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Breaking down the binary divide: constructions of gender in quantitative and qualitative research 7 November, 2008 Jane Elliott Research Director National.

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Presentation on theme: "Breaking down the binary divide: constructions of gender in quantitative and qualitative research 7 November, 2008 Jane Elliott Research Director National."— Presentation transcript:

1 Breaking down the binary divide: constructions of gender in quantitative and qualitative research 7 November, 2008 Jane Elliott Research Director National Child Development Study and British Birth Cohort 1970 Sub-brand to go here CLS is an ESRC Resource Centre based at the Institute of Education

2 Women is a concept that must be understood as the sine qua non for feminism as both a philosophical and political project (Riley 1988).

3 Gender within quantitative and qualitative approaches to research Quantitative view of gender:- Gender (sex) within quantitative analysis is relatively unproblematic It is one of the easiest variables to code, use and understand There is an assumption that gender is constant over time (for individuals) Cross-cohort comparisons can be used to start exploring whether the meaning of gender is changing within British society

4 Proportion of women in paid employment, by age and cohort Source: Jenny Neuburger - Paper presented at CLS June 2008

5 Gender within quantitative and qualitative approaches to research Potential of Qualitative work for understanding gender However it is only by adopting a qualitative approach that we can problematise gender and explore the individuals role in establishing their own gendered identity (Doing gender?) Qualitative analysis needs to acknowledge that individuals can only act within the constraints of a gendered society and have access to specific resources with which to construct a gendered identity Also need to be aware that social class and ethnicity are key components of identity and interact with gender

6 Women has become a troublesome term, a site of contest, a cause for anxiety (Butler 1990:3). The category women is historically, discursively constructed and always relative to other categories which themselves change (Riley 1988) How could someone be a woman through and through, make a final home in that classification without suffering claustrophobia? (Riley 1988) However….it is also impossible to formulate precisely and risks being crowded with the over-determinations of male supremacy (Alcoff 1988: 405) Gender trouble?

7 Doing gender West and Zimmerman (1987) We argue that gender is not a set of traits, nor a role, but the product of social doings of some sort. What then is the social doing of gender? (p133) We have claimed that a persons gender is not simply an aspect of what one is, but, more fundamentally, it is something that one does and does recurrently, in interaction with others (p142)

8 Case Studies: mixed methods research Wajcman and Martin (2002): Narratives of identity in Modern Management: the corrosion of gender difference? Sociology, 36: Study on the careers of managers Self-completion questionnaire (sample of 470 managers in six large Australian companies) In-depth interviews with 136 managers

9 Case Studies: mixed methods research Both structured questionnaire and narrative interviews focus on managers careers Quantitative survey data revealed very few differences between the careers of male and female managers No impact on tenure; working overseas; number of companies; centrality of work to identity Women earned less & perceived fewer chances for promotion

10 Wajcman and Martin: Qualitative interviews In-depth interviews concentrated on the identities managers give themselves in their narratives of career and private life (2002, 991) Wajcman and Martin state that their approach neither accepts nor rejects the unity of identity so that they focus on the different narrative identities managers adopt; whether they mesh successfully and whether these patterns differ between men and women.

11 Wajcman and Martin: Qualitative interviews Wajcman and Martin identify the market narrative within managers accounts of their careers and contrast it with a more traditional bureaucratic narrative Managers represent themselves as largely autonomous agents, unconstrained by authoritative norms and life patterns Market narratives are described as having no overt gender content & as used equally by men and women However, marked gender differences are reported in the way that interviewees integrate a career narrative with their private or family narrative

12 Wajcman and Martin: Approaches to gender In depth interviews and narrative understanding of identity provides an opportunity for a different understanding of gender Quantitative research suggests that gender differences are not marked However, by comparing the narratives of male and female managers, even in the qualitative analysis, gender is treated as a fixed attribute and operates as an axis for comparison in both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the research

13 Doing gender in mixed methods research Qualitative analysis of individuals doing gender potentially de-stabilises the use of gender as a fixed attribute in quantitative research Emphasizing the ontological differences between qualitative and quantitative research problematises the straightforward integration of qualitative and quantitative methods The tensions and ambiguities created in the process of conducting a mixed methods study can be productive if they force us to be more reflexive about the categories that we use.

14 British Birth Cohort Studies Existing UK/GB National Studies: 1946: MRC National Survey of Health & Development 1958: National Child Development Study 1970: 1970 British Birth Cohort Study MCS: Millennium Cohort Study - the first national birth cohort study for 30 years (2000-1)

15 1958 Birth Cohort Study Sample of over 17,000 infants born in March 1958 (perinatal mortality study) Sample followed at ages 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, 42, 46 (prospective study) Multipurpose study: family life; education; employment; skills; housing; health; finances; citizenship Over 10,000 individuals are still participating Mainly quantitative – highly structured interviews, but qualitative interviews with a subsample of cohort members are planned for age 50 Now funded by ESRC with data collected every four years

16 Hypothetical life history x Born st Child nd Child 1987 Age 7 Age Age Age 46 Age 16 Age Age 33 Gets married Parents social class Parental interest in school work Free school meals Mother smoking Parental divorce Maths and reading tests Teachers assessment of childs behaviour Exam results Job 1Job 2Job 3 Voting behaviour Psychological well being Working hours preferences Savings Domestic division of labour Union membership Training and skills

17 NCDS 11-year old Essays At age 11, in 1969 NCDS Cohort members completed a short questionnaire (at school) about leisure interests, preferred school subjects and expectations on leaving school They were also asked to write an essay on the following topic: Imagine you are now 25 years old. Write about the life you are leading, your interests, your home life and your work at the age of 25. (You have 30 minutes to do this) essays completed, mean length 204 words Copies of the original essays (in childrens handwriting) are available on microfiche at CLS and are currently being digitised.


