Barbara Hobson draws on the research of a team within a large European Network of Excellence, Reconciling work and welfare (RECWOWE), many of whom are authors in the recent book, Worklife Balance: The Agency and Capabilities Gap, focusing on the individual/household, firm and managerial level and welfare state policy context across European countries and Japan. In this post she discusses the choices faced by those who seek to take advantage of work-life balance policies. Continue reading
It has often been assumed that a lack of family-friendly policies has kept many women from promotion to the highest ranks of the business world, and companies are starting to address this concern.
It may be that the lack of family-friendly policies may not be the most pressing issue. Rather the surge in hours worked by both men and women should be of primary concern as 24/7 work cultures ‘lock gender inequality in place’.
Issues of work-family conflict remain understood as primarily a woman’s problem; family-friendly policies designed to deal with work-family conflict target women and have unintended negative consequences for their careers. Yet, providing family-friend policy allows companies to focus on a narrow set of fixes and ignore more difficult questions about cultures of overwork.
Read more at the New York Times.
Studies show that statutory maternity leaves and affordable childcare often have unintended consequences for women – such as reduced earnings, or discriminatory hiring practices by employers.
These negative effects should not be understood as undermining the case for such initiatives. Rather, they demonstrate that the assumption remains that childcare and other family responsibilities are the sole duty of women.
Family-friendly policy should be crafted to encourage greater uptake by both men and women, to help change the kinds of attitudes that rewards working men who become fathers and penalises women who become mothers.
Read more at XX Factor.
Men in the United States continue to face discrimination in the workplace for failing to maintain the appearance of the ‘ideal worker’, who is fully committed to work at the exclusion of family life. Even where they are taking pre-arranged or legally sanctioned leave, to care for a sick partner or new child, men face workplace stigma, marginalisation and even face losing their job.
Importantly, such workplace discrimination is ‘policed by men, but also, significantly, by women,’ says Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law.
Read more at the HBR Blog.
The Equilibrium Man Challenge aims to increase gender equality in the workforce by promoting flexible working among men. As well as encouraging better work-life balance among men, normalising such arrangements will help reduce ‘flexibility stigma‘ and workplace discrimination often faced by working mums who are viewed as seeking ‘special treatment’.
Read more at news.com.au
Dual-earner couples must face a series of negotiations and trade-offs to deal with the competing demands between their work and personal lives, and also between each of their careers. Questions includes those about whose careers will take priority and how domestic labour will be shared. These can be complicated by societal pressures to perform traditional gender roles.
Research shows that, in practice, work is more likely to encroach on personal life than the other way around. It also shows that, over time, the career of the primary breadwinner will take priority.
There are various strategies couples can employ to improve such negotiations. These often rely on utilising flexible working strategies, and have important implications for work-life balance and job satisfaction.
Read more at the Harvard Business Review Blog.
This article notes that while successful men are lauded for stepping back from high-paid jobs to have a better work-life balance, the same is not true for women. It suggests that when women leave work for the same reasons it is understood as reflect in the inability of women to ‘have it all’.
The author notes that women “are told they need to push harder, faster and further to get ahead. When men step down, they are heroes; when women step down, they are piteous failures.”
Read more at The Globe and Mail.
This new report from Eurofound notes that the take-up rate of parental and paternity leave among fathers has been increasing across the EU but remains relatively low. This report looks at:
- Trends in terms of take-up of parental and paternity leave
- Existing provisions
- Factors influencing take-up rates.
It also explores initiatives recently implemented by national authorities, governments and social partners to promote the take-up of parental and paternity leave, particularly among fathers.
It finds that while only three EU member states provide no paternal leave, it remains that where it is provided entitlements and benefits vary widely. This means that, in practice, “under the current parental and paternity leave regulations, children born in different countries have different chances of spending some time with their fathers in the first days of their lives”.
The report suggests that to increase take up of paternal leave, certain issues must be address. These include:
- Wage replacement rates
- Greater flexibility in terms of sharing and taking leave over time
- Increased availability of information to potential leave takers and employers
- Flexible return to work policies.
The report concludes by noting that promotion of equal uptake of leave by both parents will greatly contribute to a more equal participation of women and men in employment.
Read more at Eurofound.
A recent survey of professional women found that just 14% would list ‘work-life balance‘ as a benchmark of success, while 44% wanted job satisfaction and 34% wanted to be able to assume leadership roles and define their company’s direction. It thus suggests that it is ‘not more time that women want, it’s more power’.
The assumption that women want better work-life balance is linked to a kind of ‘benevolent sexism’ wherein women are assumed to be, and to want to be, primary childcare providers. However, this may not be the case. While understanding that the pressures parents face can be important for organisations, it is important that these are not assumed to be women’s issues. Organisations need to approach issues of childcare and work-life balance to allow equal participation of men and women at work and in the home.
Read more at The Guardian.
The EU Parliament has passed a resolution stating that more progress is needed on some gender inequality issues. They highlight pay gaps, “glass ceilings” on women’s careers and a need to improve their work/life balance, including parental leave.
The resolution notes that flexible working arrangements can improve women’s participation in labour markets but can also affect wages. As such, MEPs encourage women and men to share family responsibilities. To this end, they note that fathers should have a right to at least 10 days’ paid paternity leave, and the European Commission to offer EU member states more financial support for affordable childcare systems.
Read more at EU Parliament.