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This survey has revealed Britain's attitude to working mothers

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Emily Reynolds
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Our attitudes to gender are changing – except when it comes to motherhood. 

A survey has revealed that our attitudes to gender are changing – except when it comes to motherhood.

The British Social Attitudes Survey is an annual report into the British public’s opinions on the “global, social and economic” issues facing the UK.

And whilst 72% of people surveyed believed that “a woman’s job is to look after the home” – a 14% increase from 2008’s report ten years ago  – only 7% said they felt women with young children under five years old should work full time. 

33% said mothers should “stay at home”; 38% believed they should work part-time. 

The findings come at a time when more women are in paid employment than before – 71% of women aged between 16 and 64 are in paid work – though researchers also point out that women are more likely than men to be in low paid job. 25% of women are paid poorly compared to 15% of men. 

There was also a general consensus in there being “few gender differences in job suitability”. 

47% of people felt that men and women are able to do “all or almost all” jobs; 31% felt that men and women “are equally suited to most jobs”. But 20% felt that men and women are equally suited to “some” or “a few jobs”, which researchers say “indicates a substantial minority of the population who hold reservations about gender neutrality”. 

Other parts of the research suggest that we are becoming more progressive when it comes to gender roles.

In 2012, 30% of older people disagreed that women belonged in the home; this year, 47% said they disagreed. 

The research also looked at other areas of gender inequality – including catcalling or unsolicited comments towards women.

57% said it was “always or usually wrong for a man to comment on a woman’s appearance in the street” – and, perhaps surprisingly, more men (61%) than women (52%) believed this. 

93% also believed sexist bullying online is wrong when directed at women. 

“Attitudes towards gender issues depend on the topic under question,” said Eleanor Taylor, lead author of the report.

“Looking at issues around roles in the home and labour market, we find that there is a marked reduction of support for traditional gender roles of the man working and the woman looking after the home, mirrored by increasing agreement that both men and women should contribute to household income.

“However, when it comes to maternal employment, the majority of people still think either mothers should stay at home or work part-time, particularly when there is a child under school age.

“In addition, regarding parental leave, there is little difference between the sexes, with a majority feeling the mother should take all or most of the leave.”

Images: Unsplash

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Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist and author based in London. Her first book, A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind, came out in February 2017 with Hodder & Stoughton. She is currently working on her second.  

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