This review explores the contemporary literature on the theme of ‘women and work’ in the light of the suggestion that women have indisputably gained a new equality with men. Overwhelming evidence has been found for the persistence of gender inequalities which work to disadvantage women in the context of work, including domestic work, although it is clear that providing explanations for this phenomenon has shown that the issue is complex and highly contested. It is argued that a redefinition and re-interpretation of the inter-dependence between paid and unpaid work, care and leisure is needed.
There seems no doubt that in order for there to be a greater measure of real gender equality, male identity, in particular, must beer-examined and changed. It seems clear that research and policy are focusing more on the ways in which caring, in particular, is perceived and constructed in gender terms. However, in order to effect real change in gender equality, it is argued that there must be recognition of the myriad of ways in which both masculinities and femininities are constructed and interact with each other in this complex field.
The focus of this literature review is upon the theme of women and work within the context of the premise that women have gained an indisputable equality with men. Whilst it seems, in theory, more ‘equitable’, to have included commentary and research in equal amounts from men and women, an exploration of the literature revealed a far greater contribution to the debate from women than from men, perhaps by virtue of women’s perception of their own disadvantaged position, and this bias is consequently reflected in the variety of sources cited.
Literature search was conducted within a University library database, using the search criteria ‘women and work’ and ‘gender equality and work’ and this yielded access to a selection of books and articles. The sources selected for inclusion in the review were restricted to those which specifically focus upon gender differences and inequalities in the realm of work, defined in its widest sense to include that undertaken within the household as well as work in the formal labour market. Due to the plethora of writing and research in this field, the decision was made to restrict sources to those produced within the last ten years, thus maintaining a contemporary focus, although references are made to earlier works.
Chapter topics reflect the themes which emerged from the literature. Chapter Two presents a historical overview of women’s employment and the major ideology by which it has been underpinned in British society together with the ways in which the different patterns of employment between men and women have served to disadvantage women, particularly in economic terms. Chapter Three explores women as employees in more depth, particularly the ways in which organisations, occupations and spheres of work are profoundly gendered and how this,
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