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Gender Differences In Work Family Balance Social Work Essay

Work-family Balance: Are There Gender Differences? How Do Men and Women’s Experiences of Work-family Balance Differ? It has been a major daily task for a steadily increasing number of working adults to balance the demands of work and family. Work-family balance is “a form of inter-role conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect” (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985, p. 77), where it is more difficult to participate and being able to manage well in the work role and the family role at the same time (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Work-family conflict would affect individually in reduced quality of life (Bedeian, Burke, & Moffet, 1998), increased stress and general health risks (Frone, Russell, & Barnes, 1996), negative feeling states (Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1997), negative impact on family and reduced relationship satisfaction (Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992a; Kopelman, Greenhaus, & Connolly, 1983), poor parenting roles performance (Swanson, 1992), and poor working roles performance (Rodgers & Rodger, 1989). While impacts on organizations would be an increase in turnover and absenteeism (Zedeck & Mosier, 1990), lower productivity, and higher health costs (Bacharach, Bamberger, & Conley, 1991), due to the consequences and outcomes stated above, it is important to intervene the problems and to be able to balance the demands of work and family.

The difficulty in being available in work role and family role at the same time are viewed as two distinct types of inter-role conflict: work to family interference (occurs when the demands of work interfere with the family role) and family to work interference (occurs when the demands of family interfere with the work role) (Duxbury & Higgins, 1994; Gutek, Searle, & Kelpa, 1991; Netemeyer, Boles, & McMurrian, 1996). According to Greenhaus and Beutell (1985), the three major types of work-family conflict are time-based conflict (time required in one domain prevents the individual from spending time in another domain), strain-based conflict (where an individual is preoccupied with one domain and affects the ability to involve in another domain), and behaviour-based conflict (a particular behaviour that an individual have to behave in one domain which is inconsistent with the behaviour performed in another domain), all these types of conflict can produce strain out of the limited resources.

The aim of present study was to examine the gender difference in work-family balance. It was posited that it is not only women are affected in work-family conflicts, men are affected too. Besides, it was also hypothesized that there are gender differences in relation to work-family balance. Traditionally, the men concentrating solely on breadwinning, and the women focusing exclusively on the home, however, it no longer applies to most of the families (Bond, Galnsky, & Swanberg, 1998, as cited in Laster, 2002). Nowadays, quality of family life and family roles are equally important to both men and women (Frone, 2003), and the participation rate of women in the workforce increased significantly (increased from 51% in 1999 to 58% in 2009) (ABS, 2009), therefore, individuals and organizations often experience the effects of work-family conflict as both men and women do struggle to balance the demands of work and family (Duxbury & Higgins, 1994; Frone et al., 1997).

There are a number of studies that have related gender and work-family conflict (Barnett & Baruch, 1987; Gutek et al., 1991). Empirical evidence states that comparing to men, women undergo higher levels of work-family conflict, trying to balance the demands of work and family (Duxbury & Higgins, 1991; Gutek et al., 1991). Alternatively, Pleck (1977) posited that women are more likely to struggle in family to work interference because they placed demands and crises of family as their prior responsibility, conversely, men are more likely to struggle in work to family interference because they were more possibly to take work home and to spend family time to recuperate from problems and stresses they confront in the work place. Therefore, it is not only women are affected by work-family conflict, men are affected too.

Further, numerous empirical researches have been conducted to examine the existence of gender differences in relation to work family balance (Eagle, Miles, & Icenogle, 1997; Frone et al., 1992a; Frone et al., 1996; Gutek et al., 1991; MacEwen & Barling, 1994; Pleck, 1977). MacEwen and Barling (1994) found the evidence of gender difference in the extent of the relationship of both types of inter-role conflict to depression and anxiety. Their results showed that work to family interference was found to be more related to both depression and anxiety among women, while family to work interference was more related to both depression and anxiety among men. Oppositely, Frone et al. (1996) found a higher association between work to family interference and depression among men than among women, which was totally different from MacEwen and Barling’s (1994) findings. Therefore, it is not only women are affected by work-family conflict, men are affected too.