19 Two sets of research questions How do gender and social class shape what children write about in their essays? What resources, techniques and devices do the eleven year old children use to sustain and establish their identities within the essays?

20 Qualitative results: themes in boys and girls essays Table 2: Gender differences in themes and topics included in childrens essays Boys (N=243)Girls (N=252) Mother19%37% Siblings7%20% Friends18%29% Domestic labour (Child care etc)22%55% Cars41%18% Money/earnings/savings etc42%25% Occupational skills/nature of work46%32% Working hours27%35% Husband/Wifes occupation10%23% Football39%2%

21 Case study 1 Debbie : Girl with manual father (spelling corrected) My name is Debbie Jones I work at a shop in town. I am an hairdresser. I go to H**** road to my shop it is called Peggy Smith that is my friends name. I work with a girl call Jackie and a girl called Anne. We live near each other Jackie lives at 4 [road name A] and I live at 25 [road name A]. I am just a learner though, because I have just finished training and college. I cut peoples hair but I don't set them yet because I don't know how to yet but I work till 6 oclock and start at 9 oclock in the morning. I catch the 20 to nine bus from town and the 20 past eight to town But first I call for Jackie and Anne lives at 20 [road name B]. We have our holiday the last week in July and the first week in August. I got married when I was twenty one I have 2 boys and 2 girls. The boys names are Steven and Paul and the girls names are Marie and Julie. Steven is 3 and Paul is 3 Marie is 2 and Julie is one. My husband works at B**** He is 28 years of age. He goes out at half past six and comes in at six or eight. We live at 25 [road name A] my sister lives at 8 [road name C] H***. My interests are in sewing knitting and clubing in my spare time that is. But I don't get much spare time we are going to (small seaside resort) for our holidays. We are going in a caravan in a park at (small seaside resort) at the last week in July. I like making dresses for people and knitting for people that I know and who I work with.

22 Case study 2 John: Boy with manual father (spelling corrected) My work is football. I am getting on quite well as a footballer. I have quite a bit of money in the bank. I have two children and a wife. We are all very happy in my house. My oldest child is 8 years of age. He wants to be a footballer just like myself. My youngest child is 2 years old. She wants to play Tennis when she is older. We mostly watch Tennis games and football games when I am not at work. I usually get up very early for training. I sometimes take my son with me I think he has a good time. When I come home from work I mostly take my wife out to the Cinema. I hardly ever stay at home. When I do I mostly have a rest. At all other times Im mostly giving my son some football practice and my daughter some tennis practice. My wife works in a Restaurant and she cooks delicious meals for me and my family We are a pretty wealthy family. I earn about 60 pound a week but I only have 20 pounds to spend etc. My wife earns about 50 pounds and she has 30 pounds left to spend. So we altogether have 50 pounds to spend. I think that is quite a lot of money. I have a Zephra 7 to ride around in. We have only one car but we could easily buy another one.

23 Potential traps and pitfalls of quantitative research on gender Its all too easy to look for, and find, gender differences The men are people and women are mothers problem (synecdoche) The problem with variable based sociology (Herbert Blumer 1957 ) Need for more narrative and descriptive analyses

24 The experiences of mothers in the 1958 generation suggests tha t women have started to benefit from the equal opportunities provisions enacted in Britian in the 1970s. The age of the youngest child is still the most important determinant of womens participation over the pre-school years, although its impact may well have weakened relative to the influence of the mothers level of qualifications and own wage (Dex et al 1998: 95) Our results confirm the polarizing effects found in other studies that career oriented women who are also highly educated delay childbirth and return quicker after giving birth when their maternity leave has expired (Gustafsson et al 1996: 242)

25 25 Discussion How might we define feminist social research? Do feminists have an obligation to be numerate and able to do (at least basic) quantitative research? Is mixed methods research the new feminist research? What can be done to encourage more women to learn quantitative data analysis skills? What practical steps can feminist researchers take to ensure that social research does not reinforce gender inequalities in society? Institute of Education University of London 20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL Tel +44 (0) Fax +44 (0) Web

26 Ideas for talk - Blumer Problems of variable based approaches -Ease of looking at gender differences (example of MCS research) -Denise Riley need to understand gender as historically specific -Call for more descriptive and narrative sociology Andrew Abbott -Conflation of mothers and women (synecdoche problem) men = people/women=mother Men are people and women are mothers

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