Labour Studies Index

The Voices of Women Struggling to Manage Employment and Motherhood

Document type Thesis
Author Finer-Freedman, Judith
Degree Ph.D., Applied Psychology and Human Development
Publisher University of Toronto; Toronto
Date 2013-08-07
Pages 195


The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of working women when they announce their pregnancies, take maternity leave, transition back to work, and utilize flexible work policies. Using a qualitative methodology, transcripts of in-depth interviews were analyzed utilizing a life history approach. Key findings of the study are that women perceive more negative responses to the announcement of their pregnancies than positive ones. In terms of maternity and parental leave policies, all the participants had access to these benefits. Women found issues with financial adequacy, administration, and duration of these policies. Mothers found that financial support from the Canadian government was inadequate to allow them to take the full duration of the 52-week maternity and parental leave for which they were eligible. In addition, employer “top-up” payments were limited and administrative details of maternity leave were often not discussed fully with pregnant workers. When women returned to work, they found that workplaces did not offer resources such as a phased-in return to work or personnel to help them re-engage with their prior work projects. Women discussed the challenges of managing their dual roles of worker and mother and found that managers and coworkers put them in a mommy mould which lessened the quality of their assignments. New mothers found that they had difficultly juggling their work and home responsibilities, finding time for themselves, and receiving increased domestic support from their spouses. While some workplaces offered women flexible workplace policies, not all mothers chose to access them as they found these policies often negatively impacted their career progression. Other issues were a lack of flexible workplace policy transparency, inconsistent manager support, and difficulty maintaining a flexible schedule. Findings have major implications for an improved response from managers upon pregnancy announcement, improved dialogue among employers about increasing “top up” maternity leave pay to new mothers, developing a formal transition plan for new mothers returning to the workplace, and expanding the use of flexible workplace policies.