Gender inequality persists in multitasking: study

Thu Dec 1, 2011 6:27pm EST
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Men may be helping more in the home but working women still do more multitasking in U.S. families than their partners and are finding it stressful, according to a new study.

Whether it is housework, cooking or childcare, women do about 10 hours more multitasking in the home each week -- 48.3 hours compared to 38.9 -- which researchers say constitutes an important source of gender inequality.

"When you look at men and women in similar kinds of work situations they look very similar," Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology at Michigan State University and a co-author of the study, said in an interview.

"But when they come home it is very clear that women are shouldering much more of the responsibilities of housework and childcare."

Schneider and Shira Offer, an assistant professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, used data from the 500 Family Study, which looked at how families in eight U.S. urban and suburban communities balance work and family life.

Their research, which is published in the American Sociological Review journal, is based on responses from a subset of 368 mothers and 241 fathers in dual-income families, which they said reflects the most time-pressured segment of the population.

"This (the findings) suggests that working mothers are doing two activities at once more than two-fifths of the time they are awake, while working fathers are multitasking more than a third of their waking hours," Schneider said.

In addition to doing more, the jobs women perform at the same time in the home are more labor intensive, such as housework and childcare, than what men tackle.   Continued...

<p>A woman pushes her pram towards an ice cream vendor on Portstewart Strand beach, Northern Ireland, May 10, 2009. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton</p>