The dramatic rise in female labour market participation over the last twenty years in the UK has led to a significant growth in the proportion of dual-career couples and working parents. For example, the Office for National Statistics report that the proportion of couples with dependent children where both partners worked increased by eight percentage points, to 68 per cent, over the ten-year period to spring 2004. This presents a significant challenge for management, in particular in the recruitment, motivation and retention of those employees who are attempting to balance the competing commitments of work and non-work.
Drawing on detailed qualitative data collected in a longitudinal study of the early careers of university graduates, this paper outlines the impact of partnership and family-building on the aspirations, expectations and orientations to work on a sample of highly-qualified, successful women working in a range of industry sectors. Detailed case studies provide a number of insights into how barriers to the effective conciliation of work and non-work cannot simply be met by the provision of flexible working practices without an underpinning commitment to the objectives of these policies. The data clearly shows a need for organisations to address cultural and (micro-) political barriers to work-life balance, including ensuring consistent peer and line manager support, to ensure that those dealing with competing demands maintain the challenge and career development opportunities that make up a significant element of their motivation to work.
Wilton, N. (2009, July). The impact of partnership and family-building on the careers of highly-qualified women: issues for effective management practice. Paper presented at Ninth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations