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Gender culture and Malawian women’s reconciliation of work and family responsibilities

Tiyesere Mercy Chikapa (Political and Administrative Studies, University of Malawi Chancellor College, Zomba, Malawi)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 24 February 2021

Issue publication date: 21 May 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine how cultural systems shape spousal attitudes and the expectations placed upon women. This is based on the assumption that cultural systems shaping spousal attitudes and expectations on women makes their reconciliation of work and family responsibilities difficult despite sorting out childcare challenges and support with domestic work.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is based on 55 semi-structured interviews with Malawian women working in formal employment. From the 55 women interviewed, 31 worked in the public education sector and the remainder in the private sector’s financial and insurance sector. However, for comparison, 24 men from the same sectors were also engaged in the interviews. These were drawn from education and finance and insurance industries.

Findings

Analysis reveals that contrary to extant literature, childcare is not all or even always the main focus of family responsibilities potentially affecting Malawian women’s work life. Their experiences with reconciling work and family responsibilities were influenced by gender culture, which shapes spousal attitudes and community expectations.

Research limitations/implications

This study has not generated results suitable for statistical generalisation, but it may still allow for theoretical generalisation to similar contexts.

Practical implications

Managers need to recognise that women may be coming from homes and communities that place demanding expectations on them.

Social implications

There is need for promotion of gender equal social norms that enable women, just as men, to focus on their careers.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to limited literature about women’s experiences with reconciliation of work and family responsibilities in the contexts of a developing country where women have access to relatively affordable childcare support.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author acknowledges the financial support rendered by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, the University of Manchester, the University of Malawi, Chancellor College and NORHERD. The author also acknowledges the support by PhD thesis supervisors; Prof Jill Rubery and Dr Isabel Tavora of the University of Manchester.

Citation

Chikapa, T.M. (2021), "Gender culture and Malawian women’s reconciliation of work and family responsibilities", Gender in Management, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 449-463. https://doi.org/10.1108/GM-11-2019-0227

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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