Stalling out? Women and Men Navigate the Gendered Workplace in the “New” Global Economy

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:55
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Krista BRUMLEY, Wayne State University, USA
Economic shifts have restructured workplaces in ways that fundamentally alter women’s and men’s work experiences. Employees in the U.S. today are tethered by technology, expected to be flexible and adaptable, and change jobs more frequently. Workplaces are less hierarchical and based on teamwork, with multi-faceted job descriptions. Greater demands at work put pressure on families, and in turn, work-family conflict can lead to high turnover, burnout, and job-related stress. Some U.S. workplaces have flexible work arrangements and other programs to mitigate work-family conflict, but the policies exist within a market-driven model and lag behind European counterparts. Debates on how, when, and which employees work send conflicting messages about leaning in, opting out, and balancing career and family for both women and men. This paper examines women’s and men’s experiences in the workplace to uncover the meanings attached to work and career, and how they balance this with family responsibilities. I draw on data from in-depth, qualitative interviews with employees in professional, managerial, and executive positions at multinational corporations in the metropolitan area of Detroit, Michigan. Preliminary analysis suggests a variety of ways that workplaces remain dominated by an economic organization structured to disadvantage women and some men. Employees describe long hours often requiring them to “be on through technology” after hours and the weekends. Flexible work arrangements are contingent on management or supervisors, rather than implemented consistently and throughout the company. Networking is important, but privileges face-time over flexibility. And, men’s career aspirations are tempered, in part because men understand they would be passed over for promotions if they put family before work. This study contributes to the discussion on gendered workplaces by examining how expectations of the ‘ideal worker’ shape the experiences of both women and men in the “new” global economy.