Women in the World Force

Traditionally, adjectives such as focused, decisive, engaging and fearless are all synonymous with leadership, and are also frequently associated with “manly” traits. Additionally, these male traits have proven to be desirable within most fields of work. Despite this, however, over the last quarter century gender‐related changes to the workforce have been astronomical, particularly hurting men but most importantly benefiting women. Women have entered the labor force at higher rates than ever. 

Today, more women go to college and earn advanced degrees than men. Consequently, women are increasingly becoming the household breadwinners, as a quarter of wives now out-earn their husbands. Further, the most recent economic recessions disproportionately affects male workers, which ultimately accounted for around three quarters of job loss since the turn of the 21st century. These shifting realities have brought with them changes in expectations where work and family intersect. While some may argue domestic work has yet to become equalized between the genders, men’s and women’s contributions to household work and childcare has become significantly more balanced. Workers of both sexes increasingly desire a balance between work life and home life, and evidence suggests that a healthy balance between work and family benefits an individual’s well-being as well as career.


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            One implication of the steady migration of women into the workforce over recent decades is an increasing awareness of the ways in which work and family overlap. This is evident in research, which has brought about arguments regarding wage gaps, glass ceilings, “mommy tracks” and maternal walls that are all factors that impede women's advancement in the workforce. More recently, research has focused on work-family conflict and integration, but again the bulk of research has examined the experiences of women, and less attention has been given to the ways in which work attitudes and policies affect men. With that said, current research has aimed to shed light on the gendered aspects of flexible work arrangements, and in particular their implications for men. Past research suggested reluctance among men to utilize flexible work arrangements when offered, and an ambivalence when taken. For example, one study found that when men do take advantage of policies such as flexible hours, they often do so to accommodate family commitments. However, employers and coworkers often assume men use flextime out of personal preference rather than for family reasons, and men are reluctant to advertise family reasons. As a result, managers are most likely to grant flextime to men who seek flexible arrangements specifically for the purpose of advancing their careers, as opposed to child caregiving. This not only reflects, but reinforces, the expectation for men, or individuals with “manly” traits, to work longer hours and take less vacation days


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Furthermore, recent research has also suggested that men’s reluctance to seek work flexibility may be driven in part by fears of gender‐related stigmatization. Those men who believed that seeking work flexibility would lead to the most derogation on masculine prescriptive traits were the least likely to report intentions to seek work flexibility in their own future careers. On the other hand, women who believed that seeking work flexibility would increase attributions of feminine prescriptive traits were the most likely to report intentions to seek flexibility in their careers.

Overall, as the increase of women in positions of occupational influence has shown over the past generation, norms can be changed. It is entirely possible that the association of work with masculinity will be weakened as women continue to make advancements in the workplace. Similarly, the increase in family-friendly work policies will elevate the importance of caretaking and work-life balance as valued aspirations for both women and me