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Nancy Koehn on BPR | 12/12/18

Why Do Americans Prefer Workplace Equality Over Equality At Home?

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A new study shows that Americans prefer gender equality at the workplace more than gender equality at home.
Carrie Antlfinger/AP
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Nancy Koehn on BPR | 12/12/18

A new study set to be published in the journal Gender and Society found that there is a gap in Americans' ideology around gender roles at the workplace and at home.

About a quarter of the people surveyed from 1977 to 2016 believe that while women should have the same opportunities in the workplace, they should still be doing the majority of the home and child care, according to a New York Times article about the study.

Each successive generation surveyed believed more in equality in both the home and the workplace than the last. Forty-eight percent of people born pre-baby boom, 68 percent of baby boomers, 69 percent in generation X-ers, and 77 percent of millennials reportedly believe that women and men should be equal in all environments.

Harvard Business School Historian Nancy Koehn joined Boston Public Radio Wednesday to try to help explain these numbers and why society is reticent to change.

“We have big tectonic plates of social change that are moving around with lots and lots of lag, confusion, some fear, lots of reversion to the way we’ve done it always,” Koehn said.

Koehn said she believes that the absence of systemic arrangements in the workplace, like paid family leave, child care and paid paternity leave, has helped perpetuate the notion that women are inherently better domestic caretakers and should be the dominant presence at home and with the kids.

If some of these ideas were to be instituted, and if more men took paternity leave, Koehn said, the belief that women should take on the brunt of the homework could change.

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