 and 1.7, respectively; F = 82.60; p ≤ 001). Consistently, women perceive lower involvement of their partner (men) in household chores than men do (1.8 and 2.8, respectively; F = 22.70; p ≤ 001).

Kruskal–Wallis tests also confirm that women are significantly more involved than men in seven of eleven household chores (see Table 3 ). These seven tasks are traditionally considered feminine: home shopping, house cleaning, free-time family management, taking children from home to school and from school to home, children’s care, helping children with homework, and playing with them. Men only score higher than women on one task traditionally considered masculine: house repairs. There are no differences in family management. These results confirm Hypothesis 1.

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TABLE 3. Kruskal–Wallis test of subject involvement on household chores and perception of partner involvement on household chores by gender (item to item) ( N = 515).

Symmetrically, Kruskal–Wallis tests also show that these results are confirmed by the perception that men and women have of their partner’s involvement in household chores: men consider that their partners (women) are mainly involved in traditionally feminine household chores: home shopping, house cleaning, free-time family management, taking children from home to school and school to home, taking care of the children, and helping children with homework, whereas women consider that their partners (men) are involved in typically masculine household chores: house repairs and family management. There are no differences in the perception of playing with the children. On the whole, these results confirm Hypothesis 2.

To test the hypothesis 3 (the effect of the greater involvement of women in household chores and perception of lesser involvement of male partners in the increase in the WFC among women compared to men), and hypothesis 4 (the effect of MC in the increased level of WFC in women relative to men), we performed three separate ANOVAs (Table 4 ), complemented by multiple regression analysis (Table 5 ).

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TABLE 4. Analysis of variance of work-family conflict, work conflict and family conflict by subject involvement on household chores and subject perception of partner involvement on household chores and marital conflict by gender ( N = 515).

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TABLE 5. Regression analyses predicting work conflict, family conflict and work-family conflict (dependent variables) in women and men by involvement on household chores, subject perception of partner involvement on household chores and level of marital conflict (independent variables).

ANOVAs results confirm partially hypothesis 3 since greater involvement of women in household chores do not generate a statistically significant increase in WFC comparing to men. There are gender differences in the extent to which this differential involvement in domestic tasks affects FC and (in a tangentially significant way) WC that point to a gender effect. On one hand, in the case of women, when their involvement in household chores is high, their FC and WC levels are similar; however, when their involvement is low, FC decreases and WC increases. On the other hand, in the case of men, the WC is always greater than the FC regardless of their degree of involvement in household chores. That is, in the case of women when there is a lower involvement in household chores the FC is also lower, but increases the WC.

There are no gender differences regarding the WFC according to the perception of their partners: it increases significantly in both men and women when the involvement in household chores of the partner is high or low, being always higher among women than among men regardless of the involvement of the partner with household chores is high or low, which completely rejects hypothesis 3.

It is noteworthy that the effect of the perception of involvement of the partner in household chores by gender does not affect WC or FC in a gender-specific way, but it affects the WFC globally statistically significantly, although these differences were not gender effects manifest. This indicates that the WFC is affected by the involvement of the partner in household chores, but not for the involvement of the subject in them, which segmentally would affect the FC and WC.

Regarding hypothesis 4, the increase of conflict by domestic tasks among the partners does not affect the WFC in a statistically significant way in women nor in men, but it does on WC and FC: when MC is high WC increase both in women and men, but FC increase only in women.

As a confirmation of this results, regarding the relationship between the subject’s and partner’s involvement in household chores and the different conflicts, regression analyses (see Table 5 ) show, first, that subject involvement on household chores does not predict WFC in women nor men, but only WC in men in a negative way. Moreover, the perception of the partner’s involvement in household chores and MC is a predictor of women’s WC and men’s WFC. Again these results do not confirm hypothesis 3.

Nevertheless, regarding hypothesis 4, as a difference of the ANOVA results, the increase of conflict by domestic tasks among the partners predict the WFC, WC, and FC in a statistically significant way in women but not in men. So results show that MC in women predicts WFC. This result fully support hypothesis 4. In addition to this, the MC is the only variable of those studied that affects the FC in the case of women, whereas involvement in housework does in the case of men, supporting also hypothesis 4.

