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

Lewis, Suzan ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1823-8784 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 [Article]

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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: A. > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
ISI Impact: 0
Item ID: 4144
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Dr Anne Laure Humbert
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2010 15:11
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 01:12
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/4144

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