Attending the WFRN – Day 2

Did I mention my first day at the work and family researchers’ network was great? The second day was even more interesting, with a program of thirteen (!!) hours to enjoy.

In a session on motherhood in the workplace, Jocelyn Elise Crowley provided qualitative accounts of how women experience being discriminated against for being a women. 54 Out of 125 women she interviewed reported having experienced discrimination, taking forms such as discrimination during th hiring process, getting less support on-the-job, and being discriminated against in job evaluations. Highly interesting, Daniela Grunow and Silke Aisenbrey studied the relation between the macro economic condition and mothers’ re-entry into the labour market. Their findings include (if remember correctly) that in Germany the employment gaps for mothers on family leave are longer during economic recessions. In the United States there were found no prolonged employment gaps for mothers on family leave during economic recession. I very much look forward to reading this paper in print.

A great plenary session was on the program. Ariane Hegewisch and Janet Gornick spoke about employment and work-family policy and drew some lessons from Europe. In Europe, EU directives mostly set minimum standards. Despite the common minimum standards, however, huge diversity in country-level policies and work-family infrastructure. One very straightforward core lesson we can learn from this European diversity is that work-family policy is also macroeconomic policy, strongly stimulating women’s employment; policy failure has significant economic consequences. There is some discussion whether very long (parental) leave periods have adverse effects on women’s careers. The united states, however, are so far in the ‘pathetic zone’, that there should be no concerns about the risk that increasing parental leave policies has adverse effects, Janet Gornick argued.

Jody Heymann widened the picture from Europe to the whole world, showing magnificent graphs on policy availability all over the world. Arguing that amongst the 15 most economically competitive countries in the world extensive family policies are highly common, she refuted the claim that on the long run countries ‘cannot afford’ to implement policies to reduce work-family conflicts. Arguing for the public availability of world-wide data on family policies, she presented the impassive website Go have a look!

Did I tell you about the work and family commons? The goal of the Work and Family Researchers’ Network (WFRN) reads:

The WFRN facilitates virtual and face-to-face interaction among work and family researchers from a broad range of fields and engages the next generation of work and family scholars. As a global hub, [the WFRN] provide[s] opportunities for information sharing and networking via [their] website, which includes the only open access work and family subject matter repository, the Work and Family Commons.

This Work and Family Commons really could turn out to something special: a multidisciplinary repository focused on the very relevant issue of work and family studies. If this takes of, this really will be the place to go to for learning what’s going on in the field of work and family research. Also, I signed up for a commission that will continue working on improving the work and family commons.

Next, ‘we’ focused on multilevel comparative work-life research. Laura den Dulk raised – and answered – the question how institutional and economic pressures in national context relate to the adoption of work-life-balance policies in organizations. They found that public sector organizations are more responsive to state support and female unemployment; large organizations are more sensitive to state support and importance of work. Karen Lyness presented how supervisors think that managers score higher on work-life balance, than the managers themselves think they do. Supervisors may underestimate managerial subordinates’ need for support in balancing their work with family.

And that wraps it up. Or not, actually, since there was so much else going on. Including a second plenary session. But this post is long enough as it is. Looking forward to day 3!

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