I was recently invited to record a Morning Story for Sky News (a bit like Thought for the Day, but for television). My piece was broadcast today and I chose to speak about gender inequality. In particular, I focused on traditionally female spheres where men struggle to make headway.
In the 90-odd seconds allotted to me, there was a lot I wanted to say. Putting it very succinctly, however, I made the following points (you can watch a recording of my appearance here.);
- The worlds of work, politics and public life have, quite rightly, been opened up to women
- Although there is more work to be done, the feminist movement has been very successful and we think nothing of women working at the highest levels of Government, as civic leaders or in the armed forces.
- Conversely, however, traditionally female spheres have not been opened up to men in the same way.
To back up my argument, I focused on the three occupations that have a disproportionately massive female workforce. These were childcare, which is 98% female, early years’ education, which is about 86% female and nursing which is about 89% female.
As a stay at home father, I also made the point the domestic world isn’t truly open to men in the way it should be. Being taken seriously as a father can be a challenge in itself (“Oh, you’re babysitting today are you?”). If you’re the main carer of your children and also run the household, well the odds can be seriously stacked against you. Needless to say, I speak from personal experience.
The thing is, I live in a rather complex world. As I say, I am a stay at home father yet I have two daughters. I have no sons. I strongly believe us men are as capable of running a household and raising healthy, stable children as any woman. Crucially, however, I don’t want my kids’ gender to be a barrier to them achieving their dreams and aspirations.
This brings me back to the points I initially made in my Morning Story contribution. Women disproportionately work in childcare, early years education and nursing. These are occupations particularly suited to people attempting to raise a family while also remaining in paid employment. Nursing offers shift patterns that can fit around family life, teaching is demanding during term time but you get the school holidays off and childcare is often done part time or in shifts.
If men were enthusiastically welcomed into the domestic sphere, they’d probably be more likely to work in these roles. There would be a greater diversity in the workforce and this would benefit everyone; the employees, the employers and the service users.
I’ll freely admit, this is a simplified viewpoint. It doesn’t take account of various other factors that prevent men from working in these roles or becoming stay at home parents.
Even so, the failure of men to be properly respected in the domestic sphere has to go some way to explaining why some occupations are overwhelming female.
That’s my point of view, but what do you think? Please do leave a comment with your thoughts.