Discourse or reality: “work-life balance” flexibility and gendered organisations.

Lewis, Suzan and Humbert, Anne L. (2010) Discourse or reality: “work-life balance” flexibility and gendered organisations. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, 29 (3). pp. 239-254. ISSN 2040-7149

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of flexible working arrangements (FWAs) and particularly reduced hours working arrangements on a Dual Agenda of gender equity and workplace effectiveness, in a case study organization employing a relatively high proportion of women scientists. Design/methodology/approach – In-depth interviews based on the initial stages of collaborative interactive action research (CIAR) are used within a case-study approach. The interviews explored working practices, the assumptions underpinning them and their un/intended consequences. Findings – The main form of FWA used in the organization, four days a week, is double edged and complex in its effects. It supports mothers, but at a cost because of gendered assumptions. Despite a commitment to flexibility and “work-life balance”, the gendered construction of the ideal worker and ideas of competence conflated with hegemonic masculinity, remain powerful. This, together with a prevalent “good mother” ideology, undermines both gender equity and workplace effectiveness. Practical implications – This paper is of value to both researchers and policy makers. It shows that highly developed work-life balance or flexible working polices are not sufficient to enhance gender equity and points to the importance of surfacing and challenging gender assumptions in science, engineering and technology. It emphasizes the need to move forward from policy to practice. Originality/value – This paper contributes to a growing body of work using initial stages of the CIAR methodology and showcases the theoretical insights gained by such an approach.

Item Type:Article
Research Areas:Business > Enterprise & Economic Development
Citations on ISI Web of Science:0
ID Code:4144
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Deposited On:24 Feb 2010 15:11
Last Modified:06 Feb 2013 11:03

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