Working for Women? Gendered Work and Welfare Policies in Twentieth-Century Britain

Working for Women? Gendered Work and Welfare Policies in Twentieth-Century Britain

Working for Women? Gendered Work and Welfare Policies in Twentieth-Century Britain

Working for Women? Gendered Work and Welfare Policies in Twentieth-Century Britain

Synopsis

This text examines ways in which women's patterns of paid and unpaid work have been mediated by the policies of governments throughout the 20th century. It looks at the state in defining what is women's work and men's work, and at equal pay and opportunities policies.

Excerpt

My interest in factors affecting women's employment has arisen first out of the personal, but for women very common experience of a meandering career path. After leaving school in the mid-1960s, apart from taking two years out following the birth of my first child, courses of study and short periods of unemployment, I was employed in a series of typical 'women's jobs'. I worked in hotels and bars, a library, a hairdressing salon, a university bookshop, the office of a brewery, an unemployment benefit office and the shop floor of a factory which had once been a cotton-weaving mill.

Second, my experience of social policy has also been personal as well as academic. I was attracted to return to full-time education in the late 1970s by new and relevant-sounding social studies degrees at my nearest polytechnic; but it was the availability of student grants and a policy of welcoming mature students with childcare responsibilities that made it possible for me to take up the opportunity. Nine years later I re-emerged into the paid workforce with a degree, a divorce, a PhD, teaching experience and my second child. By this time, however, the labour market situation had altered radically. Government-induced high unemployment and rampant 'qualifications inflation' meant that individuals re-entering the paid workforce had little chance of finding a secure full-time job. Employers and the government assumed that part-time temporary employment (and pay) was perfectly adequate for mothers. For the next two years I maintained my family by holding part-time lecturing positions simultaneously in three different towns. In 1988 I accepted an offer of a full-time tenured university lecturing position in New Zealand, where at that time policies of 'deregulating' the labour market were less advanced than in Britain.

This book draws upon my PhD thesis, which was completed at Sheffield University in 1986. In 1995 I was able to spend nine months back in England to revise, update, add three new chapters and publish it. I owe a great deal to the people, groups and organizations that have helped and encouraged me in various ways., My PhD supervisor, Alan Walker, and Hilary Rose first suggested that I publish it. The members of the Lancaster Women's Studies Research group, especially Sylvia Walby, Janet Finch, Penny Summerfield and Jane Mark Lawson provided support, advice and inspiration during the thesis-writing stage of the project. Gordon Johnston did more childcare and

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