Becoming a Worker-Mother: Understanding the Transition

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Title: Becoming a Worker-Mother: Understanding the Transition
Author: LaMonica, Laura Tripp
Advisors: Diane Chapman, Committee Member
James Bartlett, Committee Member
Mary Wyer, Committee Member
Julia Storberg-Walker, Committee Chair
Abstract: There has been a dramatic increase in the number of women who both work and mother into the workforce in recent years. The patriarchal structure of the typical U.S. organization is based on rational-economic models and the “economic man†model of worker. This structure systematically disadvantages women who work and mother. The HRD function within organizations can feed the patriarchal status quo of the organizations within which it exists by adopting the rational decision making model to formulate and develop policies that require performance at all costs. There are few studies that look specifically at women’s transitions in becoming worker-mothers. Literature typically has focused on perceptions of workplace policies and programs designed to assist work-life balance and of those who use those programs. The purpose of this exploratory, grounded narrative inquiry is to examine the experiences of primiparous (pregnant for the first time) women as they negotiate pregnancy and exit of and planned re-entry to the workplace around the birth of a first child. The conceptual framework for the study is radical feminist theory. The framework has at its core a belief in patriarchy as the basic system of power on which all human relationships are structured and arranged. Male oppression and dominance are recognized as the most fundamental form of inequality, superseding and preceding both classism and racism. Radical feminism recognizes that only the elimination of patriarchal structures will end the oppression of women. Five women, pregnant for the first time and working in very different contexts, shared their experiences as they navigated pregnancy, birth, maternity leave, and a return to work. Data analysis was based on the work of Mishler (1986) and Hatch (2002). The study found that the co-researchers exhibited little to no awareness of the impact of the patriarchal structure of the workplace on their experiences and decisions. The dominant performance orientation of HRD and organizations permeated not only these women’s working lives, but their personal lives as well, impacting their ability to enjoy and value their maternal role. Further, the patriarchal structure of the workplace increased the risk that women who encountered physical complications during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum would be forced to leave the workforce. The radical feminist framework of the study is limited in its ability to account for the dissonance between women who make different choices regarding work and mothering. The study findings have important implications for HRD, including a need to open HRD to critique, question the masculinist structures of work and the way that HRD supports that structure, and reduce or replace HRD’s dominant performance orientation.
Date: 2010-03-24
Degree: EdD
Discipline: Adult and Community College Education
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/6259


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