In the case of men, the perception of the partner’s (women) involvement in household chores is a predictor of WFC. Results also show that men’s involvement in household chores is a negative statistically significant predictor FC as their beta coefficient is negative. That is, it seems that when the involvement of men in housework increases, the conflict in the family decreases; but when the perception of involvement of their female partners is high, it increases in them the WFC. However, MC does not predict this FC in men, so the FC does not increase by the conflict with the partner for housework but by their low involvement in them.

Home-work interaction has been the focus of a wide range of scientific literature during the past decades. It is generally accepted that both the family and the work scope affect each other in a different way. However, it was not studied in which degree the own and the partner’s involvement in family issues affect different kind of work-home conflict from a gender point of view. Thus, the aim of this study was to check whether the unequal involvement in household chores between men and women is associated with increased WFC in women, and explain it in terms integrating the knowledge of gender studies.

First, results confirm inequality because it indicates that the involvement of women in household chores is, on average, more than double the involvement of their male partners. In addition, men are more involved in traditionally masculine household chores (i.e., home repairs and family management), and women are more involved in traditionally feminine chores (i.e., childcare or shopping). Symmetrically, the subject’s perception of the partner implication confirms this difference: women perception of their men partner involvement in household chores much less than men perception of their woman partner involvement. Therefore, hypotheses 1 and 2 of our study are confirmed.

Secondly, we checked if those unequal involvements relate differently to men and women on different ways of WF interaction. We found that the greater involvement of women in household chores does not affect the level of WFC differentially in men and women, so hypothesis 3 is not met. This gender inequality in the distribution of household chores and child care does not imply a higher level of WFC in women compared to men. Rather the opposite happens: when more involved are both men and women in household chores, lower is the WFC. Although the hypothesis 3 is not corroborated, it should be noted that when the involvement of women in household chores is high, their level of FC increases; when men’s involvement increases, their level of WC increases, which in some way supports hypothesis 3. That is, the high involvement in household chores has negative consequences in the family sphere for women and in the workplace for men, possibly because of the greater respective importance that women give to family and men to work, as it poses the traditional gender role model.

In addition to this, results show that when the involvement of women in household chores is high, their levels of WC and FC are similar, i.e., it equally affects both areas. When this involvement is low, FC is lower than the WC. However, among men, WC is always greater than the WC regardless of their involvement in household chores. Furthermore, when the conflict with the partner for household chores is high, women report a higher FC but not a higher WC, whereas in man this conflict does not affect neither the FC nor the WC.

However, in the case of women, MC affects conflict related WC and FC and WFC, so hypothesis 4 is fully corroborated. This is very interesting because although hypothesis 3 is not met, however, the conflict with the partner due to this inequality in the distribution of housework seems to generate this WFC. That is, it would not be the greatest involvement in household chores itself that might cause and increase WFC in women, but the conflict with their partner which might produce it.

These results may be related to the absence of perception of injustice in the relationships regarding to inequality in the distribution of domestic and family responsibilities between men and women, so that in many cases women neither do perceive injustice in their relationships nor are dissatisfied. Following the review of Yago and Martínez (2009) , it has repeatedly shown that the perception of an unequal distribution of housework between men and women does not necessarily lead to a perception of unfairness. This perception of justice on the division of domestic work and the ideology of traditional gender that supports it explain why gender inequalities remain in the family sphere mediating the relationship between the perception of injustice and perceived quality the relationship. In fact, when women are more socially and emotionally independent from their partners, they are more likely to consider unfair the inequality in the distribution of household chores.

The perception of injustice is a mediating factor between an unequal distribution of domestic work and the perceived quality of the relationship; the relationship may be perceived as satisfactory although the sharing of responsibilities is not equal, if it is not perceived unfair ( Yago and Martínez, 2009 ). However, these results were mediated by gender ideology so this inequal distribution do not generate distress in the more traditional women whereas it does in women with an equal gender ideology.