However, the argument of gender differences in relation to work-family balance has not been supported generally in empirical studies (Eagle et al., 1997; Frone et al., 1992a; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992b; Gutek et al., 1991). Hall and Richter (1988) studied on managing home and work boundaries. They reported that home boundaries were more permeable than work boundaries consistently among both men and women, which was failed to support the argument of gender differences. Hall and Richter’s (1988) findings were supported by Frone et al. (1992a). Frone et al. (1992a) found no evidence of gender difference in relation to permeability of work and family boundaries, which proposes that gender differences do not explain a significant amount of variance in the occurrence of conflict between work and family roles.

In addition, Eagle et al. (1997) examined the gender differences in relative permeability of work and family boundaries, their results showed that permeability of work and family boundaries did not differ across men and women. Their findings add some evidence to the concepts that work-family conflict is relevant to both men and women, and the changes in perceptions of stereotypes, social conceptions of parenthood, gender, and work identity may be the cause (Beach, 1989, as cited in Eagle et al., 1997). ‘‘The attitudes of men concerning work and family issues are rapidly approaching those of women, a significant change over . . . just four years ago’’ (Wohl, 1989, p. 183, as cited in Eagle et al., 1997), this similarity in attitudes decreases the probability for gender differences to exist in reported experiences of work to family interference and family to work interference (Wohl, 1989, as cited in Eagle et al., 1997).

Moreover, Frone et al. (1992b) examined the outcomes of work-family conflict on depression and found no difference across samples of men and women in their model or in the direction of the hypothesized existence of gender differences. Frone et al. (1996) also reported no evidence of significant gender differences in the relationship between work-family conflict and health-related outcomes in the overall findings. A possible reason for the lack of gender difference in the experiences of work to family interference and family to work interference may be due to a mutual empathy couples share (Eagle et al., 1997). This empathy would have been built from a decrease in time as a resource for each partner to spend in their respective, occupied domains in the concern of obtaining financial resources traditionally (Eagle et al., 1997).

Although there are not many empirical studies found gender differences in relation to work-family balance, it is important for individuals and organizations to maintain a balance of responsibilities at work and at home. Work-family balance strategies have been identified as the enhancement of workers’ autonomy in the process of integrating and coordinating the aspects of work and non-work of their lives (Felstead, Jewson, Phizacklea, & Walters, 2002). De Cieri, Holmes, Abbott, and Pettit (2005) argued that the need of an organization to attract and retain high potential employees in labour market is a strong motivating aspect to increase awareness and action of an organizational with regard to implement and to manage work-family balance strategies. Work-family balance strategies in the organization would contain policies including dependent care and family leave (Morgan & Milliken, 1992), direct services and flexible work practices (Vanderkolk & Young, 1991), childcare benefits (Glass & Fujimoto, 1995), and childcare based policies (Stoner & Hartman, 1990).

As a conclusion, the inability to balance the demands of work and family does have negative impact on both individuals (Frone et al., 1992a; Frone et al., 1996; Frone et al., 1997; Kopelman et al., 1983; Rodgers & Rodger, 1989; Swanson, 1992) and organizations (Bacharach et al., 1991; Zedeck & Mosier, 1990). Work-family conflict does not only affect women, but it also affect men (Duxbury & Higgins, 1991; Frone et al., 1996; Gutek et al., 1991; MacEwen & Barling, 1994; Pleck, 1977). However, research is inconsistent whether there is gender differences in relation to work-family conflict, some found gender differences (Frone et al., 1996; MacEwen & Barling, 1994) and some research showing there is no gender differences (Eagle et al., 1997; Frone et al., 1992a; Frone et al., 1992b; Frone et al., 1996; Gutek et al., 1991; Hall & Richter, 1988). Lastly, work-family balance strategies, such as direct services, flexible work practices, childcare benefits, and childcare based policies should be implemented in organizations to attract and retain high potential employees (Cieri et al., 2005).

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