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Women can do what men can do: the causes and consequences of growing flexibility in gender divisions of labour in Kitwe, Zambia

Evans, Alice (2013) Women can do what men can do: the causes and consequences of growing flexibility in gender divisions of labour in Kitwe, Zambia. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis explores the causes and consequences of growing flexibility in gender divisions of labour in Kitwe, Zambia. It examines the relationship between four contemporary trends (1990-2011): worsening economic security, growing flexibility in gender divisions of labour in the form of increasing female labour force participation and occupational desegregation, and the weakening of gender stereotypes. The evidence for these trends comes from census data, earlier ethnographies and my own qualitative research (April 2010 − March 2011). The analysis draws upon a theoretical framework that interprets sex-differentiated practices as resulting from internalised gender stereotypes, cultural expectations and patterns of resource access. The substantive chapters of the thesis consider alternative hypotheses. Did worsening economic security trigger flexibility in gender divisions of labour, which then weakened gender stereotypes (Chapter 4)? Alternatively, was such flexibility actually contingent upon a prior rejection of gender stereotypes, due to particular formative experiences (Chapter 5) or gender sensitisation (Chapter 6)? This thesis argues that worsening economic security led many families to sacrifice the social gains accrued by complying with cultural expectations of gender divisions of labour in exchange for the financial benefits of female labour force participation. But occupational desegregation is partly attributed to a prior rejection of gender stereotypes. Flexibility in gender divisions of labour seems to undermine gender stereotypes and related status inequalities, by enabling exposure to a critical mass of women performing roles that they were previously presumed to be incapable and that are valorised because they were historically performed by men. Common forms of gender sensitisation in Zambia were rarely said to be independently persuasive; impact generally appears contingent upon exposure to a critical mass of women in socially valued domains. Sensitisation also seems more effective when it enables participants to see that others also endorse gender equality. This can increase confidence in the objective validity of one’s own egalitarian beliefs and also shift cultural expectations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Alice Evans
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Chant, Sylvia
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/752

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