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SOCIETY: The number of women on the job is beginning to drop.

For four decades, the number of women entering the workplace grew at a blistering pace, fostering a powerful cultural and economic transformation of American society. But since the mid-1990s, the growth in the percentage of adult women working outside the home has stalled, even slipping somewhat in the past five years and leaving it at a rate well below that of men, various studies show.

While the change has been under way for a while, it was initially viewed by many specialists as simply a pause in the longer-term movement of women into the work force. But now, social scientists are engaged in a heated debate over whether the gender revolution at work may be over.

Is this shift evidence for the popular notion that many mothers are again deciding that they prefer to stay at home and take care of their children?

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1st-Mar-2006 12:33 pm - Should I stay or should I go?
By Sean Coughlan BBC News Magazine

As England cricketer Andrew Flintoff has found, a father's decision not to be at his child's birth raises eyebrows nowadays. But times have changed so much, midwives now worry about all a mother's friends and family turning up as well.

"There are people who seem to be treating births as a consumer experience," says Billie Hunter, Professor of Midwifery at the University of Wales, Swansea.

Rather than asking about whether the expectant dad should be at the birth, Professor Hunter is now more worried about the line-up of other relations and supportive friends wanting to be in the delivery room.

"The creeping number of people at births is a worrying trend. It should be very intimate - women need to be able to relax," she says.

"It almost seems that 'seeing a birth' has become one of those 101 things to do before you die. The reason for being there should be to support the woman - not to view the birth."

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