To explore the failure of equal opportunity policies to counteract the barrier of children for women in management by considering male and female managers’ views on work culture, family division of labour and childlessness.
Thirty Australian managers (19 male, 11 female) were interviewed as a follow up to a larger study in 1996, in order to extend inquiries around the issues of children, childlessness and senior management aspirations.
Managers acknowledge the impediment that children are to a woman's career path. They also have an awareness of patterns of delayed childbearing and potential childlessness. This awareness is confirmed through first hand experience in the families and at work. Managers also use a language of sacrifice and loss regarding their own or others’ failure to partner and procreate, as well as some reference to freedom and lifestyle. Furthermore there are diverging discourses on company loyalty and company greed given in relation to competing family loyalties and obligations. Finally, acknowledgement of gendered inequality (and some blindness to it) is indicated by both male and female managers.
Although based on a small sample from one country, the findings do imply that it is unwise to assume that women committed to a career do not want children. The option of having both is not made easy.
Family policy for senior management should continue to be considered.
Recognition of the complexity and diversity of attitudes to children, family and work contributes to a critique of overdrawn notions of types of women (Hakim, 2001).
Wood, G.J. and Newton, J. (2006), "“Facing the wall” – “equal” opportunity for women in management?", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 8-24. https://doi.org/10.1108/02610150610645931
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