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Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples

Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples: What the Opt-Out Phenomenon Can Teach Us about Work and Family

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples
    Book Description:

    When significant numbers of college-educated American women began, in the early twenty-first century, to leave paid work to become stay-at-home mothers, an emotionally charged national debate erupted. Karine Moe and Dianna Shandy, a professional economist and an anthropologist, respectively, decided to step back from the sometimes overheated rhetoric around the so-called mommy wars. They wondered what really inspired women to opt out, and they wanted to gauge the phenomenon's genuine repercussions. Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples is the fruit of their investigation-a rigorous, accessible, and sympathetic reckoning with this hot-button issue in contemporary life. Drawing on hundreds of interviews from around the country, original survey research, and national labor force data, Moe and Shandy refocus the discussion of women who opt out from one where they are the object of scrutiny to one where their aspirations and struggles tell us about the far broader swath of American women who continue to juggle paid work and family. Moe and Shandy examine the many pressures that influence a woman's decision to resign, reduce, or reorient her career. These include the mismatch between child-care options and workplace demands, the fact that these women married men with demanding careers, the professionalization of stay-at-home motherhood, and broad failures in public policy. But Moe and Shandy are equally attentive to the resilience of women in the face of life decisions that might otherwise threaten their sense of self-worth. Moe and Shandy find, for instance, that women who have downsized their careers stress the value of social networks-of "running with a pack of smart women" who've also chosen to emphasize motherhood over paid work.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3608-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. ix-xii)

    We traded our twenties for doctorates and our thirties for elusive tenure-track jobs. In and amongst school and work, we both married professionals and had kids, albeit on different timelines. An occasional perk of our jobs is that we are eligible for what is known as an academic sabbatical. It’s an admittedly generous perk, and on good days we agree that our twenties were a fair swap for these blocks of time away from our ordinary teaching and administrative responsibilities. During these breaks, we embark on research and writing projects, rejuvenate, and try to impose order on the parts of...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Eleanor Roosevelt’s words still resonate in America today. Her book It’s Up to the Women was published during a period of economic turbulence that rivals our own. It, like many books today about women and work, was met with great controversy, and her chapter on women and jobs upset people the most. Well into the twenty-first century, our society continues to struggle with how to accommodate women who seek to combine paid work and caring for their children. The contours of the dynamic have shifted substantially, but the central dilemma endures.

    In this book, we draw on our backgrounds as...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Numbers Too Big to Ignore
    (pp. 11-20)

    The 1970s were heady times for American women, and people often think of the significant presence of women in the U.S. labor force as a phenomenon resulting from the women’s movement in the latter half of the twentieth century. On the contrary, women’s labor force participation has been on the rise since the late 1800s, and a host of complex and interconnected social and economic factors worked together throughout the twentieth century to move women, and married women in particular, into the paid workforce.¹

    This movement of women into the workforce represents a major demographic shift in American society. Figure...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Why Opting Out Is an Everywoman Issue
    (pp. 21-34)

    In 2003, journalist Lisa Belkin wrote a piece for the New York Times Magazine called “The Opt-Out Revolution.” Belkin interviewed a small group of highly educated women, Princeton alumnae no less, who had “opted out” of the workforce. The reasons women gave for resigning their jobs varied, but all conveyed the sense that when push came to shove, time with their families trumped work. Amply aware of the “hook” potential for this kind of an issue, the media jumped on the bandwagon, spawning a multitude of popular press articles highlighting professional women leaving high-powered jobs. These stories in Time, Business...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The 100-Hour Couple
    (pp. 35-44)

    One of the most intriguing explanations for why women leave the workforce or reorient their careers is the phenomenon of the 100-hour couple. Valerie’s story gives us some insight into how these tough decisions play out among high-achieving couples. Valerie was an English and political science double major in college. A child of a widowed mother who single-handedly supported and raised five children, Valerie attended a state university and worked her way through college. She went on to attend law school and to work as a corporate attorney. Eventually, she married an attorney, Richard, who worked in banking. By the...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Glass Ceilings and Maternal Walls
    (pp. 45-60)

    When young women graduate from college today, they expect that they will enter into the labor market on the same terms as men. They expect to be able to hold the same jobs as men, and to earn similar salaries as well. And, in some niches of the labor market, this expectation is realized. Without children, men and women pursue their careers neck in neck in terms of pay when they work similar jobs for similar hours. In fact, the gender wage gap for childless people between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-three is practically zero. Unfortunately, however, while this...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Second Shift Redux
    (pp. 61-71)

