For the longest time, gender roles have been ingrained into society. Men should be out at work, while women should stay at home and take care of the family. During times of war and hardship, men go out to fight and perform manual labor, while women stay with the children to find refuge. An educated woman with a high-ranking job is frowned upon, while a man who is a homemaker is ridiculed by his peers. While these traditional gender roles have been in place since the earliest of mankind, the newest generation of America may be scraping them away faster than one might notice.
These days, both men and women have begun to challenge the traditional gender norms. A survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute in 2008 and revised in 2011 found that the 3,500 Americans surveyed expected to share their work and household responsibilities with their partner, regardless of gender. The survey, conducted periodically over decades, showed that it was the first time that women under the age of 29 wanted jobs with more responsibility as much as men did.
Earlier records of the survey found that in 1992, 80 percent of men under the age of 29 wanted jobs with more responsibility, compared to only 72 percent of women. The overall numbers in fact decreased to 61 percent for men and 54 percent for women in 1997, before increasing in 2002 to 66 percent for men and 56 percent for women. In the 2008 survey, most women who did not want more job responsibility stated that they either had increased job pressure, already had a high-level job or were concerned about managing work and home responsibilities.
From these findings, gender roles have definitely changed from even just the previous century, where society was still very conservative and had clear gender roles people were expected to adhere to. The survey may have suggested that a small percentage of young women were still concerned about having to take on traditional household responsibilities. Even so, it was found that young mothers actually wanted more job responsibilities than their counterparts without children. Whether a woman had children or not appeared to have little influence in her desire to move up the corporate ladder and clinch positions with greater responsibilities. This indicates that millennial women and men are on the same turf when it comes to their career expectations and ambitions, and that traditional gender roles where women are supposed to be the homemakers have little grasp on the young people of today.
In fact, the numbers of men and women who agree with upholding traditional gender roles have decreased substantially since 1977, from 74 percent of men and 52 percent of women who agreed back then, to 40 percent and 37 percent in 2008. It is worth noting that the greater shift occurred in men, more of whom have changed their views on traditional gender roles. It was found that those who were more likely to change their attitudes towards gender roles were those who came from dual-earning households. Of course, it is only expected that these results will vary based on the generation of people surveyed. Those who come from previous generations may still tend to have traditional views on keeping to gender roles, but the younger generation appears to be more open to scrapping these views and not associating gender with housework or career.
People were asked about their thoughts on individual gender roles, such as associating women with working while associating men with household chores. While working mothers may have been a rarity in the past, they are very common these days. People’s views on working mothers have also changed over time, with an increased number believing that a working mother can have as good of a relationship with her children as stay-at-home mothers. This may be compounded by the fact that more young women these days were raised by mothers who were also working. As for how much of the chores men do, reports stated that a greater number of men believed they did at least half of the cooking and chores, while a much smaller percentage of women said that their partner or spouse did at least half. Regardless of how much housework men actually did, it is generally agreed that it is now more socially acceptable for men to be doing their share of the housework and childcare than it was in the past.
Men have also felt that their responsibilities at home with family duties have interfered with their jobs at work. The number of men and women who felt they had a work-life conflict increased from 1977 to 2008. More fathers in dual-earning households felt the pressure maintaining a work-life balance, while fewer fathers in single-earning households had the same experience. This suggests that both men and women are becoming more open to sharing the duties at home, and people’s attitudes towards working women are also starting to become more accepting.
Although the change in gender roles and the rise of working women is undeniable, some people believe that this change was not brought about solely by a shift in attitudes but rather out of necessity. One school of thought is that women tend to want to stay at home to look after their children until they are old enough to begin schooling, but nowadays women tend to go back to work earlier than desired due to increased costs of living and the need for a second source of income in the family.
However, this belief can be disputed with the evidence of couples marrying and settling down with a family later than before. The average age of new mothers has been climbing since some decades ago. Generally, women nowadays are having children at a later age, instead preferring to focus on their career first. Some women have also opted not to have a family and instead settle with a corporate lifestyle, a practice which not many in the past would have accepted. There are also women who wish to have both a family and a good career.
On the other hand, we are seeing more instances of stay-at-home fathers who commit their lives to taking care of the family while the mother goes out to work full-time. Some people believe that this is a crucial development and a refreshing change that helps to bring fathers closer to their children. For example, many workplaces are now granting paternity leave to allow fathers to spend time with their newborn babies, instead of just the mother.
To sum up, our society is definitely taking a step towards gender equality in embracing non-traditional gender roles and becoming more open-minded. While we have made considerable progress in working toward changing people’s perceptions of gender roles, there is still a long way to go before preconceived notions may be abolished altogether. Until then, we can only wait and see how the situation develops further.
Jun 02, 2020