A man uses a television in his bedroom in Jodhpur, India.

Many Indian households have more appliances used mainly by men, such as televisions, than devices used mostly by women, such as kitchen fans. Credit: Alamy

Energy

When Indian households gain electricity, one gender benefits more

A power imbalance can undercut the advantages that women might reap from access to electricity.

Gender inequality within the home can reduce the benefits women get from household electrification, according to a survey of homes in India.

Research has suggested that after households gain access to electricity, women spend less time on tasks such as cooking — a saving that helps to decrease gender inequality. To investigate this finding, Daniel Armanios at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his colleagues surveyed households in the Indian state of Gujarat about their appliance usage.

The majority of homes surveyed had more appliances, including televisions, that were used primarily by men than devices, such as irons, used mainly by women. Households had a mean of three to six light bulbs, but less than half had a kitchen light. The team also analysed previously collected data on appliance use in six other Indian states, and found similar results.

The findings suggest that household electrification might not help to address gender disparities in the home — a key component of gender inequality, according to the researchers.