Working Women in the Sandwich Generation: Theories, Tools and Recommendations for Supporting Women's Working Lives

Cover of Working Women in the Sandwich Generation: Theories, Tools and Recommendations for Supporting Women's Working Lives


Table of contents

(11 chapters)

People with a dual care task at home, taking care of a younger and an older generation family member, are often called the sandwich generation (SG). They are more often women than men, at high risk of burnout or withdrawal from the labour market. This book provides international comparisons and offers tools for working sandwich generation (WSG) women and their supervisors for managing challenging situations in working life. The book is multidisciplinary and combines theories with qualitative and quantitative empirical research, practical tools and case studies. This chapter introduces the themes and relevant concepts of the book and presents its structure.

Part A: Theories


Drawing on in-depth interviews with 34 women and men of the working sandwich generation (WSG) in Flanders, this chapter presents a taxonomy of nine coping strategies that the WSG uses to balance intergenerational care with a job: an acceptance strategy, a boundary management strategy, a help-seeking strategy, a planning strategy, a governance strategy, a self-care strategy, a time focus strategy, a values strategy and a super-sandwich strategy. Individuals of the WSG do not use just one strategy, but combine different strategies simultaneously or consecutively. Moreover, different strategies are also strongly linked to each other so that there is a certain degree of ‘overlap’.


The chapter discusses the assumptions and main conclusions from the research conducted within the framework of the Polish part of the Time4Help project. The aim of the research was to evaluate the situation of mature Polish women in the context of challenges in the labour market. The main source of data for the analysis was the qualitative (semiotic) and quantitative research (CATI – computer assisted telephone interview). As part of the semiotic research, the authors analysed texts from broadly understood culture and mainly from 2016 to 2018. The CATI research was carried out in 2019 with the use of proprietary questionnaires on representative samples of women aged 45–65 and employers.


This chapter discusses female managers’ and entrepreneurs’ views on lifelong learning. The main empirical data were drawn from interviews with 67 women participating in training and coaching programmes in South Savo, Finland, in 2017–2021. Many of the women belonged to the working sandwich generation (WSG). The particular focus was on how lifelong learning relates to these women’s careers, wellbeing at work, work–life balance and search for meaningful lives. A model integrating women’s earning, learning and meaning aspects of work and life was developed. The findings of the study show that considering women’s fragmented work careers, lifelong learning is often crucial for them. For an individual, opportunities for lifelong learning and meaningful work assure personal development, wellbeing at work and a sustainable career. For employing organisations, offering opportunities for learning and meaningful work for their employees constitutes a competitive advantage.

Part B: Tools and Cases


This chapter explores the specific role employers and supervisors (SVs) can play in assisting the working sandwich generation (WSG) to find a good balance between work, dual care responsibilities and family. After a brief overview of the main concepts and ideas, the focus lies on the concept of family supportive supervisor behaviour (FSSB) defined as behaviours exhibited by SVs that are supportive of employees’ family roles, in relation to health, well-being, and organisational outcomes. Based on the insights from qualitative research and a tested training concept, points of consideration are formulated for SVs in supporting the WSG. In addition to concrete tips in the area of general policy, learning objectives have been formulated for a supportive leadership style for the WSG, accompanied by a self-assessment tool.


The chapter discusses the objectives and assumptions of the Time4Help project in Poland, where solutions were developed for the target group of women aged 45–65. The authors described parts of the model solution and the process of testing it which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was performed remotely. The conclusions from the testing stage were used to prepare the final version of the Time4Help model.


The chapter describes a model solution for supporting mature women, developed as part of the Finnish Time4Help project. The solution includes training programmes for mature women supporting their careers and networking. The model is built on a new flipped training and coaching programme approach where, first, women were asked to gather a group of peers who were interested in developing their enterprises or working skills and who had similar needs and interests to them. After that, a programme was built matching the needs of this group of women. This model resembles the study circle approach particularly popular in the Scandinavian countries. Therefore, the authors build on the research literature on study circles, and study how tailored programmes help mature women to develop their careers and reach a work–life balance. The empirical part of the research builds on interviews and observations with 25 women in 5 groups and their facilitators participating in Time4Help training programmes in Finland in 2019–2021.

Part C: International Comparative Research


The chapter discusses the assumptions and main conclusions from the international comparative research, the key purpose of which was to identify and characterise the representatives of the sandwich generation (SG) in selected European countries in relation to professional activity. The research covered five countries, and when choosing them we took into account the diversity of welfare state models. The research was carried out in the autumn of 2020 with the use of a proprietary questionnaire on representative samples of Internet users aged 45–65 from Belgium (only Flanders), Finland, Italy, Poland and Great Britain. The conducted analyses confirmed the diversification of the situation of SG representatives in specific countries.

Part D: Conclusion


Sandwich generation (SG) women face the double burden of caring for both their own children, and possibly grandchildren, as well as caring for their elderly relatives. Conflicts and pressures tend to arise and the book provides a range of evidence from the European Union (EU). The concluding part of the book summarises the main results and draws conclusions on the research based on the viewpoints presented in the previous chapters. The chapter presents recommendations for employers, career coaches and policy-makers for supporting SG women in working life.

Cover of Working Women in the Sandwich Generation: Theories, Tools and Recommendations for Supporting Women's Working Lives
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