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Women clean; men don’t: The stereotype that won’t go away

18 December 2015

We like to think that we live in a modern world where old stereotypes no longer ring true, and yet it is still the case that women do 30 per cent more cleaning than men.

Some people relish this stereotype and (apparently) there are eight reasons why women love cleaning. In the UK, women account for 47 per cent of the total workforce, yet they account for 79 per cent of the British cleaning industry. In work and at home, women clean more than men do. The stereotype is backed up by reality.

Outside of cleaning, women and men still remain in relatively stereotypical industries. In the US, the top three most common jobs for women are secretaries, nurses and teachers. By contrast, metal workers, car mechanics, and central heating installers are almost exclusively men.

With regards to the cleaning industry, all of this becomes a problem if women feel as if they are not respected in their profession. All a cleaning business can do is be sure that they employ the best person for the job, male or female, and treat them equally. It may be the case that the reason so many women work in the cleaning industry is because it is a sector that treats them well. In the UK, pregnant women in the cleaning sector reported that they had been treated positively by their employer. The report also indicated that a gender pay gap – an issue that persists in many other industries – was not found within the cleaning sector.

The sheer amount of women in the cleaning industry may be down to a societal expectation that women clean and men do not. This larger issue will not be solved overnight and will not be solved by the cleaning industry alone. For now, all the cleaning industry can do is be sure that they treat their employees fairly, regardless of gender. The current report is positive, and the cleaning industry should build on this success in order to inspire other industries to eradicate the pay gap and gender inequality.

Written by Richard Crawford – a professional oven cleaner