Will they ever stop? The studies, I mean—studies showing no matter how far women advance on the equity scale, we're still as a gender more domestic and less career oriented than men.
The latest version was released by University of Michigan researchers late last week:
"Having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework each week for women, according to a new study. For men, tying the knot saves an hour of weekly chores."
Translation: Once married, women are either forced to or choose to pick up the lion's share (not the lioness's share) of housework.
Here's an earlier version, issued last summer by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics:
"On an average day in 2006, 84 percent of women and 64 percent of men spent some time doing household activities, such as housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial and other household management."
Why are these findings so troublesome? They're probably not troubling to the majority of men. And they may not even trouble some women. But to those of us who thought by now, the lion and the lioness would have reached parity in the lair, the past few years have brought signs that a lot of women do not want these gender fault lines to disappear.
Yes, things have improved since the days of Ozzie & Harriet.
Even the Michigan researchers make note of that:
"Overall, times are changing in the American home. In 1976, women busied themselves with 26 weekly hours of sweeping-and-dusting work, compared with 17 hours in 2005. Men are pitching in more, more than doubling their housework hours from six in 1976 to 13 in 2005."
But that does not erase the fact that there will always be women who want to be full-time homemakers with little or no desire to achieve outside the home. And that's fine. It's what choice is all about.
The problem arises when career women are tagged by dubious employers and stereotyped as someone who "is only working until she gets married" or "until she has a second child."
Career-oriented men have somehow managed not to be similarly "tagged." Not all men want to be CEOs. Not all men want to put in 80 hours per week to make partner. Yet that fact never redounds to the detriment of those who do want to get to the top of the corporate or career ladder.
The future for women, I believe, is not in seeking housework parity. I cannot tell you the number of times I've chastised female friends for doing too much housework or child care. The response is always the same: "There's no way my husband would share equally in this." There is a way, but many women seem disinclined to force the issue. The more domestic work women do, the less time they have for work outside the home.
The future, I believe, is in successfully separating out career-oriented from non-career-oriented women in much the way men have done successfully without even trying.