A study for the sexes
By Dave Yasvinski
Changing times have brought changing attitudes from Canadians toward the role of women in society, a Statistics Canada report published this week revealed.
Nancy Ghalam, senior analysist in the housing, family and social statistics division of Stats Canada said the poll is part of a general social survey conducted every two years and focuses on attitudes and values in Canada.
"Men and women have long performed different work in the workforce the men performed paid duties and women performed the unpaid duties," Ghalam said, adding the issues are no longer black and white as women are now involved in paid work.
Ghalam said while the survey revealed the majority of men and women feel women could still nurture a loving relationship with their young children while holding down a job, both groups feel children would suffer if both parents were employed.
Contradictions such as this reveal a public tendency to adhere to more traditional attitudes, she said. "Expectations still remain for women to retain primary responsibility of children, especially young children," Ghalam added.
Western sociology professor Lesley Harman, said women have fallen into a double standard, giving them the right to pursue careers but also requiring them to do housework. "There is a conflict in working mothers to be the best at work and as a mother," she said.
Values have begun to change somewhat with the increasing willingness of fathers to take more responsibility for child-rearing and willingness of society to allow them to do so, Harman said.
She said our old attitudes need to be revisited. We must learn to meet the needs of everyone in the family. "Women have to be given permission to develop careers and men have to be given permission to develop their nurturing sides."
Kerry Daly, acting chair of the department of family studies at Guelph University, said some of the ambivalence present in the survey is a result of confusion between values and priorities. "People aren't sure what they value or what the right thing to do is," Daly said.
Social factors such as economic transformation, increased standard of living and the feminist movement have brought society to a point where people are working more than ever, Daly added.
He said we are questioning whether or not dual-earning families is the right thing to do. Men must learn to deal with the balance between work and home something which was traditionally a female issue.
"If we want to find new ways of doing things, men have to take up this challenge this is where it's difficult."