In this line a study of Ogolsky et al. (2014) shows that the discrepancies at a cognitive level between men and women with regard to equality in household chores affects the quality of the relationship in the sphere of the couple in greater way to women than in men. However, when this inequality is manifested in a behavioral level, it does not seem to affect the quality of the relationship in women. That is, the real inequality does not affect the quality of the relationship in women, but it does at the cognitive level.

The involvement of the couple in household chores is related to an increased WFC, although it does not affect the WC or the FC separately by gender, but affects the WFC globally: it increases similarly in men and women when the couple’s involvement is high. This indicates that the WFC is affected by the involvement of the partner in household chores, but not for the involvement of the subject in them, which would affect to a segmented FC and WC. These results do not prove the hypothesis 3, but can indicate that the model of traditional gender roles does not serve to satisfactorily explain the influence of the division of household tasks and the effect of gender inequality in the WFC, as both in the case of men and women more involved in household chores generate that their female and male partners feel an increased WFC.

Men’s and women’s perceptions of their partners’ involvement in household chores contribute significantly to the perception of WFC; their own involvement also contributes significantly to FC, but negatively, which means that the more involved their partner is in the household chores, the greater their WFC.

Although our study seems to show that gender is an important variable in the involvement in household chores, and that gender inequality and the model of traditional gender roles is still valid in our western society, it also seems to suggest that increased WFC due to a high involvement in household chores is not exclusive to men but also occurs in women. This could be an indicator of a change in the model of traditional gender roles that began in the 80s, where new generations equate the importance of work and family spheres in the cases of both men and women.

In fact, results of some recent research ( Shockley et al., 2017 ) indicate that men and women appear to be more similar than different in their WFC experiences; gender differences in WFC appear to generally be small, regardless of which specific subgroups are examined, and when there is meaningful variation in the magnitude of gender differences in WFC the key factors that determine this variation is currently not well understood.

From this point of view, several alternative models other than the conflict perspective might explain these results. This tis the case of models such as the synergy between work and family, positive balance, work-family facilitation, or work-family enrichment ( Beutell and Wittig-Berman, 2008 ; Lapierre et al., 2017 ), which would better understand the effect of gender on the individual’s relationship between work and family.

The use of this new model integrative approach is justified by the social changes that characterize the values of the new generations, Gen Xers (born between 80 and 2000 population). They seem to consider that both work and family are equally important in their life, and try to find the most appropriate way to reconcile both aspects ( Beutell and Wittig-Berman, 2008 ), giving less importance to presentism at work and being supporters of flexibility. This understanding of the work is based, in addition to the facilities provided the digital revolution and technologies for work, making workers less dependent of a particular physical space and a fixed schedule to perform their work, together with the values of personal autonomy and responsibility that are shared by this new generation. This facilitates that people can now have more time to devote to other areas of their life within the scope of non-work such as family or leisure, with a progressively greater importance in their social identity.

From this point of view, research on work and family interaction has evolved from the study of isolated variables within the conflict and segmentation models toward more complex models that try to understand from the boundary theory, and the models of facilitation and synergy, how transitions are made from one scope to the other, and how they integrate with each other. They do not consider them as separate domains but as something unitary and unbreakable within the life of people. In the same way, an approach that takes into account the gender ideology is progressively being imposed, since it is inseparable from the relationship between work and the family from a cultural point of view.

Study Limitations

This study focuses on the effect of different kinds of conflict related to the home and work settings. However, due the lack of clear differences in results regarding WFC in men and women when partners’ implication in household chorus is high, it would be necessary to include facilitation and synergy models that would make it easier to understand the work-family relationship in all its facets, including the role played by gender and gender inequality. Research on the positive reciprocal effects of work and family is fundamental to understanding the complexity of the work-family interaction.

