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Women Notes

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Pip Reeve

TT 10 W6 'A career or a family' - must women choose just one?

It seems clear that their has always been a degree of conflict between spending time at work and spending time having a family. I will begin by discussing a variety of reasons as to why this conflict has arisen. Then I will suggest some possible reasons explaining why traditionally women have often stayed at home to have a family, and why this is still the case in many situations today. Finally, I will suggest some possible ways of merging these two roles so perhaps women can have both a career and a family. So, firstly, I will discuss what factors have meant that there is a conflict between a career or a family which possibly leads to a choice between the two. Martins, Eddleston and Veiga use the term 'work-family conflict' which is 'a form of inter-role conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect. That is, participation in the work (family) role is made more difficult by virtue of participation in the family (work) role.'1 This suggests that in order to spend more time n work, some family time must be sacrificed and vice versa. This is almost certainly the case for both women and men, however, 'women, on average, place greater stress on their family roles than men.'2 They also suggest that 'women tend to assign fixed priorities to their family responsibilities that are independent of work demands, whereas men tend to employ a compensatory approach and are more likely to trade off family responsibilities against work responsibilities.'3 For women, therefore, family appears to come first and if there is time left over this can be spent working. Whereas for men, family is not necessarily the first priority. However, as should be remembered throughout this essay, this is of course a generalisation which may well change over time and there will be individuals who do not follow this generalisation. Also, it seems that if this conflict is significant 'the career satisfaction of women is likely to be more negatively affected by work-family conflict than that of men.'4 It is also true that, 'such a choice in itself would appear to be a luxury, many being forced to work out of financial necessity.' 5 In a more wealthy family, it may be the case that a women is a secondary earner, where 'secondary earners are people who may choose to work or not.'6 So, in this case, women from more wealthy households are often more able to choose between just looking after their family, or alternatively having a family and going out to work whilst hiring someone else to care for their children. However, in a less wealthy household, if a women chooses to have a family their choices are much more limited. It is also important to distinguish between having a job and having a career, career progression requires commitment and 'part of that commitment involves working long hours.'7 So, if a women wishes to have a family and a career, it is much more difficult. This is because 'high status, well paid jobs are organised as full time and therefore are generally incompatible with the successful managing of a woman's home and family responsibilities.'8 Also, having a family will require taking some 1 'Moderators of the relationship between work-family conflict and career satisfaction' by Martins, Eddleston & Veiga 2002 2 'Moderators of the relationship between work-family conflict and career satisfaction' by Martins, Eddleston & Veiga 2002 3 'Moderators of the relationship between work-family conflict and career satisfaction' by Martins, Eddleston & Veiga 2002 4 'Moderators of the relationship between work-family conflict and career satisfaction' by Martins, Eddleston & Veiga 2002 5 'Work and society: a reader' Grint 2000 6 'Key issues in women's work' Hakim 7 'Work and society: a reader' Grint 2000 8 'Work and society: a reader' Grint 2000

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