Gender Inequality in Unpaid Work


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Gender inequality in the workforce is a thoroughly researched and discussed topic in sociology. While scholarship on the sociology of unpaid work is growing, this developing field is not necessarily covered in coursework itself. Addressing gender inequality inherent in unpaid work – particularly in the context of family life – this activity asks students to label various unpaid tasks as stereotypically masculine or feminine. After labeling the list of tasks, students are asked to analyze their assessments and make observations about any themes they notice. We then open up the class for discussion so students can compare their responses, share their observations, and sociologically explore the micro and macro-level forces that enable gender inequality in unpaid work.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Daniel John Bartholomay, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Sex and Gender 
Class Level:
College 200 
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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This activity is suitable for courses of any size covering the sociology of Sex and Gender, Work and Organizations, Family, or Social Problems. While this activity is intended for classes with face-to-face instruction, the activity can be easily adapted to use in online courses and discussions. This activity takes approximately...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Students will identify the influence of gender norms in dictating who completes unpaid work and be able to identify that stereotypically feminine unpaid tasks require longer, more frequent work than stereotypically masculine tasks.
Assessment 1:
Students will label various tasks as feminine or masculine. During small group discussion (addressing questions 2 and 3), students will distinguish the differences in the time commitments required for feminine tasks in comparison to masculine tasks.
Goal 2:
Students will examine how structural and interactional social forces enable the perpetuation of gender inequality in unpaid work.
Assessment 2:
During discussion (addressing questions 4 and 5), students will both identify and explain how 1) macro-level factors burden women with greater unpaid workloads and 2) micro-level interactions both assign value to or stigmatize certain tasks over others.
Goal 3:
Students will generate potential solutions to reduce gender inequality in unpaid work.
Assessment 3:
During discussion (addressing question 6), students will compare and contrast heterosexual couples to other “nontraditional” family arrangements to locate instances of change in work and family life that disrupt the perpetuation of gender inequality.

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Gender Inequality in Unpaid Work - Revised.docx