Moms more likely than other employees to leave male-dominated jobs with long hours

Apr 24, 2013
This is Youngjoo Cha. Credit: Indiana University

As demands for long work hours continue to increase, an Indiana University study found that mothers are more likely than other employees to leave jobs in male-dominated fields. This trend was not seen in balanced or female-dominated occupations.

"Mothers were 52 percent more likely than other to leave their if they were working a 50-hour week or more, but only in dominated by men," said Youngjoo Cha, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. "Many of these are lucrative fields, such as law, medicine, finance and engineering."

Her findings, published in the journal Gender & Society, reveal how overwork contributes to occupational segregation and stalled efforts to narrow the gender gap in white-collar workplaces. Many of the mothers who leave these jobs exit the job market entirely because of the lack of suitable part-time positions in these fields.

The study analyzed data collected from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, a national longitudinal household survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. It included 382 occupations, 173 of which were considered male-dominated, where men made up 70 percent or more of the workforce.

Cha said workplaces dominated by men tend to operate on outdated assumptions about "separate spheres" marriage—families with a homemaking woman and a breadwinning man. Yet today, both partners are employed in nearly 80 percent of American couples.

Here are more findings from "Overwork and the Persistence of Gender Segregation in Occupations," which is available online.

  • In male-dominated occupations, overwork was more likely than in balanced fields or female-dominated fields.
  • Mothers in male-dominated occupations were more discouraged despite the fact that the women who survived in those more masculine fields may on average be more committed to than overworking women in other jobs.
  • Higher education levels make it more likely that women stay in their jobs, but not enough to overcome the discouraging effect of being an overworking mother.
  • Meanwhile, men (whether fathers or not) and women without children were not more likely to leave their jobs in overworking fields.
  • When mothers left their jobs, some moved to less male-dominated professions; others entirely left the labor force.
Cha advocates labor policies that can reduce work-family conflicts and benefit women, men, families and firms. In her article, she recommends promoting workplace policies that minimize the expectation for overwork, such as setting the maximum allowable work hours, prohibiting compulsory overtime, expanding the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime provisions, and granting employees the right to work part-time hours without losing benefits.

More than one-third of men and nearly one-fifth of women in professions work more than 50 hours a week. While men and women have adjusted their ability to share domestic caregiving in recent years, these more extreme situations of overwork demonstrate the limits of the flexibility that men and women often aim for but can't always achieve.

Cha has found in her earlier research that when husbands overwork, it limits their contributions to home responsibilities and restricts the wife's time for work outside the home. When the wife overworks, according to her research, it rarely affects the husband's work.

Explore further: Liberal democracy is possible in Muslim-majority countries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Long work hours widen the gender gap

Aug 01, 2008

Working overtime has a disproportionate impact on women in dual-earner households, exacerbating gender inequality and supporting the "separate sphere" phenomenon in which men are the breadwinners while women tend to the home, ...

Dad's overworked and tired while mom's potentially fired

Jun 16, 2009

If dad looks exhausted this Father's Day it could be due to his job, suggests new research that found many male employees are now pressured to work up to 40 hours of overtime—often unpaid— per week to stay competitive.

Recommended for you

Feeling bad at work can be a good thing

21 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Research by the University of Liverpool suggests that, contrary to popular opinion, it can be good to feel bad at work, whilst feeling good in the workplace can also lead to negative outcomes.

3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

23 hours ago

Tensions have escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. The incident has led to peaceful protests ...

Social inequality worsens in New Zealand

23 hours ago

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria's School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VENDItardE
3 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2013
duh !!!