    The more time couples spend at work, the less time they have to run the household. And, as we’ve noted earlier in our discussion of 100-hour couples, time is a particularly scarce resource for busy families. Competing with the demands of work, a major drain on women’s time is what sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls the second shift—the work women do to maintain and sustain the household in addition to their paid employment.¹ Here she gives life to the old adage, “A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” Women shoulder a disproportionate...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Child Care Dilemmas
    (pp. 72-82)

    How American society configures the relationships among mothers, fathers, and children tells us something important about how our culture shapes gender, work, and identity. While biology determines the reality that women give birth, it is our culture that situates mothers as the principal caretakers and companions of young children.¹ While individuals may buck these norms, they often find they are swimming against the current. Jane, a twenty-six-year veteran in the field of child care and the director of a child development center we interviewed for this study, told us that while she has noticed more interest and involvement on the...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Mama Time
    (pp. 83-96)

    Kids can be cranky, demanding, and generally maddening, but there’s no feeling in the world like when your two-year-old wraps his arms around your neck and whispers into your ear, “I love you, angel mama.” The world stops spinning. Stress melts away. And you are the dead center of that little fellow’s world. Unconditional love is intoxicating. And it’s hard to conjure up similar moments in the average day at the office.

    Being a parent or wanting to be a parent, especially a mother, is at the center of this phenomenon of heading home. The women we interviewed indicated that...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT The Hectic Household
    (pp. 97-113)

    The rhythms of job demands vary. And in two-earner families, these two sets of demands increase exponentially. At the same time, children’s needs shift from year to year, from month to month, from week to week, from day to day, and, as anyone who has made a trip to school to pick up a vomiting child shortly after dropping her off can testify, from hour to hour. The household, then, is the site where these fluid domains of children and work must coexist and compete for the scarce resource of time. And, women, as we have discussed, are most often...

  14. CHAPTER NINE The Professionalization of At-Home Motherhood
    (pp. 114-126)

    So what do you do? This question, which most of us might write off as “small talk,” is anything but trivial. It reflects the importance we attribute to one’s occupation as the primary source of our public social identity. So normally when we answer the what-do-you-do question, we identify ourselves by our occupation. We might say, “I am an attorney at Crawford, Ward & Neal,” or, “I am a teacher.”

    Many of the at-home moms who left behind a career described the challenges of maintaining status in a society that dictates that so much of one’s self-worth is created at...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Financial Costs
    (pp. 127-138)

    This chapter analyzes the economic implications of a woman’s decision to take time out of the labor force. In addition to the obvious loss of income while out of work, women who drop out temporarily suffer a wage penalty upon return. For some couples, the husband earns more than enough to support the family comfortably, and the woman’s income loss is easily offset by the gains in the family’s well-being generated by mom being at home. This kind of calculation relies on her husband’s continuing income stream. By leaving the workforce, these women take economic risks that at some point,...

  16. CHAPTER ELEVEN Negotiating without a Paycheck
    (pp. 139-148)

    Money is power. And when women give up their paychecks, the power balance in their relationships necessarily changes. This chapter explores how women navigate the potential and real changes in their power relationships with their spouses after leaving the workforce. Recognizing that a new at-home status can affect many different relationships, this chapter also analyzes how women renegotiate their relationships with their children, their siblings, their parents, and even their community.

    Bargaining power is anything that allows a person to have influence over a decision. In the context of a marriage, we think of bargaining power as being a measure...

  17. CHAPTER TWELVE Reigniting the Career
    (pp. 149-162)

    A woman who wants to reignite her career will confront many challenges, whether she has been out of the workforce for some time or has placed her job in a kind of holding pattern for family reasons. The transition will undoubtedly be complicated by factors both within her control, such as the type of job she applies for or type of retraining she might acquire, and also outside her control, such as how employers will view her hiatus. In this chapter, we turn our attention to these challenges and the opportunities women face when they are ready to opt back...

  18. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Creative Strategies for Making Work “Work”
    (pp. 163-172)

    Women are resourceful, and whether they work full-time, part-time, or according to some other arrangement, they employ creative strategies to manage their situations. For the most part, women herald flexibility as the number one job characteristic to help them balance work and family. Flexibility can take many forms, with varying benefits to the employee, including reduced hours, flexible start and end times, and telecommuting. Flexible work arrangements do not necessarily equate to part-time work, however. A flexible employer might require a full-time work commitment, but allow the work to be done outside of the office or during nonstandard work hours....

  19. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Coming of Age in America
    (pp. 173-182)

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. This important legislation ushered in broad societal changes. Before the 1970s, women had little room to maneuver in choosing their future occupation. A few headstrong types have always slipped through, but it was only a generation ago that we started to see a critical mass of women looking askance when their high school guidance counselor attempted to steer them toward pursuing studies in fields traditionally dominated by women, such as home economics, nursing,...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 183-196)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-208)
  22. Index
    (pp. 209-215)