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Women's home and work lifestyle choices diverging

New publication 14/11/00
Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st century: Preference Theory ,
Open University Press
Dr Catherine Hakim, LSE

Well ahead of most other European countries, Britain has entered the 21st century giving women options that were not previously available to them, argues LSE sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim.

In her new book Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st century: Preference Theory, she argues that five major social and economics changes have created a qualitatively new scenario for women. With genuine choices open to them, women are now deliberately choosing three very different, even diverging work-lifestyles:

  • Home-centred women give priority to children and family life and prefer not to work - about 20 per cent of women in Britain
  • Work-centred women give priority to employment or other competitive activities in the public arena - again about 20 per cent of women in Britain
  • Adaptive women prefer to combine jobs and family life, to have 'the best of both worlds' - about 60 per cent of women in Britain

The implications?

These divergent preferences are found at all levels of education and in all social classes. The diversity of women's preferences and priorities creates conflicting interests between groups of women. It explains the current weakness of the feminist movement in Britain and will lead to increasing conflicts in the future.

Dr Hakim's preference theory presents a challenge to orthodox labour economists, sociologists and feminists, who have so far treated women as a single homogenous group, held back by sex discrimination alone.

This new theory predicts that men will retain their dominance in the labour market, politics and other competitive activities because only a minority of women are prepared to prioritise their jobs in the same way as men.

The thesis is based on an analysis of evidence for Europe, North America and other modern societies across the world. Professor Anthony Giddens, LSE Director, writes in his preface to the book, that preference theory presents a genuinely new perspective on women's roles and women's choices in the 21st century.



  • Dr Catherine Hakim, Senior Research Fellow, LSE, on 020 7955 6655.
  • Jacqueline Sells, marketing manager, OUP, on 01865 267191

12 October 2000