In addition, this study has other methodological limitations. First, we studied the effect of gender and involvement in household chores on the work-family relationship using independent samples of men and women, without collecting data from their partners. However, we analyzed the perceptions of these people (men and women) about their own involvement and their partner’s involvement, and this perception was shown to be significant. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to include the whole couple as a unit in future studies to increase the reliability of the proposed model.

Second, this study is based only on quantitative analyses. It would be interesting to support these results with qualitative studies (through interviews or focus groups) that would help us to interpret the analyses of the results framed in both the traditional gender roles and cross-effect theories, but also in people’s interpretations, increasing the model’s validity. They would also allow us to understand the gender role in the direction of the cross-effects of work stress from men to women, or from women to men, as our results only partially support this cross-effect, contrary to previous results ( Bakker et al., 2008 ). In any case, the quantitative methodology used in this study allowed us to detect, in a relatively simple way, the existence of changes in the relationship between gender and the traditional division of roles as a first step.

Also, the household chores used are those that might be generalized to mostly couples with children at school age. However, we have not considered specific situations (i.e., living in their house, living in a large or in a small town, grandparents support in caring children, age of the children) that might have help us to better describe the sample and interpret our results. Future studies could include this kind of sociodemographic variables.

In addition, may be other methodological limitations that may have conditioned the results. One of them is the imbalance in the percentage of men (63%) regarding women (37%). However, this limitation is assumable given the correlational nature of the study and the breadth of the sample. Finally, the reliably of the involvement of the partner in household chores is not too high (Cronbach’s alpha 0.62) which could raise doubts about its effect as an independent variable in the WFC in men and WC among women. Nevertheless, it met widely accepted criteria to assume its reliably (over 0.60).

Practical Implications

These results raise a number of practical implications for equality between men and women in terms of gender issues in the effective management of organizations in order to establish social integration and equality policies in both family and work settings ( Wharton, 2015 ). The management of work and working time within organizations must take into account the social changes occurring in gender roles, and start to consider that both men and women gradually tend to give the same importance to their work and family environments ( Kuo et al., 2018 ), with the accompanying increase in WFC and stress in both partners. Thus, although in many cases traditional gender roles are still valid (the family sphere continues to be more important for women than for men), it is necessary to consider the vision and specific attitudes that both workers have about their involvement in work and family, and establish organizational policies that help to reconcile both spheres in both genders ( Lucas-Thompson and Goldberg, 2015 ).

Moreover, public and social institutions specializing in family matters should incorporate these progressive changes in traditional gender roles into their strategies, in order to facilitate the homogenization of women’s and men’s roles within the family and workplace. For instance, they can design family counseling and couple training campaigns that help them to discover how to best coordinate their dedication to the family in a way that will reduce stress and conflict, and how to minimize WFC, even translating it into work-family synergy.

But also organizations might participate in this social change. They might contribute for instance through the inclusion of family friendly politics to support the search for home-work balance of their workers, men and women ( Sprung et al., 2015 ; Lin et al., 2017 ; Matias et al., 2017 ). It would mean a way to improve the quality of working life of their workers and, at the same time, a return of investment (ROI) both for the organization ( Dowd et al., 2017 ) and for our, hopefully, every time more equitable society.

Ethics Statement

All participants provided written informed consents before to complete the survey, in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and researchers guaranteed the anonymity of data. This study was approved by the institutional review board of the Faculty of Labour Relations and Social Work of the University of Basque Country.

Author Contributions

JC has been the director of review of the scientific literature, theoretical justification, methodology design, data collection, statistical analyses, and results description. EC has coordinated the improvement of the whole design and redaction paper, including conclusions and research limitations.

The authors gratefully thank the financial support provided by Generalitat Valenciana (Grant AICO/2017/073).

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords : gender inequality, work-family conflict, households, organizations, Gen Xers

Citation: Cerrato J and Cifre E (2018) Gender Inequality in Household Chores and Work-Family Conflict. Front. Psychol. 9:1330. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01330

Received: 12 April 2018; Accepted: 11 July 2018; Published: 03 August 2018.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2018 Cerrato and Cifre. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Javier Cerrato, [email protected]

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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