surinenglish

Equal opportunities - in the home too

Today, international women's day, will see men and women joining marches and events to support the feminist cause: women should have the same rights, power and opportunities as men.

On the surface we can argue that at least in developed countries those goals have been achieved. For decades we have been able to vote, study, work our way up to senior management positions and even become prime minister.

So why is the proportion of women in senior positions still so low? Why is there still a gender salary gap?

The answer, I believe, is the reason why feminism is still necessary. Women may be able to access senior management positions, but they are still considered responsible for bringing up their children and running their household. One of the problems suffered by working women is how to juggle work and family life. Why is this never a man's problem? Why is it the women who are expected to do the juggling? If one parent needs to reduce their working hours for family reasons, it is nearly always the mother. There are two possible reasons: one, because society assumes and convention states that it will be that way round; and the other, because the father earns more than the mother - which takes us back full circle to the salary gap issue.

Women often argue that it is their choice, and perhaps even instinct, to play a more prominent role in the running of their household and the bringing up of their children, even though both parents work full time. But perhaps it's time we applied the equal opportunities approach to the domestic environment too.

More men should be given the chance to draw up the weekly shopping list and cook for the family, to decide which room needs cleaning and when, and enjoy the satisfaction of leaving everything spotless, and to be in charge of identifying when a child needs new trousers. I know a lot of men already share these responsibilities, but to reach real levels of equality more men should be allowed into this world that has traditionally been dominated by women.

Today girls are being told they can aspire to be engineers, scientists, doctors... that there are no barriers for women in the workplace. At the same time, though, not enough young people are being shown that there are no barriers for men in the home.