According to the authors, a University of Leicester management expert and a senior television producer, mothers in professional and managerial jobs are expected to stay late or get in early, as well as socialize with colleagues or clients in the evenings, even if this clashes with their childcare responsibilities. They must do so because the workplace culture is still organized by men, who are less involved in childcare.
“Unless mothers mimic successful men, they do not look the part for success in organizations,” write the authors, Emma Cahusac, a series producer of BBC Television’s “The Culture Show” and a psychologist specializing in problems faced by organizations, and Shireen Kanji, Ph.D., senior lecturer in work and organization at the University of Leicester School of Management.
The two report that many of the women they interviewed found it hard to combine work and motherhood because of the dominant culture of “presenteeism” — the idea that they should be at their desks until late, even if there was nothing to do.
“I would be in work by eight, but I would have to leave by six and actually I could do the job perfectly well,” said Susan, an ex-banker interviewed for the study. She noted, however, that her six o’clock departure provoked “barbed comments” from a woman who did not have children.
The researchers found that before they had children themselves, women not only accepted, but encouraged, the masculine culture of the workplace.
The researchers also found that the mothers they interviewed needed to hide the fact that they were parents — imitating a masculine trait.
“The male partners never talked about their families,” said Nadia, a lawyer. “They’ve been very adept at keeping that separation between work and home.”
Mothers report they especially had to hide the fact that they were taking time off to look after sick children. “You definitely would have to say you were sick, not the kid was sick,” said a mother who held a senior position at a charity.
The researchers interviewed 26 mothers based in London who quit their professional or managerial jobs while pregnant, or following their return to work, but before their first child reached school age.
The researchers found that 21 of them quit their jobs voluntarily — often because they had been sidelined after returning to the office.
“Many women leave high-powered jobs because they are relegated to lesser roles and feel the need to suppress their identities as mothers,” said Kanji. “This is not only unfair, but as an economy, we cannot afford to waste such skilled and educated workers.”
The paper, “Giving up: How gendered organizational cultures push mothers out,” was published in the journal Gender, Work and Organization.
Source: University of Leicester