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I woke up to the tail end of this segment on my radio alarm earlier this week and finally had time to track it down. The whole interview is worth listening to or reading, since it touches on many of the key issues. I’ll pull out a couple of my favorite segments.

On the role of social policy and the Scandinavian example:

[David] Brancaccio: It’s interesting about that policy angle; I was looking at the data – you’ve seen it too. If you compare the U.S. to Europe, the Europeans aren’t doing much better in terms of all these women doing the unpaid work and the men doing so much less. Yet they have more child friendly policies in much of the individual countries in Europe.

Gates: The gap that is the smallest in the world is in the Scandinavian countries, so I think they actually have gotten it right. I think they’ve gotten the closest to equity that we can get at this point. I think they’ll continue to get it. You’re seeing this trend of families moving in this direction. Even in the last 30 years, if you look at the unpaid work that’s done in the home that men do compared to women, that gap is starting to shrink. But I think it’s the very forward-looking policies you get in the Scandinavian countries, of getting your family leave policy right. Some of the European countries started with the family leave and now they are starting to adjust it. Countries like Germany just put it in in the last year, so it’s hard to make this apples-to-apples comparison because also, the family leave policies aren’t the same across the board. And when I talk about family leave, I don’t just mean caring for a young child, I also mean caring for your elderly parents. Usually in a relationship, both people have elderly parents that need to be cared for. It needs to be OK for the man or the woman to take that time off and then come back into the same level position that they’ve had.

The closing segment felt personally relevant:

Brancaccio: I see that when you ask them, many young people think that this is already changed, that this is not going to happen to them when they soon get out into their family lives. And you’re here to say it hasn’t changed as much as they think?

Gates: Often when a couple enters a relationship, even if they have equity when they start the marriage, something changes. From the data, we know that from the day that first child is born, something drops back. Now, the woman at this time is often breastfeeding, or she’s the one who’s getting up at night. If you have that conversation both before the time you are married or in a serious relationship, and then again at the time that the child is born, you’re not going to keep equity in the marriage, and so we need to make sure it doesn’t fall back there. The other thing I’ll say is, men are doing more at home. They are doing about two and half hours a day at home — that’s not insubstantial. But TV ads only show men doing any kind of housework 2 percent of the time. And so, what are we teaching our kids? We’re teaching them that, “Oh, he does that and mom does something else.” That doesn’t make any sense for where we are today and what’s actually happening. 

The thing about ads rarely depicting men cleaning is a longtime pet-peeve, though the rare times I’ve seen it (targeted to me on Hulu?) it’s made me very happy.