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Family-work balance and the challenge workers have faced with formal employment over time

Damien Pittola
LER 458Y
Short Essay #1

Hello Damien, as I note in one of my comments, you certainly do paint in broad strokes here! What I mean, of course, is that you are assuming this stereotype applies to all working people, which is not the case. As you move forward and read more on your topic, I am sure you will see more and more the nuances. That said, I know there is a truth in what you write, thus the trends are not so much absent but simply need to be qualified here and there.

264/300 = B+

Family-work balance and the challenge workers have faced with formal employment over time
Although women have made significant progress in the formal employment sector, they still have a challenge balancing family and work demands. In the United States, women have a higher rate of university attendance than men, account for approximately 60 percent of the workforce and can now be employed in the military . Despite these gains, equality is still theoretical. The ability of a woman to earn similar wages as men or even get promoted to higher ranks is low and women earn as low as $0.77/dollar less than men . There is clear evidence that gender wage discrimination exists in all segments of the economy of America. Even when women occupy high-rank jobs, their compensation does not match that of men in the same ranks. Gender discrimination in the workforce is partially explained by the role of women in the society. This paper explores work-life balance and its relation to gender inequality at the workplace. The argument is that women have a challenge in balancing family and work because they play the role of family care givers which puts them in a precarious position in regard to the equally demanding duties at work.
Traditionally, men and women played different roles in the society whereby men were breadwinners while women took care of the children. However, this practice has changed significantly due to social and economic pressures. For instance, economic difficulties have forced women to take jobs to supplement the salary of their husbands and this has increased the number of employed mothers. Although most business organizations have equality policies, women often face various challenges including wage discrimination and the glass ceiling because they both take care of children and provide for the family.
After the 2008 great recession, the number of unemployed men hit a new high and consequently the number of women breadwinners became more than men breadwinners . This is because most of the jobs lost during the great recession were mostly occupied by men. However, men have regained the prestigious jobs they occupied before the recession and hence they rarely get involved in taking care of children. On the other hand, women continue to take care of children and at the same time as breadwinners even after the end of the recession. Single mothers and women in dual-income families continue to dedicate their time to work and to take care of their family. This implies that the ability of such women to focus on their work is strained. Consequently, most organizations do not prefer employing women in jobs that require greater physical presence and concentration.
Although women are underrepresented in prestigious positions, they are well represented in lower-rank jobs in the service industry and government institutions. According to Ryu, women working in government institutions have a higher probability of occupying managerial positions as compared to those working in private organizations . Additionally, government institutions provides social service jobs in health, education and welfare and these jobs are more attractive to women because they require minimal input and are less attractive to men because they pay less. The reason behind women’s preference for service-oriented jobs is because of their role in the family. Jobs in the service sector are less demanding and hence they provide an opportunity for women to attend to their families. Unfortunately, private organizations require workaholics who dedicate most of their time to work issues rather than family. This makes it difficult for women to fit in such jobs. It should be noted that job flexibility does not increase time for childcare.
Although the role of taking care of the family is largely carried by women, men are becoming more involved. Conventionally, men have been excluded from the work-life debate because their role in the family was assumed to be only that of providers. However, women have been forced to become providers as well due to the current financial constraints. This has forced men to participate in family issues in the bid to realize gender equality . According to Bianchi, childcare hours for fathers have been added to long working hours in the past few decades , especially for married men who work about 40 hours per week . Particularly, middle-class parents have become more engaged in intensive parenting . This implies that both parents are more than ever involved in childcare activities. This trend has somehow created opportunities for women to occupy gendered positions in management.
Although men have become more involved in childcare, their role as family providers is still predominant and hence they often focus more on work than family. According to Sarah (2015), men are unlikely to take work leave because of their occupational identity. Women often have a mandatory maternity leave that can take up to three months while men have a short maternity leave and most men rarely take the leave . Men also have economic constraints that limit their ability to take a leave. For instance, men are expected to support their families, either as significant contributors to the family income or sole breadwinners . This makes it difficult for men to take a leave even when they have an opportunity. On the other hand, the ability of men to work without necessarily taking a leave makes them suitable for management positions. However, this limits the ability of men to have a good balance between work and family. The ability of men to avoid leaves has created a situation where women are punished for taking essential leaves such as the maternity leave.
Women face the challenge of securing their jobs due to their role in the family. For example, women cannot commit to critical job tasks such as long travels because of their role in the family. This makes them unsuitable for some jobs that require frequent travel or long working hours without breaks. This challenge the ability of women to break the glass ceiling that limits them from getting prestigious positions.
In summary, the challenges employees face in the formal employment sector are more related to their gender. Women, as mothers, are more likely to get employed in the service sector where there is a minimal commitment to the job because they play the greatest role in caring for the family. With the current push for gender equality, women are likely to face more challenges balancing work and family because some of the jobs are very demanding in terms of physical presence. Although the rate of involvement of men in childcare has increased, it cannot compensate for the imbalance caused when the mother devotes most of her time to work.
Bianchi, S. M. 2011. “Family Change and Time Allocation in American Families.” he Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science – See more at:
Margaret, W. 2013. Women, work and work/life balance: Research roundup . Accessed September 14, 2015.
Parker, K., & Wang, W. 2013. Modern parenthood: Roles of moms and dads converge as they balance work and family. Accessed September 14, 2015.
Ryu, K. 2010. “State Policies and Gender Earnings Inequality: A Multilevel Analysis of 50 U.S. States Based on U.S. Census 2000 Data.” The Sociological Quarterly.
Sarah, B. 2015. Gender Equality and Work-Life Balance: Glass Handcuffs and Working Men in the U.S. London: Routledge.
Tomer, G., Xanthakos, S., Kim, S., Rao, M., Book, L., Litman, H. J., & Fishman, L. N. 2015. “Perceptions of Gender Equality in Work–Life Balance, Salary, Promotion, and Harassment: Results of the NASPGHAN Task Force Survey.” Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition 481-485.
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