Labour Studies Index

Women, Work, and Family: Estimating Married Women's Status Achievement Over Their Careers

Document type Thesis
Author Reid, Sarah M.
Degree Ph.D., Sociology
Publisher University of Toronto; Toronto
Date 2013-11
Pages 122


My dissertation project examines women’s family lives, career trajectories, and status attainment. I draw on the concept of the work-family interface to highlight how work and families operate as contextual layers that cross-over in shaping definitions and appraisals of mothers as workers and workers as mothers. Utilizing data on married mothers’ complete working histories, I demonstrate that job exits due to motherhood negatively impact women’s occupational status attainment (SES), but I also show that women face penalties when changing jobs involuntarily and also due to personal reasons not tied to the maternal role. Importantly, in each instance, I demonstrate that these effects operate independently of the non-employment durations they engender, offering broad support for the status characteristics framework which points to the role of employer appraisals of women’s work commitment in shaping their SES outcomes. I also bring families back into the discussion of the work-family interface via the construction of a family-level framework that draws on mothers’, fathers’ and children’s attitudes about maternal employment as a platform for the development of discrete family configurations. I reveal a wide array of family attitude configurations that underscore that maternal employment continues to be contested moral terrain in some families while it is ii supported in others. In particular, I show that in egalitarian families—where maternal employment is not seen as a risk to ‘good’ mothering—mothers report more positive experiences of family and marital relations, less housework and more paid work, and higher earnings. I argue that family contexts represent an important yet understudied contextual reality that is more than the sum of individual views and which have unique consequences for women’s family lives and status trajectories.