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Tribal women’s work-life balance: an identity-based approach

Koel Nath (Department of Organizational Behavior, Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, India)
Rohit Dwivedi (Department of Organizational Behavior, Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, India)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 22 March 2021

Issue publication date: 21 May 2021




This paper aims to examine the work-life balance (WLB) experiences of tribal working women belonging to the matrilineal Khasi and Jaintia communities of Meghalaya, India, using an identity-based approach.


Semi-structured interviews conducted with 18 tribal women working in the formal sector helped generate descriptions of the subjective subliminal tensions they experienced in their efforts to balance work and home life.


Six key themes emerged: webs of role-based responsibilities; reframing family around work; revising self-identity through work; challenges and coping tactics; traditional community influences on management of work and home life; and enacting womanhood as problem-solving.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to the literature on women and WLB in that it expands the theoretical understanding of the impact of identity work on women’s WLB.

Practical implications

A healthy WLB is crucial for enhanced intrinsic motivation and consequently women’s psychological empowerment and career satisfaction. This has important social and practical implications for enriching tribal women’s quality of life in India and facilitating their contribution towards the betterment of their communities and the economy at large. To this end, policymakers should launch awareness campaigns pertaining to tribal women’s WLB, to aid organizations in rolling-out contextually relevant work-life management programmes for these women.


This study extends an identity-based approach as a general theory of the self to examine matrilineal tribal women's WLB construction as a distinct form of “doing” and “being”.



The authors thank Sam Tomoya (National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, India) and Gaddiel Kharkongor (National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, India) for their support in the data collection process, and particularly for helping with translation where needed.


Nath, K. and Dwivedi, R. (2021), "Tribal women’s work-life balance: an identity-based approach", Gender in Management, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 482-497.



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