With More Equity, More Sweat
By Richard Morin
and Megan Rosenfeld
A new national survey has found that after nearly a generation of sharing the workplace and renegotiating domestic duties, most men and women agree that increased gender equity has enriched both sexes. But both also believe that the strains of this relatively new world have made building successful marriages, raising children and leading satisfying lives ever more difficult.
The problem that now unites them, as warehouse operations manager James Lindow, 35, of Green Bay, Wis., put it, is "the lack of time you spend with your life."
Large majorities of more than 4,000 men and women questioned in a series of surveys last fall placed high importance on having a successful marriage and family. At the same time, equally large majorities of working men and women said they felt bad about leaving their children in the care of others, and wished they could devote more time to their families and themselves.
Surprisingly, although men and women agreed they should have equal work opportunities, and men said they approved of women working outside the home, large majorities of both said it would be better if women could instead stay home and just take care of the house and children.
Majorities of men and women believe there still are more advantages to being a man rather than a woman, and that most men don't understand the problems women face. And the survey shows that in some areas, the reality of daily existence for two-career families still has not caught up with changed attitudes.
Most men in the polls said they were happy to share child care and domestic chores with wives who work outside the home. Yet household duties remain sharply divided along gender lines. Working mothers still do twice as much housework as their husbands, and more than half of all women questioned expressed at least some dissatisfaction with the amount of help their husbands provide around the house.
"I think men are beginning to get it, at least some are, some of the time," said survey respondent Traci Hughes-Velez, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y., director of compensation for a major corporation. "But there are times they don't. My husband just doesn't seem to get it when I tell him that I feel I'm always on duty. When we're at home, I'm the one who always has an eye out for our son, making sure he's eating on time, things like that."
The survey shows that real differences in perspective and perception remain between the sexes. Men are more likely to support increases in defense spending; women more favorably disposed toward health care for uninsured children. Women are more likely than men to be religious and to value close friendships; men are more likely than women to want successful careers and wealth, and more likely to value an "active sex life."
But rather than emphasizing their differences and blaming many of life's problems on each other, men and women share a sense of conflict and confusion about how to make it all work under today's pressures. To a large extent, the politics of resentment have become the politics of fatigue.
Over the next five days, The Post will examine how men and women are managing in this transformed world based on a series of five nationwide surveys sponsored by The Washington Post in collaboration with researchers from Harvard University and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
The people surveyed came from all walks of life and all parts of the country. They included people like B.J. Sande, a 32-year-old mechanical engineer from Chattaroy, Wash., and Phyllis Wilkes, a 68-year-old San Franciscan retired from waitressing in a restaurant called Clown Alley. A sewing machine operator, a preschool teacher, a woman on welfare, a man looking for a job they all spoke with conviction about how their lives are mostly better but definitely harder.
Today's story describes some of the consequences of the gender revolution, as revealed in survey data, in conversations with men and women, and in interviews with social scientists. Subsequent stories will examine women and men in the workplace, where expectations openly collide with the old ways of doing business; how changing gender roles have affected love and marriage; and how new research into the world of boys is posing troubling questions about how we raise our sons.
Jobs Change, Chores Don't
Government statistics confirm what they see every day: The world of work is increasingly a man's and a woman's world. Between 1970 and 1995, the percentage of women ages 25 to 54 who worked outside the home climbed from 50 percent to 76 percent, sociologists Suzanne Bianchi and Daphne Spain reported in their recent book "Balancing Act."
Other numbers tell a richer story. The percentage of lawyers and judges who are women doubled to 29 percent between 1983 and 1996, while the percentage of female physicians increased from 16 to 26 percent. Today, nearly a third of all professional athletes are women almost double the proportion in 1983.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company