'Spatial leashes' in our communities

'Spatial leashes' in our communities

Andrew Hedge 20 Jun, 2019

When we released our new Sexes Communities of Interest module recently, we had great feedback from several councils’ community wellbeing teams.

These teams were delighted to hear about this new data, as it supports work they are doing to understand and develop strategies to promote gender equity in their communities.

The new module presents a spread of demographic data about topics such as education, unpaid care, employment, occupations, income and hours worked, for both women and men.

This makes it easy to see how figures for these demographic characteristics compare to those for the opposite sex, the same sex in other areas, or to the total population (and, of course, how these figures are changing over time), so you can pull together a data-backed story about gender equity in your community.

Spatial leash theory

One theory being examined by some councils in the course of this work is spatial leash theory.

The term ‘spatial leash’ was originally developed by Professor Barbara Pocock, Dr Natalie Skinner and Dr Pip Williams in their book Time Bomb: Work, Rest and Play in Australia Today, building on work from Uni SA’s Centre for Work + Life.

The book posits that “Women with children are on a tighter ‘spatial leash’ than men” and that the “…spatial organisation of work, home and the community – and the time it takes to navigate them – has particular gendered consequences”.

In other words, women with caring responsibilities, who need to remain close to their children, are limited in their employment options.

It’s worth noting the book doesn’t limit caring responsibilities to children, acknowledging other caring relationships such as those with elderly relatives. It also points to the impact on men who sacrifice time with their children to spend longer hours at work.

As the authors acknowledge in the book, these are stereotypical gender roles, which, they argue, are reinforced by the design of our communities, where the distance between where people live and where they work has social impacts, including the limitations it places on the employment options afforded to women.

This theory really piqued our interest, as many people at .id have written articles about the importance and value of spatial analysis in understanding population, local economies and the relationships between people and places.

As an aside, the spatial distances between work and home is a topic of broader interest to many councils, which is why we include detailed data about self-sufficiency and self-containment – where local workers live and where local residents work – in our economic profiles, though there is no split in this data between men and women.

Balancing work and unpaid care: the evidence base

As always, these stories play out differently in different parts of the country, so it’s important to go beyond generalisations to ensure council strategies are developed using reliable data from the local area.

For those councils who subscribe to our Sexes Communities of Interest module, there are several datasets you can use to compare and contrast the caring, education and employment data for men and women. If you missed it the first time around, check out Glenn’s last post about this new module, where he demonstrated how you can turn this data into a clear story about gender equity in your community.

Tell us what you’re working on!

We’re interested to learn more about the work councils are doing in this space. Let us know in the comments how you’re using this and other demographic data to plan services and make informed decisions for the benefit of your community.

If you’re with a council and would like to add this new module, get in touch with our team here.

Andrew Hedge

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