Work-Life Balance Challenging for Women in a “Culture of Motherhood”

In her article, “Gendered Futures: Student Visions of Career and Family on a College Campus,” Linda Stone and Nancy P. McKee argue that women themselves contribute to gender inequality in the workplace by having lower expectations of their careers than their male peers. The authors suggest that that a “culture of motherhood” is to blame for women having lower career aspirations.

The “culture of motherhood” is the expectation that women will be the caretaker of children and household in lieu of a career.  Despite great strides in the feminist movement, this outlook is still pervasive in American and Western society, evidenced by the fact that when children are under 6 years of age, 91% of fathers are still working as compared to 59% of mothers. McKee and Stone assert that women consciously or subconsciously limit their career aspirations because of the anticipated need to suspend their work life for child-rearing.

This concept is the main idea of book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, which has inspired a pop culture phenomenon of the same name. Sandberg urges women to stop making excuses for themselves about their ability to juggle family and life. Perhaps, instead of placing the burden on women to be both mothers and workers we should look at the greater societal structure of work and families. Studies show that when women take up an equal amount of paid employment as men, the division of housework is not significantly different than if they were not working at all. The societal structure of employment is not suited to an environment where increasingly more families have two working parents. Rather than drudging along with a system intended created for working men and a stay-at-home wife and mother, we should rethink to allow businesses to prosper along with families instead of at the expense of them.

An anthropological standpoint can help participants in a culture to critically evaluate existing norms by examining the roots of their practice. For example, by seeing the current employment situation in the US as an ineffective model based on outdated gender roles, it can lead one to question values and think of more efficient ways to structure society.

Referenced: http://www.anthrosource.net.helin.uri.edu/doi/10.1525/aeq.2000.31.1.67/pdf

Referenced: http://0-www.jstor.org.helin.uri.edu/stable/41604506

Referenced: http://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/mother_families.htm#family

Referenced: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/books/review/sheryl-sandbergs-lean-in.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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