This article reveals how strong narratives about gender roles when it comes to take care of kids in combination with a professional career are.
Eli and Padavic conducted research within a big global consultancy firm to help them figure out why women were progressing less than men career wise within their company. They conducted interviews and revealed a strong narrative:
High-level jobs require extremely long hours, women’s devotion to family makes it impossible for them to put in those hours, and their careers suffer as a result. We call this explanation the work/family narrative.
However, the men they interviewed talked about their struggle to balance their work with family life as well. They started investigating deeper why men progressed in their career despite feeling as much pressure finding a balance between work and family as women.
Their main conclusion:
Women were held back because, unlike men, they were encouraged to take accommodations, such as going part-time and shifting to internally facing roles, which derailed their careers. The real culprit was a general culture of overwork that hurt both men and women and locked gender inequality in place.
Using company data they revealed some disconnects between the company’s narrative and actual behaviour. There was no higher turnover rates for men and women, career progression of childless women was just as low as mothers’ progression, accommodation was almost only taken by women while two-third of male interviewees struggled as much as women in work-family balance and many of the interviews questioned the 24/7 work schedule mentality to overdeliver to clients who don’t really need that.
This is what they told the leaders of the company after their research:
For the firm to address its gender problem, it would have to address its long-hours problem. And the way to start would be to stop overselling and overdelivering.
And of course the leaders….dismissed this solid piece of advise and held on to the existing narrative that women were struggling to keep a balance between work and family and therefore solutions have to target women specifically.
The rest of the article, the researchers dive deep into why these leaders rather hang on to the existing narrative rather than to accept that long working hours are counter productive and holding women back. Read it. It’s an excellent piece of work.