Gender and Work Life Balance

Topics: Gender, Gender role, Scientific method Pages: 5 (1502 words) Published: September 13, 2011
HRMT3345 Literature Review – Work-Life Balance for Women
Work-life balance has been a concern of those interested in the quality of working life and its role in the broader quality of life. Two factors that can influence work-life balance are autonomy in the workplace and family building. An emerging issue in work-life balance literature concerns the role of gender and the problems associated with achieving a balance between paid work and domestic responsibilities. While gender itself is an unclear factor, the socially constructed perception of the female homemaker has made this a significant variable. Work-life balance is the term used in the literature to refer to policies that strive for a greater complementarity and balance between work and home responsibilities. When addressing this issue from the gendered perspective, Guest (2002) adds that work-life balance policies are a means to reduce welfare dependency, to promote social inclusions and to facilitate gender equality. This review will address the attitudes towards work-life balance from an organisational perspective and the relationship between gender roles and the policies implemented. Theoretical Review

Theoretical research in this area is largely based on the perception of gender inequality in workplace culture. More classic research focuses purely on the constructs of work-life balance, since the role of women in the workplace has been continuously changing over the last century. Zedeck and Mosier (1990) and O’Driscoll (1996) note that there are typically five main models used to explain the relationship between work and life outside work. The segmentation model hypothesizes that work and non-work are two distinct domains of life that are lived quite separately and have no influence on each other. In contrast, a spillover model hypothesizes that one world can influence the other in either a positive or negative way. The third model is a compensation model which proposes that what may be lacking in one sphere, in terms of demands or satisfactions can be made up in the other. A fourth model is an instrumental model whereby activities in one sphere facilitate success in the other. The final model is a conflict model which proposes that with high levels of demand in all spheres of life, some difficult choices have to be made and some conflicts and possibly some significant overload on an individual occur. One variable in this field of theoretical research is time-sovereignty. Findings suggest that work-life policies tend to strengthen gender inequalities, rather than diminishing them (Hardy and Adnett 2002). These results stem from the failure to design family-friendly measures in response to gender inequalities in the labour market. One argument holds that by focusing on child care, parental leave and part-time work, work-life balance policies actually target women. Studies reviewed agree that part-time work was actually keeping most women in low status jobs (Whittock et al, 2002). Taudig & Fenwick (2001) argue that part-time working implicitly brings less balance. By linking his work to previous research, he suggests that in trying to balance on side, the other side is imbalanced, creating financial and career cost challenging the advantage of more time at home. A second variable in this theoretical equation is domestic responsibilities. Mavin (2001) argues that realistically women have more unpaid work duties and thus need different work patterns. She also suggests that the perception of balance is different for wives and husbands, due to traditional gendered occupational differences. The review shows that work-life balance can be linked to issues of well-being such as role-balance. Mackey Jones & McKenna (2002) report that a family’s dislike for the woman’s work has a more substantial impact on home-work conflict than the employer’s dislike for the individual’s commitment to home life. Empirical Review

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